Scientists have been pursuing the nuclear fission dream for many years. Those involved consider that it is their duty to make this process work.Vast amounts of energy, both intellectual and physical, have been spent in past decades in trying to devise a system that here on Earth can emulate the process that has been taking place on the Sun for millions of years. Some progress has been made with the JET (Joint European Torus) system in England producing a burst of 16 megawatts energy for seconds. This was only 70% of the energy pumped in to heat the plasma.
There are hopes in the scientific community that the bigger ITER International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) system being build in southern France will do more than give a small burst of energy in response to the vast amount that powers it. Of course, the expectation that nuclear fission will eventually power the operation of the systems of civilization is adroitly promoted by the scientists who make a good living by pursuing this dream. They continue to gain support from governments and investors because the return, if it is ever realized, will enable civilization to continue to grow through the copious supply of energy.
Of course, the scientists promoting this endeavor present their understanding of the requirement. They strive to meet the challenge of understanding the complex physical forces at play. No one can doubt the integrity of these dedicated people.That is where their responsibility lies.
Their focus is on realizing a nuclear fission system that will produce more energy than is used to drive it. That is their objective. It is not for them to address two other issues that will determine the worth of the nuclear fission concept in the future operation of the systems of civilization.
Assume that ITER leads to a production system that provides a proportion of the energy requirement in some countries. This system will have to be manufactured out of materials that may well be becoming in short supply and this process will use a lot of energy currently supplied by fossil fuels and nuclear power stations. The authorities will then have to have in place a program to maintain them during their limited lifetime and to replace them subsequently. However, meeting the demand for energy to drive the infrastructure may not have a high priority for future governments as they try to cope with such developing problems as too many aging people, unemployed youngsters, workers with skills that are no longer required, environmental toxicity, climate change, ocean acidification, loss of fertile soil and potable water combined with decay of cities and the associated infrastructure. These problems cannot be addressed by the flow of intangible money, despite what people may think. Most of them are tangible operation of natural and synthetic systems. It is ironical that even the nuclear fission scientists talk about energy as though it is some quantity when, in actual fact, it is always the property of material and what happens to the material in the energy transformation process has to be taken into account if it carried out here on Earth. Astronomers understand what happens in nuclear fission on the Sun.
The scientists who have devoted their undoubted talents to produce a system that will only exacerbate the odious outlook for future generations will be no worse off than those who have worked so hard to produce the endangered species, cars, trucks, airliners and container vessels.