Putin Has Guaranteed High Carbon Polluter Status for Russia

Has Endangered Russian Membership in Major Carbon Free Project

Courtesy of ITER Organization (“x” added by author)

Putin has made a big mistake. Invading Ukraine has awakened Europe and the world to Russia’s role as a fossil fuel supplier. We now have motivation that’s stronger than ever to develop new zero carbon sources and to accelerate adoption of existing solar and wind energy. There will be no need for Russia. This is horrible for the people of Russia as their country may be removed from membership in one of the world’s most promising development collaborations.

His brutal actions stand to accelerate development of a source of electric power that uses not oil, gas, or coal, but water as its fuel. You read that right. Water. This is the fuel for a reactor based on fusion of hydrogen nuclei.

It is ironic that the leading design for fusion reactors was invented by Russian nuclear physicists in the 1970’s. It is called Tokamak and has been adopted by many countries in search of clean, new energy sources. The Tokamak design was chosen by a large collaboration to bring fusion into general use. Located in the south of France, it is named ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). The name also means The Path in Latin.

ITER and other government projects have been moving slowly by commercial standards. Other projects led by startup companies have far more aggressive timelines. While ITER does not plan to demonstrate fusion until 2035, private firms are targeting 2025 for functioning systems. These are not expected to produce power for the electric grid, but should create controlled and sustainable fusion, ready to incorporate into a power plant.

Companies moving rapidly include General Fusion in the Vancouver Area, Commonwealth Fusion Systems in collaboration with MIT in the Boston Area, and TAE Technologies in Southern California. There are many others throughout the world. Given that investors include individuals and groups with deep pockets, like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and a variety of venture capital funds and others, we could see very well see more near-term progress than anyone anticipated.

Already, outstanding results were delivered by the most established fusion research reactor team. They ran a Tokamak, the Joint European Torus or JET, in February in the UK to produce brief but self-sustained fusion. This shows that, once ignited, the fusion reaction can continue to burn, ultimately producing heat to be converted into electric power.

Returning to my earlier statement about water as fuel, for purposes of this article I can say that it has been proven. Without going into detail, scientists and engineers have made it work several times. We know that they can light the fire. Now it’s a matter of scaling it up to run a power plant. Putin may have just fanned that flames of innovation — and his own demise.

Another aspect of Putin’s crazed drive to destruction is that Russia was one of the member countries building ITER. Nothing has been published yet on the status of their membership but expulsion would not be surprising. This would likely mean that Russia would not participate in the benefits of a great zero carbon power source. Russia was also building an essential component of the reactor. That work will probably stop and be assumed by one of the other countries that is making identical components for other locations in the reactor. They could build two instead of the one they had contracted to deliver.

Putin’s war is moving Russia backwards. The country seems likely to become a climate change pariah over the next few decades if he remains.

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