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The devil is always in the details.
This week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that scientists achieved a nuclear fusion reaction that created more energy than was used. Make no mistake: This is a huge deal. This has never happened before.
To clarify, a nuclear fusion reaction happens when two light nuclei merge to form a single heavier nucleus.
To put it simply, this is essentially the reaction that powers the sun; when properly harnessed, it can be used to create a limitless source of energy on Earth. In fact, according to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear fusion could generate 4 million times more energy than burning coal or oil…
But, of course, without the massive environmental and social burdens.
While I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional nuclear power — mostly because it remains cost-prohibitive without massive subsidies (far more than coal, gas, solar, and wind) — the promise of nuclear fusion has always been fascinating to me because it could potentially allow us to ditch fossil fuels altogether while creating energy in an economically and environmentally superior fashion.
It’s also far safer than traditional nuclear fission, which produces radioactive waste that, despite world governments' best efforts, creates an inconvenient safety and security risk that few ever want to talk about.
And, of course, because fusion is not based on a chain reaction like we see with fission, a nuclear accident is not actually possible.
But I’m not here to talk about nuclear physics.
Instead, I’m here to talk about opportunity.
And as much as I love the promise of nuclear fusion, the opportunity to profit from this is highly unlikely because it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever actually see nuclear fusion happen for at least another 30 years — and that’s figuring conservatively.
Like I said, the devil is in the details.
As reported in The Washington Post, the net energy gain scientists witnessed only happened at the micro level:
The lasers used at the Livermore lab are only about 1% efficient, according to Troy Carter, a plasma physicist at the University of California at Los Angeles. That means that it takes about 100 times more energy to run the lasers than they are ultimately able to deliver to the hydrogen atoms.
So researchers will still have to reach “engineering net energy gain,” or the point at which the entire process takes less energy than is outputted by the reaction. They will also have to figure out how to turn the outputted energy — currently in the form of kinetic energy from the helium nucleus and the neutron — into a form that is usable for electricity. They could do that by converting it to heat, then heating steam to turn a turbine and run a generator. That process also has efficiency limitations.
All that means that the energy gain will probably need to be pushed much, much higher for fusion to actually be commercially viable.
At the moment, researchers can also only do the fusion reaction about once a day. In between, they have to allow the lasers to cool and replace the fusion fuel target. A commercially viable plant would need to be able to do it several times per second, said Dennis Whyte, director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT. “Once you’ve got scientific viability,” he said, “you’ve got to figure out engineering viability.”
In other words, don’t hold your breath for nuclear fusion.
Yes, it’s absolutely fascinating, and one day it’ll be a real thing.
But it’s not going to be a real thing anytime soon, and it’s certainly of no use for us as energy investors.
What I do find interesting, though, is that while so many people in the media are talking about nuclear fusion this week, they’re completely clueless about the next generation of realistic nuclear power, which is likely to be one of the most profitable energy investment opportunities of our lifetime.
Utilizing a new type of nuclear fuel called “Tri-Fuel 238,” this next-generation nuclear power technology is cheaper than coal and natural gas, carbon emission-free, and, unlike traditional nuclear power plants, its reactors cannot fail.
It’s by far one of the safest, cleanest, and cheapest forms of power in the world, and the best part is there’s only one company making all this possible.
My good friend and colleague Keith Kohl actually turned me on to this company (along with its ticker symbol) earlier this year, and let’s just say that I really like looking at my trading account these days.
While I remain bullish on solar, wind, geothermal, and battery storage, I also know a solid opportunity when I see one. And quite frankly, if you look at the details on this new nuclear technology for yourself, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Bottom line: Nuclear fusion isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but Tri-Fuel 238 is a reality right now, and it’s going to make a lot of energy investors very, very rich.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth…