A b-ITER disappointment
Hype/no hype but let's hope it's true. 3 years ago while taking a break on the coast just outside Marseilles I the family and I took a trip a few miles north to the ITER site fascinated to learn about the progress being made and the prospects for this huge (expensive) international collaboration.
What a disappointment.
At the time the site was being prepared for the creation of the reactors. I learned during the presentation that they don't like using the word 'reactor' - too many negative connotations. So the site was being prepared but, perhaps no surprise, the accommodation for 650 civil servants (yes 650) were already built and occupied. No Nissan hut for these civil servants. Instead they got to occupy a state-of-the-art building.
But the icing on the cake was to learn that the grand plan is to, maybe, have a working prototype by 2040. At that time the site will be abandoned. 2040. A prototype. That's what billon/years buys you.
So that's the state of fusion research when done by a group sponsored by the tax payer. Very uninspiring. Though on the bright side, they are unlikely to disappoint anyone. But the French have much needed employment for 650 people for the next 30 years so that's good.
Given this background, maybe it's no surprise Lockheed Martin's skunk works project is making noises. They probably realise the ITER project looks like a massive, publicly funded white elephant and that a pitch to Congress might just net them some of the cash that would otherwise go to support French employment statistics.
EDF must also have been given some money because the place had all the electrical infrastructure in place both to power the research and absorb any of the energy they, maybe, one day, hope to produce.