Nuclear fuels for low-beta fusion reactors: Lithium resources revisited
- Cite this article as:
- Eckhartt, D. J Fusion Energ (1995) 14: 329. doi:10.1007/BF02214511
In searching to attain optimum conditions for the controlled release of nuclear energy by fusion processes, the stationary confinement of low-pressure ring-shaped plasmas by strong magnetic fields is now regarded as the most promising approach. We consider a number of fuel combinations that could be operated in such low-beta reactor systems and look upon the relevant fuel reserves. The “classical” D-T-Li cycle will be used as a standard and is extensively discussed therefore. It could supply most of mankind's future long-term power needs—but only on condition that the required lithium fuel can be extracted from seawater at reasonable expenses. The estimated landbound lithium reserves are too small to that end, they will last for about 500 years at most, depending on forecasts of future energy consumption and on assumptions about exploitable resources. Recovery of lithium from seawater would extend the possible range by a factor of 300 or so, provided that extraction technologies which are at present available in the laboratory, could be extended to a very large and industrial scale. Deuterium is abundant on earth but D-D fusion is difficult, if not impossible, to be achieved in the low-beta systems presently investigated for D-T fusion. The same arguments apply to so-called “advanced” concepts, such as the D-3He and the D-6Li cycles.