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National Ignition Facility Fires 192-Beam Pulse

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the world's-largest-laser dept.

Power 438

An anonymous reader writes "The construction and test firing of the National Ignition Facility have been completed. NIF was designed as the first facility ever to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and, in particular, to reach the point of ignition in which more energy is generated from the reaction than went into creating it. While the recent 192-beam pulse only produced 80 kilojoules worth of energy, all signs point to NIF being able to reach an order of magnitude higher (PDF) than that in the coming year."

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jump (-1, Redundant)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145525)

NIFfing sharks with NIFfing laser beams attached to their head!

Re:jump (2, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146401)

Has that meme gotten to the point where it gets associated with any article that has words like "beam" that can conceivably be related to lasers in it?

Because if so, I'm breeding sharks with frikkin' two by fours on their heads!

Cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145543)

Cool.

And so practical too! (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145545)

Oh wait, I guess you'd have to get more money out than what you put in for that.

indeed (5, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145593)

Because energy is a useless fiat commodity, while you can eat cold, hard dollar bills.

Re:indeed (-1, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145637)

Heh, the NIF could produce energy for the next 1000 years and it wouldn't repay what has gone into it. This method of fusion may yield some interesting research but it is not commercializable in its current form.

Re:indeed (4, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145739)

You're right, we should just give up now. Obviously the fact that it's not ready for commercialization now is indicative of it's future potential as a technology.

Excuse me while I go reload my coal plant.

Re:indeed (5, Funny)

StaticEngine (135635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145821)

Wait, you have a plant that grows coal? Are you selling seed packets?

Re:indeed (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146059)

Wait, you have a plant that grows coal? Are you selling seed packets?

I just planted some. And according to the instructions, all I have to do is sit back and wait sixty million years, then I'll RICH, BABY!!!

Re:indeed (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146411)

You buried your pets and houseplants?

Sick bastard.

Re:indeed (5, Funny)

quantaman (517394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146077)

Wait, you have a plant that grows coal? Are you selling seed packets?

You should be forewarned that it takes a little while after planting the seeds before you can start digging out coal.

Re:indeed (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145747)

And your source for this sweeping dismissal is ... what, exactly? Please, oh please, share with us your understanding of the subject that has apparently eluded all those scientists and engineers who have worked on this project for years.

Your .sig is oddly appropriate in this context.

Re:indeed (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145771)

Sorry, what? If you can find a single claim by anyone involved with the NIF that this technology is commercializable, please, do share.

Re:indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145845)

I don't know about the GP, but I would like to know where you pulled that "1000 years" from...

I'll give you a hint (3, Informative)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146263)

He should probably wash his hands next.

A thousand years? Come on. That's the difference between the viking raids and landing on the moon. A lot can happen in a thousand years.

And FYI, RTFA. The thing has a maximum theoretical payoff roughly ten to one in terms of input/output, which they're predicting by 2010. 2MJ goes in, 20 comes out. If they only manage half that, you still have a x5 payoff. Which is still a massive win.

I don't know about you, but that much energy out of a nugget of 2mm nugget of beryllium sounds pretty freakin commercializable to me.

I'm thinking all sorts of great things can come from this. Uber cheap electricity, plug in hybrids to end the fuel crisis, shutting down coal/oil electricity plants, ion drives...there are lots of applications.

And you're not going to have to wait 1000 freaking years for them, either.

Re:indeed (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146275)

Durh. Maxwell definitely shouldn't have been pursuing a unified theory of electromagnetism. Much better to have stuck to improving the horse-drawn buggy.

Re:indeed (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145921)

As a student who is studying plasmas and fusion reactors etc. I wouldn't say any one really knows if fusion power will ever be economically viable. But than again the person who invented fire didn't know that either. They were probably just rubbing two stick together hoping that something would happen because he was freezing to death. Likewise we do not know if we will ever make money off fusion as a society. But its a good way to make your living. Honestly in what other field of study would you get to play with lasers, ion beams atomic power generation etc? Its a science lovers paradise. Despite the fact that fusion power may never be fruitful the search for it already has been. The search for commercial fusion can be compared to the space race. Both have spurred technology on significantly. The concepts of plasma manipulation alone have helped benefit the semiconductor industry massively.

