Catch 22

The Big Z

It was about 1990 when I started haunting the web page of Sandia National Laboratories. After many months I came upon a posting of one of their programs with the Department of Energy. Inertial Confinement Fusion.

The history of fusion technology proves that the goal of obtaining the implosion of molecules was a very steep challenge, even for the best nerds of the world who were teamed together during the early nineties. Scientists began their quest for fusion in about the 30’s. Theory was that a fusion reaction could be obtained when a concentration of energy equating two-million degrees was realized. Sixty years of working the project, scientists weren’t even close. Then as I watched, they took a new approach and I witnessed their progress through my haunting tactics.

Take a pea sized pellet and fill it with deuterium and tritium, add two wires extending from opposing sides of the pea and entering it converging on the center, then hit each wire simultaneously with a powerful laser. Within months the scientists climbed rapidly toward their goal but the results leveled off around 500,000 degrees. They were on to something, but still well short of the needed 2 million degrees for a fusion reaction.

The scientific team worked to build more and more powerful lasers. This was time consuming, expensive, and not yielding the results they needed. Then a girl on the team says to her bosses, “why don’t you split the wires”, “add more lasers”, and what do ya know, it worked. Not immediately of course, but for the next several years they worked splitting hairs so to speak. They used/invented micro machines to fray the ends of the wires. They added a laser or two for each wire fray and around the turn of the century the team had reached 1.8 MILLION degrees.

Now, I had been watching this amazing fruition from afar on my computer by way of the world wide web. It was more than exciting, for a nerd like me it was an aphrodisiac. I cheered their successes and cried their pains of defeat. It was believable to me that what I saw unfolding was going to change the World in so many ways. Think about it: unlimited resource of clean energy. The benefits to the earth, to humanity in general were limitless and I felt a connection that was much more than what a spectator would feel. This was AWEsome.

The fusion program was called the Z-Accelerator. After watching its progress for almost ten years and seeing them sooooo close to success, it was very frustrating when they completely stopped posting any new achievements. In fact for almost a year the page didn’t change at all. Silence.

Well, I knew what that meant. They did it. They reached the big F.

Of course, Sandia had to be a little quiet about it. Timing and delivery of such a success would be delicate in our OIL soaked world. But that secrecy clause didn’t include me. I told everyone about it. Check it out, I’d say, clean energy is right around the corner.

The next time anything is posted about the Z-accelerator, Sandia is saying that the program just wasn’t performing. It was too expensive. They were cutting it loose. They gave it to the Department of Defense, that’d be Donny Rumsfeld. Hmmmmm

Then I got hired by Rodi. Then I go to Louisiana. I had little time to sniff around Sandia.

“The best part,” says Don Cook, director of the Pulsed Power Sciences Center (home of the Z-Accelerator) at Sandia National Laboratories, “is that if fusion can be made to work in a very cost-effective way, there will not be future wars over oil in the Persian Gulf or anywhere else, and the injury to the environment caused by civilization will be reduced. Fond hopes, but these were, and are, some of the dreams of fusion scientists and engineers.”
— Don Cook

You need to understand that whenever temperatures like what Z produced are realized, then a byproduct of the technology is a powerful x-ray. The Z-machine was the most powerful producer of x-rays on the planet due to reaching temperatures equal to that of the sun. These x-rays are valuable in our nation’s quest to ensure global dominance with nuclear weaponry. Ever since the United States agreed to halt underground testing of our nuclear weapons, we have been looking for other means to test the accuracy and life expectancy of these massively destructive weapons. The powerful x-rays produced by Z will accomplish this task without ever having to detonate a nuclear bomb. Most of the funding for Z was to specifically support the mission to test our nuclear weapons within the new guidelines. This gave majority of ownership for the Z project to our Department of Defense. To our defensive leaders who justify their existence on the basis of WAR, they see the “by-product” of Z to be an unlimited supply of clean energy.

After the Z-accelerator exceeded by far all expectations of success into the fusion arena, the director in charge of Pulsed Power Technology at Sandia, Don Cook, made a proposal and a promise. He asked Congress in 1998 to grant him 300 million dollars to continue toward the goal of high yield fusion.  His plan was to build the next generation of Z called the X-1 project. If funded, the X-1 was expected to reach initial operating capability by 2007 and be a producing high yield fusion by 2010.

Think about it. On a shoe string budget, less than the price tag of a days worth of bombs dropped on Iraq, our leaders in energy science could provide a solution to one of the World’s most ardent desires. And it could be accomplished in ten years. Let us wonder: If our country made a project like the X-1 its first priority and gave it a budget that reflected that intention, then we could be rid of our dirty coal-burning power plants. We could let our rivers go back to the wild. We could help the ozone to heal. And we could allow Middle Eastern countries to be governed by their people and for their people instead of paying for the puppet regimes put in place by Big Oil.

I called Don Cook’s office in August of 2004 and asked: “Did Don ever get the funding from Congress to support the X-1 project?” That’s all I wanted to know. Did MY government give MY money to a project that will benefit MY planet? What I received from Don’s office was the third degree. WHAT was your name? WHY do you want to know? HOW will you use this information? MAYBE we’ll call you back. They didn’t, and I think I know why.

The Department of Energy (DOE) secretary is Spencer Abraham. Abraham said in April of 2004, that when the Bush Administration assumed office in 2001, “The President and I agreed that modernizing [the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure] was urgent…Three years and $1.8 BILLION worth of investment later, we are rapidly achieving that.” In this statement we can see what the primary objective is at the DOE.

But not to look insensitive to the tree-huggers, Spencer offered $30 million for Sandia to chase after his “freedom car” initiative. This is a project that is supposed to support the objective of designing a car that will run on hydrogen. The DOE sells the freedom car initiative by saying it will have the potential to improve urban air quality, decrease greenhouse gases and gain independence from foreign oil. Apparently Spencer is playing to the hypocrisy of our “assumed” leaders in the White House. The Clean Air Act was essentially gutted by the Bush Administration and Cheney’s Secret Energy Task Force by taking away the steps that were in place to restrict CO2 emissions. They refused to sign the Kyoto agreement; a global movement to restrict greenhouse gases. And the last thing our “old money” oil barons in Washington DC/Texas would like to see is independence from foreign oil. They would have to risk hurting the feelings of the Saudi’s who are seen as “family” to the Bush’s.