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Opinion: Nuclear fusion in nowhere near ready for primetime

Re “Renewable energy is overrated. Nuclear fusion is key to our future.” (Jan. 10): A fellow La Jolla resident has written a strong advocation of nuclear fusion and suggests that mostly engineering challenges prevent it being adopted.

What he fails to mention is that there has never been a test of fusion conducted in which the power produced by fusion exceeds the power required to run the test.

I would consider that more of a conceptual scientific issue than an engineering problem.

Perhaps he should consider postponing the fusion drumbeating until after the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) plant in France operates sometime in the next decade.

Phillip Hawley
La Jolla

Re “Renewable energy is overrated. Nuclear fusion is key to our future.” (Jan. 18): Bill Roper’s commentary on nuclear fusion mentions a not-often publicized fact that because renewable sources are weak they require lots of “stuff” to convert those sources into usable electricity and making that stuff takes a lot of energy. Bill Gates emphasizes this in his book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.”

In the case of solar, that is mostly energy from coal in China. Thus a rooftop solar panel can take five years to capture as much energy as it took to make it, energy that was expended years before the panel “breaks even” energy-wise.

We need shovel-ready low-carbon sources now to avoid climate tipping points, so renewables (and nuclear fusion) can’t do the job. Nuclear fission is the only proven technology that comes close so we need to get on with it, cut the red tape and follow the lead of France and Sweden.

James Fish
Carlsbad