Re:indeed (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145871)

maybe not that long, but certainly it's nothing more than an expensive toy. while i believe in science for science's sake, they must have some kind of direction they are taking this? because it's not going to be energy production, fusion has been 10 years off for the last 40 years.

Re:indeed (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145905)

Nope. It's pure science. They have no other goals except "study the ignition of nuclear fusion". It's a bit hard to do that inside a nuclear reactor (or bomb) and thus the big freakin' lasers.

Re:indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145993)

That's a pretty broad goal which could lead to a lot of exciting discoveries.

Re:indeed (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146007)

Or to a lot of classified papers that won't be seen by the general public for another 30 years.

Re:indeed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146177)

Right, just like nuclear fission.

Oh, wait... [wikipedia.org]

The first artificial nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, was constructed at the University of Chicago by a team led by Enrico Fermi in 1942.

U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower made his famous Atoms for Peace speech to the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1953. This diplomacy led to the dissemination of reactor technology to U.S. institutions and worldwide.

More like 11 years. And this is mostly due to the fact that nuclear fission research was deemed classified at the start of World War 2.

Re:indeed (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146295)

A lot has changed since then.. including the widespread suppression of nuclear research..

Re:indeed (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145923)

because it's not going to be energy production, fusion has been 10 years off for the last 40 years.

Which clearly means it is never, ever going to work and we should just give up, right?

Re:indeed (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145875)

while you can eat cold, hard dollar bills

Those dollar bills are not only a food source, a medium of exchange, but also a store of value. At the right price, they make great firewood!

Re:indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145883)

You could always take those cold, hard dollar bills, buy a hooker and eat her.

Just sayin'...

No, but you can burn them. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146377)

Because energy is a useless fiat commodity, while you can eat cold, hard dollar bills.

You can burn dollar bills though. And, if we switched to coal pennies, we could burn those too!

Cool (-1, Redundant)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145567)

Frickin' laser beam? Check!

...but where are the sharks?

Re:Cool (1)

balster neb (645686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146017)

No sharks, but this article [bbc.co.uk] has a nice picture. Cool that it looks like something from low budget TV sci-fi (except that it's real)

Still problems? (2, Interesting)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145581)

I didn't see anything in the article about Helium removal. I thought that was the biggest remaining problem with nuclear fusion -- removing the Helium-4 "waste" from the reaction before the Helium "poisons" it and shuts down. Someone please correct me. I'm sure that's not entirely accurate.

Re:Still problems? (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145943)

It'll all be put towards making our cars fly, so that we can finally experience the 21st century as it was meant to be experienced.

Re:Still problems? (4, Informative)

daknapp (156051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146041)

That's the problem with magnetically confined fusion. NIF will be inertially confined.

Re:Still problems? (5, Informative)

DBHolder (1196557) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146309)

Inertial confinement fusion does not rely on having a stable plasma for any extended period of time as magnetic confinement does. Instead, think of it as a series of small bombs. Each is fired into the center of the chamber and ignited with the laser system. In a commercial plant this would have occur 5-8 times a second. Meaning you have what is essentially machine gun speed firing of DT pellets into the center of the chamber with equavalent speed lasers. Thus one of the large problems remaining in ICF fusion is the development of the laser components that can fire in this way for extended periods of time. Additionally, first wall materials are needed that can handle the neutron and ion flux that is generated in extended operation. The major US project that was actually addressing the laser and material tech side was HAPL, which got zeroed out on the FY 2009 budget.

Energy Independence (3, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145601)

When we have energy in surplus, at the (general) expense of no one, the world may move much more easily to peaceful respect and cooperation.

I'm looking forward to renewable energy sources blazing the path to peace, but what I keep hearing from people in the field of nuclear physics is that Fusion will be realized by the mid 2020s.

If we can only hold off on the nuclear weapons until then, maybe we stand a chance to exist in a time when we spend our efforts of work (money/tax-dollars) to help each other instead of kick each others ass as best as we can afford.

