Tom Tamarkin’s Fusion Energy Vision

Members of Tom’s family for the last hundred years have had “science in their blood.” Tom’s great grandfather was Sir Thomas E. Thorpe, a very highly esteemed chemist in the U.K. From 1951 to 1968 Tom’s father, Thomas E. Thorpe, taught physics at West Phoenix High School (WPHS.) WPHS earned the reputation of having one of the best high school physics departments in the United States and became a “feeder school” to Caltech in Pasadena, CA for physics majors. After earning his Ed.D. and Ph.D. in Physics in the mid-1980s, Dr. Thorpe left WPHS and became a full professor of physics at Northern Arizona University.

In October 1986, Tom and his wife Emily legally changed their Thorpe surname to Tamarkin.

Tom’s father was one of the first team members of Harvard Project Physics (Holton, Rutherford & Watson, et al) in the early 1960s. For several years in the early 1960s, Tom’s father took him to the lectures and meetings at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the summer. So by 1966 or so Tom was well versed in basic fission theory and was taught that fission was an intermediary step to fusion, which would happen. As a senior in high school Tom was given an award by Dr. Glen Seaborg then Chairman of the AEC (the then Atomic Energy Commission) for work Tom did in nuclear magnetic resonance and electron paramagnetic resonance. Tom’s project took top honors in physics at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) back when real science was done in those fairs (click here to see project.)

As a result of various awards and scholarships stemming from the ISEF, Gulf General Atomics, which at that time was owned by Gulf Oil Company, invited Tom to tour their facilities north of San Diego, California. In the early 1970s Gulf General Atomics had an active and robust fusion development program as did Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville OK. In those days the petroleum companies knew their fossil fuel reserves were finite and they needed to shift long term focus from being a petro-chemical production company to being an energy company. What happened? Our culture changed and the focus went from the old GE slogan of “progress is our most important product” to “profits are our most important mission.” Gulf Oil was taken over by Texaco who spun off Gulf General Atomics to the now General Atomics in San Diego, California. Phillips was taken over by the corporate raider, Carl Icahn who cut their fusion program by firing all the scientists and auctioning off the equipment and facilities.

After Tom left college as an undergraduate physics major and applied math & chemistry minor, he pursued a management career as opposed to science, in the electronics industry and the utility industry on the power generation side and pollution abatement, and later data acquisition and billing systems. Thus, Tom stopped following fusion per se, thinking it was moving along; after all President Carter signed the magnetic fusion energy engineering act (MFEEA) in 1980 and the goal was to throw $40 billion at fusion science research & development and have controlled fusion demonstrated by 1990-95 and a power plant for demonstration connected to the grid by 2000-05.

In 2001, California had a series of power blackouts and brownouts, so Tom started to investigate the progress and was astounded to learn the answer. There was very little progress since the late 1970s when Rob Goldston and others at PPPL were setting worldwide fusion plasma temperature records. In 1982 the MFEEA was only funded at 20% of what ERDA (now DOE) said was required to meet the aggressive schedule and was in the ERDA “fusion never” funding level. By 1986 fusion was effectively dead in the U.S. after the Soviet Union General Secretary Gorbachev convinced President Reagan to discontinue fusion efforts in the U.S. and proposed a partnership between the U.S. and Russia which over time morphed into ITER…ITER was almost 20 years late in taking off (see Tom’s article on “How Russia Caused the World’s Preeminent Super Power To Lose 25 Years in Its Quest to Correctly Solve Energy.”) And very little was going on in the U.S. in fusion research on the non-NNSA side because the government was not funding it. The whole myth about spending billions and billions and not figuring out how to harness fusion is just that; a myth.

