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Inside the Dynomak: A Fusion Technology Cheaper Than Coal

Modifying the most common type of experimental reactor might finally make fusion power feasible

5 min read
Photo: Michelle Ma/University of Washington
Helicity Hero: A trio of “magnetic helicity injectors” are the key to the University of Washington’s HIT-SI3 fusion experiment.
Photo: Michelle Ma/University of Washington

Fusion power has many compelling arguments in its favor. It doesn’t produce dangerous, long-term toxic waste, like nuclear fission. It’s far cleaner than coal, with a supply of fuel that’s virtually unlimited. And unlike with wind and solar, the output of a fusion power plant would be constant and reliable.

The primary argument against fusion power has been that despite decades of work, it still doesn’t exist. But that’s no hindrance to a fresh crop of enthusiasts from academia, government, private industry, and even venture capital firms.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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