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rkbabang
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$200K investment sounds really funny. This is less than yearly salaries for 2 qualified people. Color me skeptical about both the company and the investment.

 

Disclaimer: I have no clue about current cutting edge fusion R&D.

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$200K investment sounds really funny. This is less than yearly salaries for 2 qualified people. Color me skeptical about both the company and the investment.

 

Disclaimer: I have no clue about current cutting edge fusion R&D.

 

I agree $200k isn't much.  But $27M is.  And Helion received over $3M. 

 

I try to keep up with this, but it is hard to know what to believe.  The PR out of all these companies make it sound like they are close, but who knows?

 

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$200K investment sounds really funny. This is less than yearly salaries for 2 qualified people. Color me skeptical about both the company and the investment.

 

Disclaimer: I have no clue about current cutting edge fusion R&D.

 

I agree $200k isn't much.  But $27M is.  And Helion received over $3M. 

 

I try to keep up with this, but it is hard to know what to believe.  The PR out of all these companies make it sound like they are close, but who knows?

 

They've been 'close' for two decades. I'll believe when I see it. :-)

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$200K investment sounds really funny. This is less than yearly salaries for 2 qualified people. Color me skeptical about both the company and the investment.

 

Disclaimer: I have no clue about current cutting edge fusion R&D.

 

I agree $200k isn't much.  But $27M is.  And Helion received over $3M. 

 

I try to keep up with this, but it is hard to know what to believe.  The PR out of all these companies make it sound like they are close, but who knows?

 

They've been 'close' for two decades. I'll believe when I see it. :-)

 

Well they are even closer now.  :)

 

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Guest Schwab711

I actually love this topic and used to study it quite a bit. Since the average person doesn't understand the difference it is lumped in with current nuclear power and blocked from nearly all funding (ridiculous). The costs for a prototype of an economically feasible reactor is in the 10's billions of dollars. These companies are like the weed companies out there, don't waste your money.

 

NIF just finished in the US (Cali or CO?). It cost a few billion dollars just to test methods to start the reactor! A lot of the current research is done in piece-work globally. It's really just several thousand people working on a few hundred of people's ideas to keep the dream alive!

 

ITER is by far the most advanced project (were it ever to be finished) but costs have bloated to the point of scaring nearly everyone away. JET (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_European_Torus) is/was a great facility but they are finding that the update costs are enormous vs building a new facility (which is again hurting investment). Outside these 2, there's a few dozen or so mini-reactors throughout the US (in various states of working; lots sitting in abandoned buildings of bankrupt companies) that were once capable of helping with some impressive research. With the progress of solar, even the "green" lobbyists are scared of fusion power. Final problem is you got watched pretty closely globally as you progress in your education. There's only so many nuclear engineers outside the US Navy so they like to keep tabs on you :)

 

Recent News:

http://news.sciencemag.org/funding/2015/05/senate-subcommittee-moves-pull-u-s-out-iter-fusion-project

http://phys.org/news/2015-05-star-power-iter-nuclear-fusion.html

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I think Elon Musk has set a great example in SpaceX for how fusion (or more accurately fusion research) could be accomplished for a much cheaper price tag.

 

Basically, the science is all done and now it is a question of engineering (akin to knowing how to make a rocket conceptually, and then actually building one that will work).  ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field.  Other researchers are having some success with Stellerators and work on spherical Tokamaks looks promising. 

 

What we need is someone like Buffett/Gates or Lockheed to build an ITER type machine for $2 billion rather than $27 billion (Musk was able to source many equivalent parts from non-rocket contractors for 1/20th the price).  The problem - as I see it - is that the government is the only person working on projects with a 10 year+ payoff and the government is incredibly inefficient. 

 

Probably the best chance of success is that China throws a few billion a year at this as a hedge against importing oil for the next 50 year... I can't think of anyone else willing to spend a few billion without a return, while also getting something done on-time and with a reasonable budget.  We probably need to build 3-5 ITER type experiments before we get a working Fusion reactor, and at the current pace we are building one every 15-20 years... (and you have to build them one at a time so that the next model can be improved upon based on what was learned from the last iteration).

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Guest Schwab711

I agree with a lot of what your saying, someone on the private/philanthropic-side has to step in. It provides credibility and incentive for young engineers/scientists. I could see a lot of cross-applications as well (not just large-scale energy generation).

