Lockheed Martin Corp. said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready in a decade.You read that size correctly. Scalability? Safety? We'll see.
Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works for about four years but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.
Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring 7 feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire said.
Compact nuclear fusion would also produce far less waste than coal-powered plants, and future reactors could eliminate radioactive waste completely, the company said.
McGuire said the company had several patents pending for the work and was looking for partners in academia, industry, and among government laboratories to advance the work.
Lockheed said it had shown it could complete a design and build and test it in as little as a year, which should produce an operational reactor in 10 years, McGuire said. A small reactor could power a US Navy warship and eliminate the need for other fuel sources that pose logistical challenges.
US submarines and aircraft carriers run on nuclear power, but they have large fission reactors on board that have to be replaced on a regular cycle.
"What makes our project really interesting and feasible is that timeline as a potential solution," McGuire said.