Stellarators as a Fast Path to Fusion*

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This paper is focused on three points: (1) overcoming obstacles to tokamak power plants may require a configuration modification as large as that of a stellarator. (2) The demonstrated reliability of the computational design of stellarators should change fusion strategy. (3) Deployment of carbon-free energy sources is mandated by the thirty-year doubling of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon-free energy options must be developed and fully deployed within a few doubling times. Unit size and cost of electricity are only relevant in comparison to alternative worldwide energy solutions. Intermittency, site specificity, waste management, and nuclear proliferation make fusion attractive as the basis for a carbon-free energy system compared to the alternatives. Nonetheless, fusion is not an option for deployment until a power plant has successfully operated. A critical element in a minimal time and risk program is the use of computational design as opposed to just extrapolation. Only the stellarator has an empirical demonstration of the reliable computational design through large changes in configuration properties and scale. The computational design of stellarators should proceed while the inventions necessary for a more tokamak-like power plant are sought. The cost of computational design is extremely small, but adequate time is required for the development of ideas that maximize attractiveness and minimize risk. Rapid power-plant construction without many intermediate steps may seem risky, but the price is small compared to the cost of trillions of dollars for each year’s delay in addressing carbon-dioxide emissions.

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In Press
Nuclear Fusion
Date Published