 

However, the US (maybe Japan or France still is now) has always been #1 or #2 in research within this field. The US Navy has done possibly more research in the field than the rest of the world combined (this is a big guess as I'm assuming a lot of confidential/secret research). US Govnt funded NIF for $3.5b which is significantly cheaper than most other global facilities. I think a big reason ITER and similar projects have spiraled out of control is because they are European as opposed to American-led projects. I think the European governments are extremely wasteful but the US seems to be pretty efficient with big projects when it's not the guinea pig.

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I think Elon Musk has set a great example in SpaceX for how fusion (or more accurately fusion research) could be accomplished for a much cheaper price tag.

 

Basically, the science is all done and now it is a question of engineering (akin to knowing how to make a rocket conceptually, and then actually building one that will work).  ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field.  Other researchers are having some success with Stellerators and work on spherical Tokamaks looks promising. 

 

What we need is someone like Buffett/Gates or Lockheed to build an ITER type machine for $2 billion rather than $27 billion (Musk was able to source many equivalent parts from non-rocket contractors for 1/20th the price).  The problem - as I see it - is that the government is the only person working on projects with a 10 year+ payoff and the government is incredibly inefficient. 

 

Probably the best chance of success is that China throws a few billion a year at this as a hedge against importing oil for the next 50 year... I can't think of anyone else willing to spend a few billion without a return, while also getting something done on-time and with a reasonable budget.  We probably need to build 3-5 ITER type experiments before we get a working Fusion reactor, and at the current pace we are building one every 15-20 years... (and you have to build them one at a time so that the next model can be improved upon based on what was learned from the last iteration).

 

It would be great if Musk found a way to test a lot of the material-related issues on a small scale. That would be the secret sauce of building a $2-5B fully-functioning facility. US government/NASA would lease that solution for big $ annually.

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For people interested in physics, but who want relatively simple explanations, I recommend this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Physics-Magnetism-Electricity-Electron/dp/0880292512/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1432345734&sr=8-2&keywords=asimov+on+physics

 

Very interesting too if you already know physics. A real page turner. Explains how all the discoveries were made (even the wrong ones) and kind of describes the process philosofers and physicists (and some chemists) went through to get to where we are today. Written by the great Asimov!

 

This is another great book by him on physics:

http://www.amazon.com/Atom-Journey-Across-Subatomic-Cosmos/dp/0452268346/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1432346954&sr=8-6&keywords=asimov+physics

 

 

For the phycistists here, why can't they cool down Hydrogen to a  einstein bose condensate? From what I understand that sort of mergers together right? In a really weird macro quantum mechanical way. Then at the right time you bombard it with electrons or high energy photons, and boom fusion! But what do i know lol.

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Is fusion even worth building at this point? Why not spend the money making better PV and batteries? That way you can harness the sun's energy, which is a pretty powerful fusion reactor..?

 

I'll let practicing engineers/physicists correct me but the energy density for each is not even comparable. Nuclear fusion energy would be harnessing the sun directly as opposed to capturing rays ~93m miles away from the source. D-T (deuterium-tritium) reaction creates 80% free energy. Just not even comparable. The best case for the world would be nuclear fusion for cities and large electricity consumption (to replace all fossil fuels; this also makes 100% electric cars environmentally friendly!) with as much localized solar as possible. Nuclear energy takes just 10min (up to 1000 secs) to create a day's worth of power so you can flip the "on-switch" [and off] easier than with any other energy production method.

 

Nuclear Fusion: 65%

Solar: 25%

Wind/Geo/ect: ~10%

*While using the current grid network. Once the technology is available and miniaturized we may even be able to create "generators" or small reactors that can provide a family with energy for a month/year and by-pass the grid.

 

Yadayada:

I'm not the best to answer on what current issues are but Bose–Einstein condensate is bringing matter close to absolute zero. For a fusion reaction you need enough heat and/or pressure to break both the intra- and inter-bonds that bind water (H and O) (assuming D-T reaction; some projects use Li instead). You also need 'enough' sufficiently energetic high-contact collisions to start the process (although there isn't the same issues with chain-reactions). The sun is roughly 100m degrees C. The sun is actually fairly inefficient at power generation so we don't need it that hot but we definitely need a plasma material. The materials to make the reactor (like Tungsten) are extremely expensive and rare and we don't have very good alloys that can withstand the intense heat/pressure and neutron radiation. Last I heard, the design of the reactors should produce positive energy, but the radiation/heat is going to make it so repairs are necessary after every run! Solar power will look cheap compared to fusion at this point.

