Project head Tom McGuire revealed that the company had been working on fusion energy in secret for around four years. The announcement was made in an effort to find potential partners in industry and government.
Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)’s top-secret Skunk Works development facility has previously produced such innovations as the U-2 spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter jet.
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Lockheed Martin: Fusion versus fission
Currently the U.S. Navy possesses submarines and aircraft carriers which run on nuclear power, but the reactors that they use are large fission reactors that have a limited life cycle.
A nuclear fusion reactor would be safer and more efficient than existing reactors, and McGuire has claimed that building a 100-megawatt reactor which measures 7 feet by 10 feet is perfectly feasible. That is around 10 times smaller than existing nuclear fission reactors, and the fusion reactor would be able to fit on the back of a large truck.
McGuire announced that the deuterium-tritium fuel which would be used in the new reactor could generate almost 10 million times more energy than the same quantity of fossil fuels. He also announced plans to explore the use of a different fuel which would completely eliminate radioactive waste.
Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) announced that in less than a year it would be able to build and test a compact fusion reactor, with a prototype expected in 5 years time and an operational version with a decade. One compact fusion reactor would be able to power a U.S. warship and end reliance on other forms of energy.
In fact, McGuire sees Lockheed’s research as part of an effort to solve the conundrum of global energy resources and climate change. Projections have shown that there will be a 40-50% increase in energy consumption over the next generation, and McGuire thinks that his research on nuclear fusion could help to mitigate conflicts over energy.
Having noticed a decline in military spending in key markets in the U.S. and Europe, Lockheed has recently taken a greater interest in alternative energy projects. The company has applied for several patents related to nuclear fusion technology, and is looking for partners to accelerate development.