AAPG ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION
Making the Next Giant Leap in Geosciences
April 10-13, 2011, Houston, Texas, USA
Lunar Helium-3 Value Chain: Investment and Funding
(1) International Energy Consultant, Houston, TX.
Lunar helium-3 is considered one of the potential resources for utilization as fuel source for future earth-based nuclear fusion plants. With a potential start-up of a commercial fusion power plant by the year 2050, the author describes technology and commercial aspects for a lunar helium-3 mining operation that could fuel such a power plant. Barriers for development are inferred to exist largely in the fusion portion of the helium-3 value chain. Commercially a helium-3 operation would have to compete with other energy supply sources that might become available in the future and that could be developed in a stepwise function rather than in an all-encompassing effort. The author suggests that space technology RD&D and fusion research should be pursued separately, and should only form a symbiosis, once a common fit due to separately achieved scientific/technical progress justify a joint commitment of financial resources. RD&D costs for these programs will be several hundred billion dollars, which will largely be provided by public investments. The private sector, however, is emerging in space technology and could play a significant role in such a value chain, as outlined in the suggested business model.