 

I haven't read too much on the topic in the last year or so but this is kind of where the discipline is at:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a8914/why-dont-we-have-fusion-power-15480435/

 

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Yadayada:

I'm not the best to answer on what current issues are but Bose–Einstein condensate is bringing matter close to absolute zero. For a fusion reaction you need enough heat and/or pressure to break both the intra- and inter-bonds that bind water (H and O) (assuming D-T reaction; some projects use Li instead). You also need 'enough' sufficiently energetic high-contact collisions to start the process (although there isn't the same issues with chain-reactions). The sun is roughly 100m degrees C. The sun is actually fairly inefficient at power generation so we don't need it that hot but we definitely need a plasma material. The materials to make the reactor (like Tungsten) are extremely expensive and rare and we don't have very good alloys that can withstand the intense heat/pressure and neutron radiation. Last I heard, the design of the reactors should produce positive energy, but the radiation/heat is going to make it so repairs are necessary after every run! Solar power will look cheap compared to fusion at this point.

 

I haven't read too much on the topic in the last year or so but this is kind of where the discipline is at:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a8914/why-dont-we-have-fusion-power-15480435/

 

In an Bose einstein condensate , atoms can kind of merge together right? becoming one large piece of matter, or one wave function instead of a lot of interacting wave functions. So when that happens,Can't you squeeze this type of matter closer and closer together with magnets while guiding away heat (or motion) with lasers. And when density is very high, you suddenly heat it up again, and possibly some individual atoms will now fuse together releasing energy due to different matter make up as before the condensate was created?

 

Kind of like 'blindfolding' the atoms by cooling them down.

 

But this probably violates a lot of principles and laws im nto aware of. From googling around it seems this was already tried? But im still to much of a newbie to understand why it didn't work. Either way it seems bose einstein condensate is extremely fascinating stuff. :)

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Is fusion even worth building at this point? Why not spend the money making better PV and batteries? That way you can harness the sun's energy, which is a pretty powerful fusion reactor..?

 

I have to wonder this as well. Don't get me wrong the fact that we will probably have productive fusion reactors some time in the next couple decades is awesome and there will of course be niche applications for it like Naval vessels, spacecraft, etc. However, at the commercial scale I don't think fusion solves any problem that fission power plants don't already. Despite what most people think about nuclear power, it is by far the safest form of power generation and incredibly good at providing a lot of energy to the grid. A fusion power plant isn't going to be some kind of panacea, at least not anymore than nuclear already is. Sure you reduce the radioactive waste component down some and the storage for it can be counted in decades as opposed to centuries but otherwise a commercial scale fusion plant isn't going to be all that different than our existing fission plants. You still need most of the cooling and containment systems that take up the majority of the space at a fission plant. While nuclear reactions might provide incredible energy density, most customers are far more concerned with cost/KwH and by that metric the levelized cost of utility scale wind power is already cheaper than nuclear in many locations and only getting cheaper as more comes on line. Furthermore, renewables scale a lot easier and unlike existing nuclear plants and likely fusion plants, they can be mass produced to further drive down cost.

 

So yes, it's probably worth studying fusion for the possible niche applications. However, I don't expect it to become a cost effective power source any time soon. The physics involved in containing and harnessing a fusion reaction make scaling it down for distributed applications quite difficult, although fusion powered planes would be really cool.

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Is fusion even worth building at this point? Why not spend the money making better PV and batteries? That way you can harness the sun's energy, which is a pretty powerful fusion reactor..?

