Sceptics question Lockheed's fusion optimism

Superconducting magnetic coils inside Lockheed Martin's compact fusion experiment.

David Talbot at MIT Technology Review airs the doubts many scientists have expressed over Lockheed Martin's announcement that it was on track to produce a fusion reactor that would fit on the back of a pick up truck, predicting it would be up and running within a decade.

Many scientists are unconvinced. Ian Hutchinson, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and one of the principal investigators at the MIT fusion research reactor, says the type of confinement described by Lockheed had long been studied without much success.

Hutchinson says he was only able to comment on what Lockheed has released—some pictures, diagrams, and commentary, which can be found here. “Based on that, as far as I can tell, they aren’t paying attention to the basic physics of magnetic-confinement fusion energy. And so I’m highly skeptical that they have anything interesting to offer,” he says. “It seems purely speculative, as if someone has drawn a cartoon and said they are going to fly to Mars with it.”

Hutchinson adds: “Of course we’d be delighted if a real breakthrough were possible, but when someone who shows no evidence of understanding the issues makes a bald claim that they will just make a small device and therefore it will be quicker [to develop], we say, ‘Why do they think they can do that?’ And when they have no answers, we are highly skeptical.”

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