In recent years a lot of people who care about such things have been quietly freaking out about the forthcoming helium shortage. Never mind party balloons… a lack of helium would be a *real* problem for anyone who needs superconductors… such as people who rely on MRIs and particle accelerators and the like, cooled by liquid helium. It seems, though, that new large underground reservoirs of helium may have been located, and may be economically tappable.
Sid note: from time to time I’ve seen it suggested in science fiction that all the helium we need could be produced through nuclear fusion of hydrogen in commercial fusion powerplants. A nice idea, but the problem if that very, very little helium would be produced. For example:
The energy liberated by the fusion of 1 Kg of Deuterium with 1.5 Kg of Tritium is therefore 2.82 X 10-12 X 2.99 X 1026 = 8.43 X 1014 Joules = (8.43 X 1014) / (3.6 X 1012) GWHours = 234 GWHours.
This energy appears in the form of heat. If it was used to generate electricity in a conventional steam turbine power plant with an efficiency of 38%, it would provide 88,900 MWH of electricity which is near enough equivalent to one year’s operation with a constant output power of 10 MWatts.
So a ten megawatt fusion generating plant would crank out about 2.5 kilos of helium per year. Yeah, not really floating the Goodyear blimp on *that.*