 

I have to wonder this as well. Don't get me wrong the fact that we will probably have productive fusion reactors some time in the next couple decades is awesome and there will of course be niche applications for it like Naval vessels, spacecraft, etc. However, at the commercial scale I don't think fusion solves any problem that fission power plants don't already. Despite what most people think about nuclear power, it is by far the safest form of power generation and incredibly good at providing a lot of energy to the grid. A fusion power plant isn't going to be some kind of panacea, at least not anymore than nuclear already is. Sure you reduce the radioactive waste component down some and the storage for it can be counted in decades as opposed to centuries but otherwise a commercial scale fusion plant isn't going to be all that different than our existing fission plants. You still need most of the cooling and containment systems that take up the majority of the space at a fission plant. While nuclear reactions might provide incredible energy density, most customers are far more concerned with cost/KwH and by that metric the levelized cost of utility scale wind power is already cheaper than nuclear in many locations and only getting cheaper as more comes on line. Furthermore, renewables scale a lot easier and unlike existing nuclear plants and likely fusion plants, they can be mass produced to further drive down cost.

 

So yes, it's probably worth studying fusion for the possible niche applications. However, I don't expect it to become a cost effective power source any time soon. The physics involved in containing and harnessing a fusion reaction make scaling it down for distributed applications quite difficult, although fusion powered planes would be really cool.

 

http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~aran/class/PHY100_08F/presentations/Fusion.pdf

 

Check out the pros/cons, I think the pros will change your mind :). Nuclear Fusion invloves filtering Ocean Water for heavy water that appears naturally due to sunlight at ~0.1% (so a lot!), colliding the individual water molecules at incomprehensibly fast speeds and combining them into the byproducts 1) pure water, and 2) a Neutron that holds 80% of the reaction's energy. These neutrons would [hopefully] shoot into large pools of normal water which in turn would heat the water and the resulting steam would spin a turbine to ultimately generate the energy.

 

Facts about Nuclear Fusion:

- Most proposed reactions have pure H2O as the only byproduct (Thorium is another matter but still extremely clean/cheap).

- There is ZERO carbon emissions at any point in the process (including water filtration for Deuterium I believe)

- There is no possibility of "chain-reactions" or large-scale over-heating. Since so little material is needed to create such large amounts of energy (the US would survive on 5-10 large reactors for 80% of energy), any over-heating incidents would be extremely localized (damaging the reactor beyond economical repair) since plasma cools extremely quickly and there is very little actual mass involved (with the final 'waste' product being a benign solid of water and hydrogen (with some helium released).

- The actual outputs are produced extremely quickly (and can be safely stopped just as quickly), allowing supply to cater on-demand.

- Energy production is nearly all fixed costs. Once an economical reactor design is proven we as society will have unlimited power at trivial marginal costs

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ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

I have never understood why nuclear fusion research is so absolutely stupid. We spend 27 billion on a single idea that doesn't even work that well. But we had NO reason to believe it would work well because it had never been tried before. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to spend 50 million on 400 different ideas? Or a billion on 20 ideas. I think we would have gotten a lot further.

 

But of course as others have pointed out we don't need nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is already very feasible.

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Guest Schwab711

ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

But of course as others have pointed out we don't need nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is already very feasible.

 

It is also extremely dangerous to humans and extremely harsh to the environment (from Uranium mining to the constant nuclear waste created and a power plant that is difficult to permanently decommission. Fusion energy is the future or the future won't be as Jetsons-like as we think :)

 

 

ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

I have never understood why nuclear fusion research is so absolutely stupid. We spend 27 billion on a single idea that doesn't even work that well. But we had NO reason to believe it would work well because it had never been tried before. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to spend 50 million on 400 different ideas? Or a billion on 20 ideas. I think we would have gotten a lot further.

 

I assume you mean stupid expensive :) Don't let me ruin your opinion of fusion research, ITER is proving this is worthwhile to invest in, which is simply HUGE!!  The US is left ITER without contributing much (maybe $1b total over a decade?) for the same reasons that frustrate you. Europeans have a much larger appetite for this research because of their energy dependence (they really got an average continent at best land-wise). Even if it eventually balloons to $50b, it's still no different then early investment in solar power since it will be able to produce 500mw in 500-1000 seconds (not a whole year!). It also has zero carbon emissions, trivial raw material costs (basically just cost of electricity to turn on machine; 50mw input for each 500mw output), and is environmentally safe. It also provides economical reasons to study some of the most extreme phenomenon known to man.