Re:Energy Independence (5, Funny)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145633)

Hey, I saw that Star Trek episode too.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145717)

We hardly even use nuclear fission. We already need fusion? How about building some nice easy nuclear power plants.. just stick some radioactive rods in some coolant and let the steam do the work. You don't have to worry about magnetically containing a sustainable fusion reaction.

Re:Energy Independence (5, Insightful)

fishinatree (1368937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145737)

I think we've moved past the old Cold War era modus operandi: nuclear weapons are no longer necessary nor considered as an indicator of power. Military spending in that area has decreased drastically since the Reagan era. Essentially, we've reached a point where "kick[ing] each others ass as best as we can afford" is no longer a profitable venture and is, in fact, a great way to lose the economic support and favor of the international community. What we need is some CERN-scale collaboration on this so that we can possibly help to alleviate the energy strains on the global populace.

Re:Energy Independence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145785)

Why conquer them with force when we can conquer them with Coca-cola and McDonald's?

Re:Energy Independence (5, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146337)

What we need is some CERN-scale collaboration on this so that we can possibly help to alleviate the energy strains on the global populace.

That's great and all, but not very helpful when you have religious radical factions tearing nations apart from the inside out.

What governs humanity's motivation often goes beyond just the quest of plentiful resources.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146393)

We have. Other countries have not. Many third world nations are developing nukes precisely because they're seen as a necessary indicator of power.

The more countries have nukes, the more likely it is that they get used, either by a state, or by an independent group which somehow got its hands on one of the weapons.

Do you really feel safer with God only knows how many nukes floating around Pakistan? And what about when Iran gets them? And after them, who's next? [youtube.com]

Re:Energy Independence (4, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145817)

There will always be limited resources, and those who would deny those resources to others as leverage against their fellow man. It's about power, not scarcity of resources.

Re:Energy Independence (2, Insightful)

Nethead (1563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146081)

The next big fight will be over fresh water.

Re:Energy Independence (2, Informative)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146181)

If you've got shedloads of energy, distillation is a pretty cheap and simple technology.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

jon787 (512497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146269)

So Michigan is the new middle east, eh?

Re:Energy Independence (1)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146379)

I'm from Michigan and I can tell you for a fact: You'd be better off drinking water straight from the ocean. The lakes around here are about as clean as the water you flush down the toilet after eating some bad Mexican.

Re:Energy Independence (5, Insightful)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145819)

what I keep hearing from people in the field of nuclear physics is that Fusion will be realized by the mid 2020s.

Commercial fusion reactors have been 20 years away for at least the last 40 years. It's good to hear that we're now only 15 years away.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146241)

So by your figures, we should have fusion reactors in production within 120 real-world years? :)

Re:Energy Independence (5, Interesting)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145841)

When we have energy in surplus, at the (general) expense of no one, the world may move much more easily to peaceful respect and cooperation.

Ultra-cheap energy will create devices that require materials and technology which yield other shortages. Wars will continue over those items.

War itself will be cheaper to wage due to the low energy costs, removing a major incentive not to wage it.

Re:Energy Independence (3, Interesting)

quantaman (517394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146127)

When we have energy in surplus, at the (general) expense of no one, the world may move much more easily to peaceful respect and cooperation.

Ultra-cheap energy will create devices that require materials and technology which yield other shortages. Wars will continue over those items.

War itself will be cheaper to wage due to the low energy costs, removing a major incentive not to wage it.

The first world would seem to serve as a counter-example.

True as our standards improve we'll squabble over more trivial things.

But I don't think it's as hopeless as you make it sound, there's a reason why the world is as peaceful as its ever been and I think it's related to the fact our material wealth is also as great as its ever been.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146257)

With enough available energy you can make as much as you want of pretty much anything except coldness.

Re:Energy Independence (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145843)

> When we have energy in surplus, at the (general) expense of no one, the world
> may move much more easily to peaceful respect and cooperation.

ROFLMAO! Energy abundance will more likely just shift the resource wars to different places. We won't need oil any more but we will need all sorts of rare minerals just like we do now, only with limitless energy we will develop all sorts of new exotic manufacturing processes. But telling the House of Saud to go pound sand will still be priceless.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146051)

But telling the House of Saud to go pound sand will still be priceless.

