The Fusion Torch was first introduced in 1969 By Ben Eastland and William Gough, but it was an idea before the technology and our culture was ready. Controlled fusion was a low funded program in its infancy. There was little pressure for an environmentally desirable energy alternative. Focus of the physics community was placed on the easiest fusion fuel cycle to achieve, the deuterium-tritium (DT) cycle – a producer of copious 14 Mev neutrons. All resources were devoted.
The Fusion Torch is a concept for utilizing the high temperature plasma of a fusion reactor to break apart all solid and gaseous materials and convert them into a few reusable and saleable elements for closing the cycle of use to reuse. It was invented in 1968, by Bernard Eastlund and William Gough while they were program managers of the controlled thermonuclear research program of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The basic concept was to impinge the plasma leaking from such fusion reactors onto solids or liquids, vaporizing, dissociating and ionizing the materials, then separating the elements of the materials into separate bins for collection. Other applications of fusion plasmas, such as generation of UV and optical light and generation of hydrogen fuel were also described in the paper. A recent review has appeared on the web.
The top level process diagram for a fusion torch is shown
on the right. The plasma separation step is inserted into
the process flow. All fusion magnetic confinement
concepts leak plasma, and the plasma separation loop can
be part of that loop.
The Fusion Torch was presented in an AEC publication WASH-1132 in 1969 entitled "The Fusion-Torch:
Closing the Cycle from Use to Reuse" The Chairman of the AEC at that time was Glenn Seaborg. He
presented the concept at a meeting of Nobel prize winners in Sweden and it received extensive publicity. (See
"Man and Atom: Building a New World Through Nuclear Technology", Dutton and Company, New York,
197l.) The Fusion Torch did not become an AEC program because the status of fusion technology was too
immature and neutron activation from the deuterium-tritium fuel cycle would irradiate the materials.
In fact, when the paper was written, the key performance parameter that indicated how well a fusion device
was containing the hot gases, the "Lawson" criterion was five orders of magnitude from the values needed for a
fusion reactor. In addition, no solid materials had ever been injected in a fusion plasma.
This section of the web site describes the 1969 paper in more detail. (FUSION1969) It then describes the
progress of fusion research and research in separation of elements from solids by fusion plasmas.
(FUSION1998, FUSION2007). The section is completed by a discussion of a possible scenario in which
the Fusion torch, with fuel cycles other than deuterium-tritium lead to fusion torch systems that produce
electricity and recycle materials to provide mankind with a source of energy that can take us to the stars as
well as make it possible for us to live on this planet without destroying it.(FUSION2050)
AS A PREQUEL, THE FIGURE AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF AN
ALUMINUM PELLET IONIZING IN A FUSION PLASMA.