 

Current nuclear fission plants cost roughly $6b - $9b to build and come with all sorts of environmental issues that scare folks from building these in the US. If a fusion reactor can be built for 2.5x the cost with up to 2x-4x annual capacity with zero carbon emissions and unlimited fuel reserves (almost literally considering the size of the oceans and natural replenishment from sunlight) then it would be ignorant of the US/world not to invest. The technology involved makes it unlikely that this process can take place on smaller scales (ITER is built over 100+ acres; see cool facts below) while still providing mass electricity, regardless of what Lockheed Martin says :).

 

 

Comparison of energy source costs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#United_States

Someone posted a Lockheed Martin article on fusion not long ago. Here's their promotional website:

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html

Cool/Fun Facts:

https://www.iter.org/factsfigures

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Guest Schwab711

Also, I don't really like this article but the tone definitely matches the opinion of most in the community. "Green" lobbyists and NPOs seem to downplay or outright lobby against any funding for nuclear fusion research (US provided ~$100m in aggregate last year... almost entirely to ITER which isn't even in the US!) even though nuclear fusion represents an environmentalists dream (and one of the reasons I lobby for it so hard)! It seems ridiculous but they actively prevent much funding to small researchers/projects because it has the word "nuclear" and progress has been slow. Young engineers are actively pushed into related but different sub-categories and forced to study nuclear fusion independently. This is really why the US/world has seen such delayed progress as Nuclear Fusion plants represent significant impediments to a number of current industries such as mining, O&G, nuclear waste companies, utilities, ect.

 

Simply put, truly vertically-scaled nuclear fusion power has the chance to change life for humans more than any other single technological innovation. If we could create reactors of varying output/size, the possibilities would literally be limitless. Fuel and fuel costs would be trivial and you would see 1000% return on electricity purchased (or costs slashed by 90%, however you'd like to view it) while significantly decreasing the global carbon emission output from electricity production and cars (which would be nearly 0).

 

You should all spread the word and support increased funding for nuclear fusion! :)

 

By the way, NIF is the US's response to ITER by funding a much smaller project that aims to study one component of a full-sized nuclear reactor as opposed to building the whole thing like the Europeans.

 

 

http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/102114-722824-nuclear-fusion-would-put-environmentalists-out-of-work.htm

 

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ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

I have never understood why nuclear fusion research is so absolutely stupid. We spend 27 billion on a single idea that doesn't even work that well. But we had NO reason to believe it would work well because it had never been tried before. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to spend 50 million on 400 different ideas? Or a billion on 20 ideas. I think we would have gotten a lot further.

 

But of course as others have pointed out we don't need nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is already very feasible.

 

Are you for real? If that's your view on life and progress and the world was full of people like you then we would still be sitting in caves huddled around a fire. "Nobody's ever tried to go down into the valley and see if we can domesticate these lumbering cows. That won't work well because nobody ever tried it. It's a stupid idea."

 

I bet you have a computer (obviously). By your standards, it was a stupid idea because nobody ever tried it and so it shouldn't exist. I suggest you think about progress and how it gets that way a bit more deeply before you mouth off on technology that you likely don't understand. Whether money on research is well spent or not (or efficiently spent) is another matter and often only clear much much later (well at least the "well spent" part).

 

C.

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to add to this ... and lest we forget. Current nuclear plants exist only because of very generous government support early on in their development and commercialisation. As society we've always spent on some aspects of progress heavily ... arguably more or less efficiently (and the private sector tends to be better at being efficient than the government ... just sometimes government must lead/set the right incentives to get the private sector going ... see solar subsidies that led to the enormous drop in unit costs due the increase in manufacturing, attendant scale benefits and the incentive to research more efficient cells and commercialisable cells).

 

C.

 

ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

But of course as others have pointed out we don't need nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is already very feasible.

 

It is also extremely dangerous to humans and extremely harsh to the environment (from Uranium mining to the constant nuclear waste created and a power plant that is difficult to permanently decommission. Fusion energy is the future or the future won't be as Jetsons-like as we think :)

 

 

ITER is a $27 billion (and counting) science experiment that will basically move the ball down the field. 

 

I have never understood why nuclear fusion research is so absolutely stupid. We spend 27 billion on a single idea that doesn't even work that well. But we had NO reason to believe it would work well because it had never been tried before. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to spend 50 million on 400 different ideas? Or a billion on 20 ideas. I think we would have gotten a lot further.