With our luck the final process will involve large amounts of sand, in which case the House of Saud will win the energy lottery yet again.

Re:Energy Independence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145997)

The world will just find something else to fight about. The point is not energy, there is more then enough for everyone, the point is to have more than theother have.

close but not quite (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146009)

a society is as rich as its values. this is the reason the west is so powerful, not because it has nike sweatshops in indonesia. the usa, in 250 years, has eclipsed civilizations thousands of years older, because its foundational values from the enlightenment are simply superior ways of organizing society in productivity and happiness, and valuing progress and tolerance

however, in its need for energy, the west rewards places like saudi arabia. therefore, saudi arabia has no incentive to get better values, or evolve, and remains a stultified insanity exporting (wahabbi islam) country. when soccer mom fills up her SUV, she funds ultraconservative madrassas in pakistan and indonesia via saudi arabia that teach the west is the devil and should be destroyed

if oil never existed on the arabian penninsula, the insane ultraconservative religious ideas would remain the enclave of the few tribes who remained in the desert, and the cities would be full of young progressive thinking muslims, modern-looking and clamoring for change, and achieving it. simply because there would be no artificially propped up old guard preserving medieval values that simply don't work, and keeping their young from having a society they can envision themselves as better than the one they have

oil money, petrodollars, it keeps saudi arabia frozen in time, without any need or desire to adapt better values, and it allows it to export social values which are toxic to progress and prosperity. it exports these backwards values, and funds the evangelizing of ultraconservative wahabbi islam throughout the muslim world. so when we have fusion, and the value of oil drops to squat, only then will saudi arabia begin to modernize, because only then will it have to modernize for the first time since the penninsula was united in the early 20th century and oil was discovered

but right now, saudi arabia doesn't have to modernize its value system, because it is rewarded insane amounts of cash simply for sitting on a lot of oil. to the detriment of saudi society, the detriment of poor muslim societies that are recipients of the evangelizing of well-funded ultraconservative thinking, and the detriment of the west, which is vilified by the people it pays to give them oil to run their gas guzzling cars

in this way will fusion promote peace: by stop rewarding feeble, backwards societies and their unhuman values, simply because they sit on a lot of oil

Re:close but not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146157)

That sounds pretty racist. Who are you to say our set of values is any better than those of the Middle East or Asia? Also, our "civilization" didn't start 250 years ago.

how is that racist? (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146243)

i have muslim friends. i have nothing against islam. there's a mosque down the street. doesn't bother me at all. i am a very tolerant person

what i don't tolerate is: intolerance. get it?

your problem is you are confusing my criticism of ultraconservative islam, with criticism of just plain islam. i am criticizing the ultraconservative, not islam

we are talking about a society where christians and hindus can't practice their religion: all the rough jobs in saudi arabia are done by indian and filipino laborers, because saudi men won't do jobs "beneath them". don't you consider freedom of religion a basic human right? and women: in saudi arabia, a woman's rights are about as good as the rights of a head of cattle

this is horrible intolerance. and its the law of saudi arabia

i can't criticize that without being a racist in your mind? really?

since when does tolerance mean you tolerate the intolerant?

since when are you a racist simply because you criticize another culture? i can't criticize saudi arabia at all? and if i do, that means i must be a racist? you really believe that?

Re:close but not quite (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146409)

What's racist about it? He's just describing exactly what happens. Sorry to not meet your ultra-high standards of political correctness but I'd say that empirically, western values are 'better' than those of countries with hardline Islamic governments, because they produce a happier, more productive populous. If you don't believe me, think about how many US citizens are trying to sneak into Iran in cargo containers in order to live free and happy lives, compared with the other way around.

As for "civilisation" starting 250 years ago, are you aware that until fairly recently, Arab nations lead the world in science and technology? Damascus steel, the best weapons-grade steel available from around 1000AD, was created in the Middle East. Our numerical system (including the concept of 'zero'), much of chemistry (including the identification of alcohol), the very word 'algorithm' all come from Arab scholars. It's not a big stretch to start our reckoning at the point where the two cultures were roughly even.