Tom notes that in 1992 or so we pulled the plug on the superconductor collider center in Austin, Texas and the Hadron CERN got some of the hardware and the prestige although the Hadron Collider is considerably smaller than the SCC in Austin would have been. And at that point in time America gave up its lead in experimental high energy physics research and understanding. As Freeman Dyson said in a recent interview, America stopped doing real science years ago and are doing big engineering projects as Ed Moses demonstrated at LLNL NIF. In Tom’s view, ITER is another big engineering and construction project; but little science. One of Tom’s colleagues is doing ITER diagnostics software development in DOE OFS. Tom notes that off the record many scientists have stated that in their view ITER won’t work based on the physics. Many say the same thing about the indirect drive NIF.

As Tom learned more about the strange case of fusion science and its management he started investing time and money traveling around the country…world…and meeting everyone in the field. He interviewed Dr. Alvin Trivelpiece whom Bob Hirsch reported to at ERDA in the early days of fusion development. The story became clearer and clearer: Tom Post and Ken Fowler’s mirror projects; Multiple projects and programs at PPPL…MIT…Rochester…canceled ½ way or even further into them. So after spending considerable time and financial resources Tom teamed up with a lady Dr. Stephen Dean recommended (sort of) who was an ex LaRouche fusion institute holdover. In Tom’s view, LaRouche is a big problem. And he never wants to be associated with him or his LRPAC but he commissioned Marsha Freedman to help write a major essay on “Who Killed Fusion.” For a 15 year period she covered Fusion as a journalist and had thousands of pages of records and photos. Tom & Marsha wrote the Article “Who Killed Fusion”. The LaRouche group 21st Century Science bootlegged it and published it as their piece a year later giving Marsha credit but it was our work. Dr. Stephen Dean proof read and edited it as did Dr. Trivelpiece and even Ken Fowler who would inevitably call Tom, yell at him, hang up, and called back later to continue the discussion. So that article was well reviewed for accuracy. Again this major essay is: “Who Killed Fusion

Based on that article, Tom wrote a series of 8 more with the actor/singer Pat Boone with the goal in mind to test the waters and see what interest if any the public had in fusion, as well as the political leaders. Click here to find the Boone/Tamarkin articles indexed in English and Hebrew.

Articles 3, 4, and 5 of that 8 part series were reviewed by Francis Thio, Ph.D. prior to release. Dr. Thio is with the DOE Office of Fusion Science. The PJMIF project and Dr. Scott Hsu of Los Alamos National Labs are mentioned in article number 4 and 7. It was Stephen Dean of Fusion Power Associates who got Dr. Thio coupled with Tom and Pat Boone in 2011 and that is how Tom became acquainted with Dr. Scott Hsu and his work on PJMIF. Dr. Michael Cuneo of Sandia National Labs told Tom that Dr. Scott Hsu and PJMIF is the dark horse to back in the race for fusion in a personal meeting at the lab’s Z-Machine facility.

In October 2011 Tom worked with Dr. Francis Thio & Dr. Scott Hsu to write and publish the white paper on PJMIF titled “Development of Practical Fusion Power Plasma Jet Driven Magneto Inertial Fusion.” Tom contacted Dr. Irv Lindemuth who agreed to review the paper and write a scientific review of the PJMIF concept. Tom also contacted Dr. John Santarius who agreed to review the paper and write a scientific review on the process.

Tom has studied fusion science since 1972 and has an extensive library including all Edward Teller’s volumes on fusion theory and works by other early pioneers in fusion. Having said that, Tom wants the point to be made that he is not a Ph.D. practicing in the field, but can communicate well with such experts because of his strong physics and math background.

Tom’s goal is to get fusion science, research, and development back on a viable and properly funded track. That won’t happen by Jeff Bezos, Peter Theil, and Paul Allen tossing in a few tens of millions of dollars in proprietary projects because there is still too much science to learn and understand, and the corporate VC mentality will not support that. Nor will elected leaders or candidates. Having met with dozens of politicians like Mitt Romney & Eric Cantor in person, Tom has concluded fusion has no future with elected politicians until its ability to be harnessed by man is demonstrated.

Why has Tom Embarked on this Project?