 

I assume you mean stupid expensive :) Don't let me ruin your opinion of fusion research, ITER is proving this is worthwhile to invest in, which is simply HUGE!!  The US is left ITER without contributing much (maybe $1b total over a decade?) for the same reasons that frustrate you. Europeans have a much larger appetite for this research because of their energy dependence (they really got an average continent at best land-wise). Even if it eventually balloons to $50b, it's still no different then early investment in solar power since it will be able to produce 500mw in 500-1000 seconds (not a whole year!). It also has zero carbon emissions, trivial raw material costs (basically just cost of electricity to turn on machine; 50mw input for each 500mw output), and is environmentally safe. It also provides economical reasons to study some of the most extreme phenomenon known to man.

 

Current nuclear fission plants cost roughly $6b - $9b to build and come with all sorts of environmental issues that scare folks from building these in the US. If a fusion reactor can be built for 2.5x the cost with up to 2x-4x annual capacity with zero carbon emissions and unlimited fuel reserves (almost literally considering the size of the oceans and natural replenishment from sunlight) then it would be ignorant of the US/world not to invest. The technology involved makes it unlikely that this process can take place on smaller scales (ITER is built over 100+ acres; see cool facts below) while still providing mass electricity, regardless of what Lockheed Martin says :).

 

 

Comparison of energy source costs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#United_States

Someone posted a Lockheed Martin article on fusion not long ago. Here's their promotional website:

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html

Cool/Fun Facts:

https://www.iter.org/factsfigures

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Even including Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear fission is by far the safest power source we have in terms of deaths per energy generated. Most of the issues surrounding it have been solved in the latest generation reactors and with modern storage systems. The rhetoric the anti-nuclear crowd has been using for the last half century is almost completely baseless when you're looking at modern reactors constructed today. The problem is, it's expensive and there's no reason to think fusion will be any less expensive.

 

Substituting a fusion reactor for a fission reactor still requires most of the same containment and cooling systems and the turbines for actual power generation. Furthermore, the incremental costs of adding a new fission or fusion reactor make it extremely unlikely to be adopted in developing energy markets where it is most needed to replace "dirty" coal generation. Only wealthy nations like the US and parts of Europe have a realistic chance of implementing initial fusion reactors for power generation, spending 5-10 billion on a single power plant isn't realistic when distributed generation sources like wind, solar and natural gas are all far cheaper to build and operate. Even if fusion makes it technically, it's still DOA commercially, utility scale renewables are already cheaper than nuclear fission (which is probably the closest comparison to assessing the likely costs of fusion although fusion will probably be more expensive to start with). Furthermore, renewables are only getting cheaper. It's easy to dream about the possibilities of cheap, limitless power fusion will provide and get caught up in the story but I think those possibilities are already here with renewable technology.

 

Believe me, I would love to see fusion succeed commercially, I just don't see how it will. That said, there are certainly good reasons to continue fusion research beyond its use in commercial scale power generation. Ultimately it's going to be a lot easier to add capacity to the grid a couple million at a time through wind and solar than it is to plop down a couple billion on a new fusion plant.

 

Here's a decent article on energy source mortality/trillionkWhr

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/

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Bill Gates' sponsored company, Terrapower, seems optimistic that they'll have a working "fast reactor" within the next 10 years:

 

http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2013/07/23/bill-gates-nuclear-company-explores-molten-salt-reactors-thorium/

 

http://terrapower.com/pages/technology

 

The TWR offers additional benefits over today’s light water reactor (LWR) designs:

 

Provides up to a 50-fold gain in fuel efficiency, which means less fuel producing more electricity. Increased fuel efficiency also means less waste at the end of the reactor’s life.

Eliminates the need for reprocessing and significantly reduces and potentially eliminates the long-term need for enrichment plants. This reduces proliferation concerns and lowers the cost of the nuclear energy process.

Directly converts depleted uranium to usable fuel as it operates. As a result, this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.

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FWIW, it is well known within the fusion community that the NIF at Livermore is only being funded/used to simulate the decay of our stock of hydrogen bombs, because we cannot currently test hydrogen bombs due to the test ban treaty (thank goodness!).

 

No one expects anything worthwhile with regard to practical fusion to come out of NIF... unfortunately they suck all the funding out of otherwise promising branches of the field

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