Something changed sometime in the last 500 years to enable western technology to really take off, and I'd be willing to bet it's cultural. Specifically, fundamental religious education instils a mindset of not questioning knowledge or trying to further understanding of the natural world. The willingness to embrace the scientific method and systematically test and question your current view of the world is antithetical to the unquestioning belief demanded by religious fundamentalism.

Re:Energy Independence (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146035)

This is something that people say quite often that buggs me. We ALREADY have the ability to make nuclear fusion reactors. The trick is makeing them produce more energy than they consume. But ya 2020/2030 may be good time frame for the possibility of a commercial plant. For those of you who want to do a little introduction reading http://www.iter.org/a/n1/downloads/construction_schedule.pdf [iter.org] the ITER project aims to be produce more energy than it consumes and it should be finished in a few years. It will never make more money than it consumes but theoretically it could be connected to the grid and i belive they plan on doing that. So ya France will have fusion power before the U.S dose thanks to Dubya et all not funding things properly.

NIF is about nuclear weaponry, not energy. (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146089)

Unfortunately, National Ignition Facility has nothing to do with energy production and everything to do with nuclear weaponry.

In reality, it is a physical simulation of the tough part of nuclear weapons design, the transfer of photon radiation to the thermonuclear secondary. There are extremely complex and exotic fluid dynamics. These results are used to calibrate the simulation codes for nuclear weapons, which are all about thermodynamics & radiation transfer, and not about nuclear physics.

For energy production research they probably wouldn't have used lasers (far too inefficient vs charged particle beams, but particle beams create less weapon-like conditions) and would have concentrated far more on the engineering aspects of power production.

The even sadder reality is that if it had been designed for energy production research it would never have been funded.

Re:NIF is about nuclear weaponry, not energy. (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146111)

Apologies for the self followup, but the evidence for the above is publicly available:

"NIF is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. "

https://lasers.llnl.gov/ [llnl.gov]

NNSA is the section of DOE which operates the production and analysis of nuclear weapons.

Re:NIF is about nuclear weaponry, not energy. (1)

doppe1 (856394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146191)

Unfortunately, National Ignition Facility has nothing to do with energy production and everything to do with nuclear weaponry.

It does have a lot to do with energy production. It is the first step towards LIFE [llnl.gov] .

LIFE, an acronym for Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy, is an advanced energy concept under development at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Based on physics and technology developed for the National Ignition Facility (NIF), LIFE has the potential to meet future worldwide energy needs in a safe, sustainable manner without carbon dioxide emissions.

Re:NIF is about nuclear weaponry, not energy. (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146345)

I think LIFE is merely the political cover story.

Fission/fusion hybrids and burning actinides are stupendously good ideas.

But why a complex ICF with so many fundamental engineering issues in the way (fuel delivery, cycling drive)----instead of the ICF in the middle, a continuously operating tokamak or whatever can provide, today, squillions of fast neutrons. There are problems making it substantially over unity electrical output versus input but if you let the fission take care of the energy production, magnetic confinement reactors are generations ahead of ICF in producing massive neutron fluxes.

Fueling and drive are far easier (i.e. gas transfer and microwave magnetrons, 1940's technology) than yet to be mastered ICF technology.

Re:Energy Independence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146099)

Fusion has been 10 years away for at least the past 40. While it is true that the first reactor has been made in france which will produce 5-10x more energy than goes into it, it won't even be finished building until the 2018. It only will produce 500 MW, or 1/30,000th the world energy output today at a cost of $12 billion. On top of that this experimental reactor isn't even using the energy for electricity yet.
My guess would be that fusion is at least 50 years away from being a staple in our bread basket of energy sources. By then at the rate we are going the atmospheric CO2 levels will be so high that we will be dangerously close to melting the permafrost in Greenland which will release enormous amounts of methane, doubling our CO2 levels globally. I think we need something a little more immediate unfortunately...

I'm a shark, you insensitive clod! (3, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145615)

Enough of all this shark-jumping! Sharks have feelings, too!

Actually I'm a loan shark, but we're all brothers.

Why are there no photos or videos of the explosion (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145641)

No photos or vids at their site of the implosion explosion.

Re:Why are there no photos or videos of the explos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146233)

Too bad there's no mod for "-1 Idiotic".

big a pdf (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145645)

Did my computer screw it up or does the link really point to a 6MB 1p pdf? Why not just use a bmp?

