Fusion is the Unicorn, Holy Grail and Arc of the Covenant all rolled into one for the physicist scientific community. The ability to create a star on earth then harness the energy using only seawater to power the infinite indefinite source is the dream. The fact that theres a massive international project based in the south of France with little fanfare was the impetuous for co-director and writer Mila Aung-Thwin to bring the story of the scientists on the front line of harnessing this energy to the screen.
In the simplest of terms fusion is created when two hydrogen nuclei collide at a high rate of speed and stick together. When this occurs a tremendous amount of clean energy is released. This event occurs repeatedly in space when stars are formed. The catch is in order to create the sticking part great heat 150,000 degrees and speed are required along with a vessel to hold the reaction.
This is where the project in France comes in; a potentially 3 story International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) but the project is way behind schedule and massively over budget. The European Union have put up over 40% of the funding. The Americans are involved but lukewarm having pulled out once back in 1999. South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and India are among the other major sponsors. The logistically challenging project is haunted by bureaucratic and program management shortfalls that now project the first plasma test at Christmas 2025. Mark Henderson a leading American physicist that's working on the project compares it to those that worked on churches in the middle ages. They are laying a brick in the foundation today but know that they will be long retired or gone before the structure is finally complete.
There are other working on smaller scale projects all over the world Michel Laberge runs General Fusion in British Columbia. His philosophy is that if an item can't be found at Home Depot then it can't go into his device. The ITER project he believes will work but it will never be stable as a power plant because it's too complex and expensive to run. Eric Lerner's operation Focus Fusion is based in Middlesex New Jersey. His device is chaotic, looking like its made from spare parts. The theory here is not to fight the natural instability of the base elements but use that element to achieve fusion. It will be cheaper but may take longer in the end to achieve with the risk of funding running out. The most successful enterprise to date is W7-X out of Germany. They are using Stellarator Coils that pre date the current in vogue Russian invited Tokamak method that the world have funded for the last 40 years. The Stellrator is self propelling once it gets started. They have had a successful firing although it only lasted for fractions of a second.
Let There Be Light brings the race to produce power through fusion out of the shadows. With the world still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, coal and crude oil its perpetuating an energy model that's not sustainable. Although not said directly a full commitment is required from the United States to reduce the timeline into a reasonable amount of years. But the potential successes are still theoretical and the delivery vehicle up still for debate. It's a pursuit that is not critical today but with the current patters of use and waste if there are not real successes in the next 20-30 years an undeniable crisis will be at our doorsteps.
**** Out of 4.
Let There Be Light |Mila Aung-Thwin / Van Royko | Canada /France/ Switzerland/ Italy/ U.S.A | 2017 | 90 minutes.
Tags: Energy, Fusion, Hydrogen, Nuclear, Physicist, France, ITER, General Fusion, Focus Fusion, W7-X, Tokamak, Stellrator