Click to enlarge — Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin Corp says…it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.
Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.
Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.
In a statement, the company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years…
Lockheed sees the project as part of a comprehensive approach to solving global energy and climate change problems.
Compact nuclear fusion would produce far less waste than coal-powered plants since it would use deuterium-tritium fuel, which can generate nearly 10 million times more energy than the same amount of fossil fuels, the company said.
Ultra-dense deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, is found in the earth’s oceans, and tritium is made from natural lithium deposits.
It said future reactors could use a different fuel and eliminate radioactive waste completely.
McGuire said the company had several patents pending for the work and was looking for partners in academia, industry and among government laboratories to advance the work.
Lockheed said it had shown it could complete a design, build and test it in as little as a year, which should produce an operational reactor in 10 years, McGuire said.
Everything material about this is a positive. The only potential negatives are  Luddite fears over any power source that carries the word nuclear somewhere in the patent. It’s why for example no commercial food packaging in the United States uses gamma ray sterilization – even though it would dramatically increase safety from pathogens, reduce costs. And  the combination of American military vendors and the construction dollars needed to produce plants with appropriate safeguards will increase potential cost several-fold. The greedy bastards hate to leave well enough alone.
Still, the potential for cheap energy is so great it can overcome American greed. It will put creeps like the Koch Bros out of business yet do comparatively little harm to home-based energy sources like solar panels. Reactors like the smallest one proposed would produce sufficient electricity to power 100,000 homes. It needs a grid.
For the technically-interested, here’s a link to process details.