Re:big a pdf (3, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145721)

Your computer is infected with the Adobe virus. A format and reinstall is required to completely eliminate it.

Re:big a pdf (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145759)

So it wasn't enough for it to make me miss the first post while it downloaded.

Re:big a pdf (3, Interesting)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146165)

Did my computer screw it up or does the link really point to a 6MB 1p pdf? Why not just use a bmp?

6MB? That's nothing. A few days ago I clicked on a link to some information about a local city park. Five minutes later, after being distracted, I thought the link was broken or I didn't click it or something. Nope: the 28MB pdf was still downloading! But at least I got the entry info for the 5k run... for last year! But I guess that's to be expected in a city of 20,000 that still doesn't accept online utility payments, doesn't have even one Starbucks (which I'm okay with) and has 3 Circle K stores one one road within 1.5 miles of each other.

hmmm (3, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145647)

Hasn't the worlds largest laser always been completed? Or at least since the first laser was created..

Still on track for 2011 (2, Funny)

Armon (932023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145655)

I guess we are still on track for global annihilation by 2011/2012, between this bad boy, ITER, and the Large Hadron Collider, it is practically guaranteed!

Sorry, can't get worked up over it (3, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145657)

We have been about thirty years away from having fusion power for the last forty or so years. Seems like they pick thirty years because it is far enough out that those making the predictions probably won't be around to be held to account.

And the NIF webpage says nothing about trying to actually achieve a stable fusion reaction, just general high energy research stuff with some carrots dangled out to keep the funding going. So we are still probably thirty years away from fusion plants.

If we were really serious about energy independence (or if ya still believe in AGW) we would be building fission plants as fast as we could pour concrete and dumping serious coin into R&D on fusion. The idea being fission is what we can do NOW but be sure we have something in the pipeline lest we, in a hundred years or so, find ourselves running out of Uranium and back in the same energy crisis and by then demand would be so great burning dinosaurs would be pissin' in the wind.

Re:Sorry, can't get worked up over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145813)

Its funded by the DOD, not DOE. Its primarily for research and stockpile stewardship. NIF isn't intended to be a prototype fusion reactor for energy production.

Re:Sorry, can't get worked up over it (1)

1729 (581437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146091)

Its funded by the DOD, not DOE. Its primarily for research and stockpile stewardship.

NIF (and the rest of LLNL) is certainly part of the DOE:

http://nnsa.energy.gov/ [energy.gov]

Re:Sorry, can't get worked up over it (1)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146407)

But NNSA is the part of the DOE that handles research of nuclear energy in military applications. This includes nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors for ships and submarines.

Re:Sorry, can't get worked up over it (1)

doppe1 (856394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146139)

Its funded by the DOD, not DOE. Its primarily for research and stockpile stewardship. NIF isn't intended to be a prototype fusion reactor for energy production.

LLNL is funded by NNSA which is part of DOE [energy.gov] .

Yes it is primarily for research and stockpile stewardship, but it is also the first step towards LIFE [llnl.gov] , which is a prototype reactor.

Re:Sorry, can't get worked up over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146031)

Sorry, capitalism doesn't always work out the way most would like. There's often very little motive to actually improve -- I mean why release 20tons of poisonous gas into the atmosphere when then current 40tons is doing just fine? The petroleum companies could have built NIF 4times over with their profits but it didn't happen.

For better or worse, this is, right now, our best chance at even seeing if a sustained fusion reaction is possible. Yeah, it's probably 5years later than I would have hoped for it to start, but that's life. If a sustained reaction is achieved I bet that would open quite a few eyes and then we can talk.

Fission is nice but expensive time and money wise too -- especially if your government doesn't subsidize up to 80% of the cost of a reactor like France does. (Even then it takes 5-6 years for a plant to come online)

No more WH Lees, I hope... (1)

fishinatree (1368937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145665)

because then we'd have Carol Browner on everybody's back about people stealing NIF technology for the purpose of getting energy in this crisis of ours. I hope that with the current budget we'll be able to keep up funding for this potentially fruitful venture...shows more promise than ethanol ever did.

Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (5, Interesting)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145887)

Let's be clear here. The purpose of the NIF is not to achieve fusion for energy production purposes. They just sell it that way. Its main goal isn't even simulations of the interior of Jupiter, or whatever they're hyping up this week.

You just need to look at the operating agency to see what its goal is: the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That is, the people who make and control the H-bombs. See, the U.S. doesn't detonate H-bombs anymore, and needs to figure out whether the old warheads are still reliable. Instead, giant simulations of H-bomb detonations are used: hence the 20-petaflop Sequoia being installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

But these simulations are no good if the physics model being used isn't accurate. How do you get an equation of state for deuterium at a billion atmospheres of pressure and 10 million kelvin temperature? You do an experiment: NIF. (And also the Z-Machine at Sandia.)

I get annoyed that the DOE sells NIF as a fusion energy machine. It's not, and it was never meant to be, and when people realize that target implosion fusion is never going to put a watt onto the grid, they're going to get even more annoyed at broken promises from fusion. It's basically avoiding the hard marketing problem of H-bombs by selling the machine as energy research.

(disclaimer: I work in a magnetic fusion lab and while I'm not a pacifist, I don't generally like H-bombs and don't like that my field is associated with them)

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27145969)

Is magnetic fusion at the point where a sustained reaction is even possible? (just asking) If so, what would be the time line on that work?

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (4, Interesting)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146151)

Well we (meaning humanity, not the United States) have achieved plasma discharges several hours long in the TRIAM-1M tokamak in Japan.

We have also achieved plasma conditions in pure deuterium plasmas in which, had the reactors been fueled with "live" fuel (50% deuterium, 50% tritium), the Q-value (energy out / energy in) would have been greater than one.

There have also been two experiments in which 50%D/50%T "live" fuel has been used. One is the Joint European Torus (JET) in Culham, England, near Oxford. It's still operating today, albeit on "inert" fuel (100% D). Even with 100%D, some amount of fusion still goes on, so it's not totally "inert", but it's far less than with 50%D/50%T. The other experiment was the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) in the United States at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL). That's now disassembled.

The problem is that we haven't done all of these things at the same time, yet. That's why we're building ITER

ITER, the big reactor being built in Cadarache, France, will achieve Q=10. It was supposed to achieve "ignition", in which self-heating of the plasma is enough to keep it hot, and you can turn off the external heating (corresponding to Q=infinity), but the ITER consortium had to cut the budget when the U.S. pulled out of the project in 1998. Of course, then the U.S. rejoined in 2003, but by then the plan was set on "ITER Lite". It's not supposed to be done construction until 2018, though, and there's a chance of further schedule slippage approaching 100%. It's going to run for 25 years.

If you go to slide #25 of this [pppl.gov] presentation by Chris Llewellyn-Smith, you can see that the current "fast-track" plan for a commercial fusion plant has the first plants operating in 2048. Of course, that presentation was in 2005, and the ITER schedule has slipped by about four years since then, so we can say that if we somehow manage to stick to the "fast-track" plan from now on (we won't), there could be operating fusion power plants in the 2050s.

Yes, it's a long-term plan. That doesn't mean it's not worth funding. There still is no other energy source that can compete with its theoretical benefit. The only ones that come close in ability to provide a large amount of energy are fission and solar, and they have the disadvantages, respectively, of long-lived actinide waste, and massive land use.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146273)

has the first plants operating in 2048.

Now it's 40 years away. I remember when it was only 20 years away, around 1960.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146395)

Maybe it is more dependent on how many years away the researchers expect to retire, than the technology ;).

Sometimes I think they might as well send some funding into that "cold fusion" thing.

Why? Even if it's not fusion, it might be a useful battery in some cases. And it's probably an interesting phenomenon worth exploring.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146311)

"The only ones that come close in ability to provide a large amount of energy are fission and solar, and they have the disadvantages, respectively, of long-lived actinide waste, and massive land use."

Long-lived actinide waste is not an immutable issue with nuclear fission.

Nearly all of the long-lived actinide waste can be burnt up by fast neutrons, whether from fission reactors, fusion reactors or particle accelerators.

