MINNIE is a story about a potentially comprehensive solution to climate change and the energy crisis: small nuclear fusion devices.
It was originally written as a feature film script, which reached the semi-final of ScreenCraft’s International Screenwriting Competition, Comedy category, in 2015.
I am rewriting the script as a book in 2019.
Please see below for an article to learn more about how the story is based on real life events, and real barriers to implementing solutions to climate change.
Article: Why I’ve written a story about nuclear fusion
Updated: 21 April 2019
I’ve been on the lookout for a comprehensive solution to the challenge of climate change and energy supply for most of my life. Whilst renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are clearly a major part of the energy mix of the future, there are questions about the speed of their deployment, and debates about their negative impacts or limitations, such as the amount of land, plastic and other materials they would require to power the whole planet by themselves. Just ask any NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) whether they’d like a wind farm within their picturesque view of the countryside. Furthermore, in some cases there are questions about the ability of solar and wind to provide the explosive power needed for specific industries, such as aviation and those that require the melting of metal.
MINNIE is about a solution that doesn’t exist yet: nuclear fusion power that puts out more energy than it takes in to make it work. Scientists are working towards the ‘breakeven’ point, but are not there yet.
Nuclear Fission vs Nuclear Fusion
I’m sometimes asked why an environmentalist is supporting nuclear power. There have been valid and interesting debates about the place of nuclear fission in the energy mix of the future. But most debates so far have been focussed around nuclear fission, with nuclear fusion having a very low public profile and level of understanding.
Did you know that nuclear fusion is almost literally the opposite of nuclear fission, not only in terms of how it works, but also in terms of its waste, and the risks of something going wrong? Fission splits atoms, whereas fusion fuses atoms together. Fission produces significant radioactive waste with half lives of thousands of years, whereas fusion produces minimal radioactive waste with half lives of around 12 years. Fission is prone to meltdowns if something goes wrong, whereas fusion is so difficult to achieve that if anything goes wrong, it would simply stop rather than have any risks of meltdown.
Why this story need to be communicated
Athletes are known for visualising success as a tangible method of achieving it. As a species we need to visualise a future scenario where the breakeven point of nuclear fusion has been reached, a portable sized rather than factory sized design has been invented, and the short half life of the waste has come down to zero.
That’s why I’ve written this story. To set out a fictional scenario where a genius scientist finally works out exactly how to make nuclear fusion work on small, portable devices that everyone can have in their homes, cars, planes, etc. You may remember ‘Mr Fusion’ in the back of the DeLorean at the end of the film Back to the Future. I watched that film over 20 times as a kid. It was obvious to me that something like that is needed, but it wasn’t until many years later that I learned more about the potential of fusion technology, and really understood its pros and cons. The main con being that it doesn’t yet exist as a net source of power!
Wouldn’t it be great if it was a reality? Fusion energy in small, portable devices could be so important for the future of humanity. We can make it happen, with enough investment.
But this story is about more than visualising a future with this technology. It also visualises what might happen to the person or company that makes the breakthrough on the technology. Would it be shot down, literally or metaphorically? Would it be so disruptive to the established energy companies that they would do anything to prevent the technology coming to market? Has this actually already happened, and most of us are simply unaware?
In this sense, MINNIE is about a whole lot more than ‘just’ climate change and the energy industry. The concept also applies in other scenarios of invention and innovation, such as finding cures for cancer, and the idea that pharmaceutical companies may already know exactly how to prevent cancers, but don’t want the solutions to come to market, as they need to sell cancer treatment drugs to continue their businesses and profits.
So that’s what MINNIE is really about. It’s about what humans might do when someone comes along with a disruptive invention that could utterly transform human society. What would happen? Humans generally don’t like change: try folding your arms the opposite way to how you normally fold them, and you’ll feel the discomfort. Imagine if change means you’ll be out of a job, or unable to pay your mortgage, or feed your children. Would you try to prevent that change, even if it’s good for ‘other people’ in the long run?
If humanity wants to survive as a species in the long term, we must do whatever is required to survive as a species in the long term. And to do so, we need to be consciously aware that we must fight our own instincts towards short term rather than long term thinking.
As a ‘wise’ man, Sylvester Stallone, once said: if you have a message for the world, a feature film is the best vehicle for it.
That’s why MINNIE needs to be made as a feature film or television series.
Like any great story with a message, it’s wrapped up in comedy, explosions, romance, drama, action, and the film version has an awesome sound track. I want people to enjoy it, regardless of the message.
Documentaries can, and recently have, been made about fusion power. But I believe the entertaining, fictional approach will reach a more mainstream audience.
What about after the book, film or television series have been released?
I hope that MINNIE starts an informed conversation in society about the potential of nuclear fusion, and raises awareness of it. From there, I hope that raised awareness leads to increased investment in the technology, and turns it into reality.
With enough investment, small nuclear fusion devices have the potential to solve the energy crisis and provide a safe, clean source of energy. MINNIE raises awareness of this, and the reality that vested interests of other energy companies might limit the development of the technology. With this clarity and awareness, such vested interests can be called out, and overcome.
Thanks to Pete Nicholson for animating the trailer, and to Dr Melanie Windridge from Tokamak Energy for technical consultancy on the script.
To discuss purchasing the film or television rights for MINNIE, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org