FUSION POWER, WHO NEEDS IT ? !

P. K. Kaw
Institute for Plasma Research
Bhat, Gandhinagar 382 424

FUSION POWER, WHO NEEDS IT ? !

Artsimovich Memorial Lecture presented at the 14th IAEA Conference on Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Wurzburg, Germany, 1992

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour and a privilege to have been invited to deliver the Artsimovich Memorial Lecture this year. As you are all aware, these lectures not only honour the memory of Academician Lev A. Artsimovich, a giant among fusion scientists, but also give one an opportunity of sharing one's perspectives and concerns about fusion research activity as a whole. To the extent that they provoke discussion and debate, these lectures serve a very useful purpose.


Ladies and gentlemen, the title of my talk is "Fusion Power: Who needs it?!" My chief concern in this talk is that we in the fusion community, have come to accept a pace of fusion funding which could be better described, by a title "Fusion Power ? But who needs it, right away?" At a time when our technical accomplishments worldwide are excellent, and our experiments are producing beautiful results, we are less than ambitious in our request for funding. When we should be running, we are barely crawling! Thus no new tokamaks have been constructed or are under construction for so many years now, in spite of several excellent proposals. Our next generation experiments (INTOR, NET, SSTR, ITER) continue to be caught up in the loop of design and redesign and re-redesign and...We have no major fusion technology facilities. We glibly talk of 50 years time scales for commercial systems and so on. I believe that the reason for this state of affairs is that we, as a community, have formulated a set of questionable premises (never explicitly stated but more or less tacitly accepted by everybody). These are:

1. Energy situation in the world is comfortable and there is no urgency to develop fusion technology.

2. Even if fusion technology is developed faster, nobody will buy it, because it will be too expensive.

3. We can develop and perfect the technology over the next 50 years or more and then it may be put to commercial use.

I believe that each one of these premises is faulty and would like to share my thoughts with you.


I. Are we really comfortable on the energy front ?


I present you a perspective that I know best viz. that of developing nations like India and China (Similar trends are visible in other parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa). Table I presents the data on per capita consumption of electricity in several countries.

It may be noted that whereas the average consumption in most of the developed world is more than 6000 units/year, the figure for India is a meagre 250 units/year i.e. 4 percent of the average in the developed world. Many will argue that the actual consumption in the developed world today is too high and is likely to come down because