The physics is known, but the engineering details (i.e. what makes the most sense given $$$$) aren't yet.

On the other hand, massive land use and capital costs are immutable problems with solar because of the energy density of the solar flux at the Earth's surface.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (2, Interesting)

doppe1 (856394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146073)

Let's be clear here. The purpose of the NIF is not to achieve fusion for energy production purposes. They just sell it that way.

They are not trying to sell NIF as the fusion energy production. It is the first step on a long road in that direction.

They are selling LIFE [llnl.gov] as the fusion energy of the future, this will be built on techonology developed for NIF.

From the link

LIFE, an acronym for Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy, is an advanced energy concept under development at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Based on physics and technology developed for the National Ignition Facility (NIF), LIFE has the potential to meet future worldwide energy needs in a safe, sustainable manner without carbon dioxide emissions.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (3, Insightful)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146205)

Go to the NIF site [llnl.gov] . What are the first things you see?

NATIONAL IGNITION FACILITY AND PHOTON SCIENCE: THE POWER OF LIGHT

Schwarzenegger touts NIF energy innovations

Creating a miniature star on Earth: that's the goal of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's largest laser. When ignition experiments begin in 2010, NIF will focus the intense energy of 192 giant laser beams on a BB-sized target filled with hydrogen fuel â" fusing, or igniting, the hydrogen atoms' nuclei. This is the same fusion energy process that makes the stars shine and provides the life-giving energy of the sun.

Missions:

National Security

Energy for the Future.

You can't tell me that there isn't a very deliberate marketing plan being put into action here.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146235)

Hey. They said that its for "National Security" and "Energy for the Future".

They never said Who's future, and how much energy they're going to get all at once.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1)

adamchou (993073) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146105)

you just ruined this article for me. i don't even want to rtfa anymore =(

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (4, Informative)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146227)

I did my BSc thesis on the laser plasma interaction in NIF and my impression was that while inertial confinement fusion is extremely unlikely to be practical as a power plant, it may be used as an exceptionally intense neutron source for various experiments. Spallation sources can generally achieve high neutron fluxes and neutron energies, but an inertial confinement fusion device would generate orders of magnitude higher neutron intensities still. Moreover the fusion neutrons are virtually mono energetic, and this is impossible to achieve with most present spallation designs without drastically reducing the number of available neutrons. Essentially the only way to do it is to use some criteria like time-of-flight or neutron diffraction to select for only neutrons of a given energy, thus wasting all other neutrons, and this is only practical at low energies. At higher energies you would likely need to exploit the kinematics of some form of knockout reaction, like Li(D,n)Be, and since the large yield requirement would likely cause you to ionize your target, such a scheme would have challenges similar to those faced by inertial confinement devices. It also seems to me that it would be tricky to generate such a powerful deuterium pulse, if it is at all possible.

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146251)

Which brings up the very good question: Where the heck is our equivalent of ITER?

Re:Inertial confinement vs. magnetic confinement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146343)

Let's be clear here. The purpose of the NIF is not to achieve fusion for energy production purposes. They just sell it that way.

I get annoyed that the DOE sells NIF as a fusion energy machine. It's not, and it was never meant to be...

disclaimer: I work in a magnetic fusion lab...

Yeah, no bias there...

I think you might want to at least throw a couple links in there to back your claims.

This is a really big deal, right? (2, Informative)

JTMoon (952394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27145889)

I thought sustained nuclear fusion would be a really huge scientific breakthrough.
Can this replace all nuclear fission and coal power plants with a clean plentiful nuclear fusion?

Isn't this a change-life-as-we-know-it achievement?
Would a local expert comment on this?

they'll point the lasers into the fault lines (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146107)

turning all of california into beachfront real estate

thereby boosting house values, and saving the economy

we need someone to fly around the earth real fast to make it rotate backwards and reverse time

Wow the economy must suck. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27146133)

I mean it's hard enough for a beam pulse find work after it's been fired let alone 192 of them.

Guess what? (1)

michaelleung (1335645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146159)

IMMA FIRIN MAH LAZER!

economic woes (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#27146189)

"National Ignition Facility Fires 192-Beam Pulse "

Well, I hope someone hires them.
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