Fusion technology has long been seen as a bountiful potential source of energy, but the challenge has been to build cost-effective machines capable of containing the fusion reaction and generating net energy output. Traditional fusion technologies are very expensive with costs in the billions of dollars and development times measured in decades. General Fusion’s approach does away with the huge containment and laser costs associated with enormous magnetic fusion and inertial confinement fusion machines, by building smaller fusion generators that use existing technologies, low-cost high-availability materials, and standard construction techniques.
Cost of incumbent electricity production
The majority of today’s electrical power is generated in coal-fired plants. Forecasts predict that the use of coal will continue to dominate in the future, and even increase its market share as world energy consumption continues to rise.
General Fusion’s power plants will be competitive with both the capital and operating costs of coal plants, and lower than nuclear fission plants or newer “clean coal” technology.
Our fusion technology does not incur any costs associated with carbon dioxide sequestration or disposal, which will likely be factored into future electricity costs derived from coal and other hydro-carbon-based power plants. Our fusion technology also does not incur the significant cost of disposing highly active long-lived radioactive wastes associated with fission plants.
The deuterium and lithium used to fuel our fusion power plants is plentiful and inexpensive. The combined cost of these fuels is less than $0.0001/kWh, more than 100 times lower than coal, natural gas, or uranium.
General Fusion’s cost advantages will continue to build as our designs mature, as diminishing fuel reserves increase the costs of traditional generation, and if governments add carbon taxes or other measures to discourage fossil fuel use.
Cost advantages relative to other fusion technologies
Most researchers in the fusion community believe that magnetic fusion and inertial confinement fusion will eventually demonstrate net fusion energy. However, some governments, environmentalists, and fusion researchers believe that both these methods are too expensive and that their timelines are too long to ever become practical sources of energy. Magnetic fusion machines are not expected to produce net energy until 2021, electricity generation until 2035, or result in prototype power plants until 2050. Overall development costs are estimated at $100 billion to $250 billion. The situation for inertial confinement fusion machines is similar, with development times greater than 50 years and aggregate costs in excess of $50 billion.
General Fusion’s generators are much smaller than magnetic or inertial confinement fusion machines and avoid many of their exotic and expensive technologies, thereby requiring much smaller capital investments.