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Nigeria and nuclear fusion – Part 6

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PHOTO: ec.europa.eu

PHOTO: ec.europa.eu

Meeting at Maputo, plasma physicists from Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and Europe discussed different ways to involve African nations in a research network.

The conference was reported in Iter Newsline, a publication of the $20 billion fusion test reactor, currently under construction at Cadarache, in southern France.

It is not apparent, from searching the Internet that any subsequent conferences occurred. But there are other avenues, through which policy makers can gain a toehold.

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One is the Asian African Association for Plasma Training (AAAPT), which was established in 1988, to provide facilities for plasma studies by small research groups in developing countries.

Nigeria was formerly active in the Association. During this period, Wikipedia reports, AAAPT started a plasma focus laboratory at Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt.

But while participation in such associations and seminars is essential, and ought to be intensified, Nigeria must, at the same time, extend its effort beyond “capacity” building and reading papers.

Using the nation’s lithium reserves and other strategic minerals as leverage, policy makers and political leaders need to seek avenues of direct involvement in nuclear fusion research.

The chances of collaboration with Iter, at some level, are remote—but not entirely out of the question. After the tokomak at Cadarach has been fired up, a second phase, called, “DEMO,” is planned.

The main objective at Iter is to achieve a sustained fusion reaction and develop a system that can generate 10 times more energy than is required to operate it. (This is called the “Q” value.)

DEMO is short for “Demonstration Fusion Power Plant”. The idea, is to demonstrate that nuclear fusion reactors can generate electricity on a commercial scale safely, reliable and profitably.

There will thus be several DEMO plants. Unfortunately, instability in Nigeria virtually nixes the possibility of Nigeria hosting one of them.

Nevertheless, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been holding annual workshops “to facilitate international collaboration on defining and coordinating DEMO programme activities”.

If Nigeria is not already a participant, involvement is certainly worth considering: Not as an end, in itself, but to explore options for collaboration with a DEMO host country.

Also, Iter is the biggest fusion show in town: But not the only one. There are small scale projects, whose doors Nigeria might just be able to pry open, with a bit of political and diplomatic pressure.

China, Germany, South Korea, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and MIT are each executing fusion projects, either independently of, or in conjunction with, ITER. These, of course, do not exhaust the list

In light of this, budgetary arguments against a nuclear fusion project tend to fall flat. There are fusion research options to fit Nigeria’s financial purse—if only the political will existed.

Indeed, teenagers in the U.S.A. and Britain are winning global acclaim for their fusion exploits, even as lethargy and self-doubt throttle academicians and policy makers here!

It recently came to my attention, for example, through Information Nigeria’s “Olumide,” that 13-year-old Jamie Edwards, of Penwortham, England had built a workable model of a fusion reactor.

Edwards was actually duplicating the feat of Taylor Wilson, a 14-year-old in Reno, Nevada (U.S.A.), who had—until the Britain bested him—held the recorded, as the youngest person to build a reactor.

Hence nuclear fusion is no longer, as they say, “rocket science”—at least not at every level. Nigeria needs to start somewhere.

Meanwhile, the global Energy Revolution is rolling on, and even gaining momentum. There is no reversing it. The Revolution will run its course: With or without Nigeria’s participation.


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