Proven coal reserves in North America are not the main issue today given the political realities of the current administration and the charge of the EPA. New coal fired plants are not being built in the U.S. due to investor uncertainty over regulatory issues surrounding coal and even natural gas to a lesser extent.

The above statement needs to be considered within the context of the following chart:

No one has put forth a solution to this issue and folks running for president say silly things like we will go solar. Solar cannot provide what Dr. Steven Koonin, former Undersecretary of the DOE refers to as “material” amounts of energy. Tom and his colleague, Barrie Lawson, conducted a formal analysis of what it would require system-wise to produce the current 440 GW generation capacity with solar only; thereby providing 100% of baseload power 365 days, 24 hours per day. Their analysis is set forth in the article titled: “Going Solar-System Requirements For 100% U.S. Solar Generated Utility Baseload Electricity.” Key Concepts abstracted are:

Key Concepts

  • By 2060 88% of current on-line utility scale generation capacity will be retired due to plant age and life cycle considerations
  • Solar Photovoltaics require 3 to 4 years of their energy output to fabricate, including the frames and associated electronics systems
  • 29.3 billion 1 square meter solar panels are required for 100% solar power in the U.S. based on current demand 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
  • 29.3 billion 1square meter panels would cover 29,333 km2 which equals 7.2 million acres, or almost all of Maryland and Delaware.
  • If 1 square meter PV panels were manufactured at the rate of 1 per second, it would take 929 years to manufacture 29.3 billion panels
  • The cost of a solar only approach exceeds $15.27 trillion
  • To meet all energy demands for transportation, industrial, and commercial-agriculture would require 176 billion solar panels and 5,574 years to produce

Tom explored the Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Coal reserves and authored his article titled: 2060 And Lights Out

Tom believes that fossil fuels must be maintained and in fact production will have to be increased for the next couple of decades. Whereas some people have called for a reduction of fossil fuel use to insure the basic heath of people worldwide, Tom argues the opposite is true. Health and prosperity is a function of per capita energy availability. He and Pat Boone brought this to the attention of Pope Francis in a letter to the Pope dated September 24, 2015.

In order for people to live healthy and prosperous lives they need a significant energy allowance. Today that can only be achieved through fossil fuels and nuclear fission. And still 1.5 billion people in this world live without electricity while another 2 billion have never had access to motorized transportation.

In a recent video, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, discusses the need to attempt to limit worldwide population and thereby reduce worldwide energy demand. Her point is energy reserves cannot sustain a future population of 9 billion worldwide. She argues that even today’s population of 7.3 billion is too high and therefore population must be controlled significantly. In Tom’s judgment the emphasis needs to be placed on solving energy such that we can provide the whole world a per capita level of energy roughly equivalent to that enjoyed by Americans. However, the UN and Ms. Figueres argue for a reduction in population and never address the need to correctly solve energy. The UN and her close association with the IPCC has spawned the Green Energy Movement which has received billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and tax credits to develop energy solutions which as a matter of physics, can never supply material levels of power, let alone baseload electricity. Tom feels any discussion of population control or population reduction is immoral.

How does Tom propose to correct the situation?

Tom’s plan is twofold. First he intends to educate the public on the basics of energy and science. This is done in articles he has written such as “Energy Basics: Where does energy on our planet come from?” The PowerMasters™ game series is designed to reach mass audiences and teach these essentials in a fun and entertaining way. His elevator speech on fusion says it all.

Secondly, Tom is organizing a fusion energy consortium based on the revenues generated by the PowerMasters™ games and the licensing of patents he holds to the utility industry which the utilities must practice to conduct their modern billing and cash collections operations now.

Tom believes based on his research and interviews over an extended period of time that fusion energy development has never been properly managed and funded. It became obvious to him that many of today’s generation of fusion scientists and professors are themselves unaware of the history of fusion programs and their progress and many such scientists in fact believe that much more money and effort has been spent on fusion science and research than actually has been.

Tom is very concerned that the current privately funded fusion enterprises will all fail due to limited funding and impatient shareholders. Further he is very concerned that all U.S. government funded fusion related science and engineering projects are in support of ITER which he feels is problematic. ITER is not a power generating demo but rather a science experiment dedicated to testing the tokamak concept on a large scale. Many scientists are skeptical of the concept. Further the project has had a history of poor management and budget issues. As in international project with 7 member countries contributing work in kind, there are too many variables and the chances of ITER preforming to expectation are slim.

If the current private companies fail and ITER fails, Tom believes fusion will be lost forever in the United States. This led to Tom’s article: “Fusion Energy; Too Important Too Fail – Too Big To Hoard.” He believes there is an extremely urgent need to properly fund all fusion projects in the U.S.

Once again, Tom notes that Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, recently discussed the need to attempt to limit worldwide population and thereby reduce worldwide energy demand.

Steve Cowley, Ph.D. in the U.K., JET, Culham Centre, and ITER, is fond of saying we need to develop the energy source based on knowledge since the only other energy source of sufficient energy flux density is fossil fuels which are finite. So this presents a challenge to America and all countries to work together and solve energy based on knowledge as Dr. Cowley says.

With all due respect to Ms. Figueres she points out that a population should not be allowed to increase in size above the ability to sustain it in a healthy and prosperous fashion. She is presenting one solution. Reduce the population. If we allowed the worldwide population to contract by an order of magnitude we could sustain it for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, based on hydroelectric power and some other well placed “renewables.” Although aviation is probably a thing of the past in that case. The other alternative she has not discussed or proposed is a massive increase in energy availability.

Summary and Tom’s plan to move fusion forward:

In Tom’s view fusion has not been properly supported and funded by this administration or the previous administrations for two decades. His letter to President Obama is noteworthy and President Obama’s WH response to Tom even more so. Letter to the president. Response from the President.

In 2001 a petition was forwarded to the DOE and others with over 200 Ph.D. signatures urging accelerated fusion development. (Stephen Dean & FPA.)

In 2003 A Plan for the Development of Fusion Energy; Final Report to FESAC was submitted urging fusion development on a priority basis.

Yet the Department of Energy has made it very clear that only ITER related fusion research and work in kind projects under our obligation to the ITER partnership will be funded by the DOE.

This is why fusion is 30 years away and always will be.

Now, because of the three venture capital funded U.S. & Canadian fusion start-ups, along with one in the U.K., the media and the political establishments will one more time be drawn into the alluring fusion promise and mystique. ITER further exacerbates this syndrome.

Based on all we know today, it appears highly unlikely that any of the four private fusion ventures will achieve a sustained “burn” with a net energy gain. Given the fact that these ventures are privately funded and have shareholder/investor expectations & demands for results, their continued access to capital needed to further understand the science and incrementally revise their experimental regimen is highly unlikely. They may well all go broke in the process and be written off by the investors.

ITER may or may not be completed due to management and political issues relating to the 7 member countries and financial pressures. Periodically ITER’s schedule is updated with notices of slippage. Further, ITER may or may not achieve its goals of demonstrating a sustained net energy burn.  There are many in the fusion scientific community who question the underlying tokamak approach of ITER.

This may be the last “chapter” in fusion science and research in the U.S. If this fails, the U.S. will never develop fusion. Thus it is critical this not be allowed to fail.

In Tom’s article, “Fusion Energy; Too Important To Fail – Too Big To Hoard” the last section of the article is a 14 point plan.

The objective is to build a business based on a winning social media game series which will augment IP royalties from the utility industry based on smart meter patents Tom has assigned to various companies. Once this is operational and ramped up it can generate in excess of $500 million USD annually for the fusion consortium and overcome the fusion never syndrome. That is the intent. No emphasis is placed on any specific team or approach.

To learn more about Tom and his various projects see the history section of the Fuel R Future website.