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French Fusion Experiment Delayed Until 2025 or Beyond

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the time-travel-will-patch-things-up dept.

Power 272

An anonymous reader writes "The old joke is that fusion is the power of the future and always will be. But it's not looking so funny for ITER, an EU10 billion fusion experiment in France. According to Nature News, ITER will not conduct energy-producing experiments until at least 2025 — five years later than what had been previously agreed to. The article adds that the reactor will cost even more than the seven parties in the project first thought:'...Construction costs are likely to double from the 5-billion (US$7-billion) estimate provided by the project in 2006, as a result of rises in the price of raw materials, gaps in the original design, and an unanticipated increase in staffing to manage procurement. The cost of ITER's operations phase, another 5 billion over 20 years, may also rise.'"

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Baah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136441)

We need fusion energy desperately...

Re:Baah (5, Insightful)

GravityStar (1209738) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136473)

No, we don't. We need fusion energy eventually. Fission energy is able to sustain our energy needs for the next couple of thousand years. We're just using it wrong due to concerns for nuclear weapons proliferation.

Re:Baah (-1, Troll)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136497)

Er, no. I think you overestimate how much nuclear fuel is available.

And bear in mind, that no nuclear fission power station turns a profit. Not one.

They're all huge money sinks, which have to be directly subsidised by the state. (ie taxpayer)

Re:Baah (3, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136735)

That statement about profitability is most likely wrong. Not because the whole operation is profitable but because the subsidy is indirect. At least in Europe it seems to be - the costs of nuclear waste disposal and especially transport of said waste include costs of massive security operations. The problem is also with left overs after the power plant stops active operation. One must not forget also all the costs associated with preparations for the worst case scenario (this of course is partially offset by the fact that you have to prepare yourself for attack by nuclear armed nutcases of any sort). Just to avoid misunderstanding - I am not against fission or fusion reactors and research done to make them work but I do not think that current policies to subsidize the operations in a rather hidden way are no good.

Re:Baah (5, Interesting)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136809)

You should search for "Thorium fluoride" in the googletechtalks channel on youtube. There are at least two talks covering the subject, it really made me reconsider the nuclear option. In short, nuclear fission plants were *designed* to produce plutonium. It's actually an advantage when you're in a cold war race. But does it need to? Using molten salts, it is possible to let the nuclear reactions happen in a fluid, making really interesting cycles a possibility. And you wouldn't need to mine uranium any more.

Re:Baah (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136921)

And bear in mind, that no nuclear fission power station turns a profit. Not one.

How about this one? [highbeam.com]

Re:Baah (4, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136499)

Or we could have giant hemp farms to harvest fusion power from the nearest star, and then burn that in a hemp/steam power plant.

Bonus oil for biodiesel.

Currently easily feasible, no need to invent stuff that might not work.

Re:Baah (5, Funny)

craklyn (1533019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136523)

Or we could have giant hemp farms to harvest fusion power from the nearest star, and then burn that in a hemp/steam power plant.

And best of all, there would be no "not in my backyard" syndrom. However, have we factored in the tax-funded muchies subsidy? That may be nontrivial.

Re:Baah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28137291)

Because of course most of the arable land on the planet isn't currently needed to feed people. And even the current minuscule production of biofuels hasn't caused price hikes in food products that have left people starving to death.
No, putting heavy industry into competition with people for arable land is a great idea that can bring nothing but good....

Re:Baah (4, Interesting)

smchris (464899) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136877)

According to a BBC Horizon show, you are very wrong. We desperately need fusion.

Say equality is a force in world peace. Say you want Americans to cut their consumption in half through conservation and allow everyone in the world to have that lower standard by something like 2020 (global warming and all). The fission plant per WEEK built and the acreage of solar, wind and bio per DAY built would be astronomical.

In my opinion, that is why Obama is allowing Big Coal to continue topping mountains. Nobody wants to be honest about how demand outstrips probable clean supply.

Someone just give this man some money.... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136459)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard

Even if he fails miserably its gonna cost a shedload less than all the projects like ITER around the world are

Re:Someone just give this man some money.... (4, Funny)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136563)

And what kind of breakthrough would you expect from throwing money at a dead man? Or was that the implied joke?

Re:Someone just give this man some money.... (5, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137125)

The OP was probably referring to the Polywell [wikipedia.org] concept developed by Bussard, which indeed sounds quite interesting. Research is going on after Bussard's death, but you don't hear much due to most of it being military funded.

Twats (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136475)

Twats

bvgygtggtvcxrgnh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136481)

Is any part of Back to the Future II going to happen? Besides the Internet, the future's turning out to be a total ripoff.
 

 

 

Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (5, Insightful)

sien (35268) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136483)

So the Europeans and the US governments say they are firmly convinced of dangerous anthropogenic global warming but they won't spend 15 Bn over 10 years to speed this up?

If fusion could be made to work for 2-3 times the cost of coal electricity massively reducing C02 emissions without massively cutting energy usage would be possible. It's worth spending money to find this out. Bjorn Lomborg, who is loathed by most environmentalists recommends spending more on alternative energy research. Anthorny Watts would probably approve spending more on this kind of fusion research.

Surely if the US and the Europe, that would collectively spend about 700 Bn a YEAR on defence are serious about alternative energy this should be funded more.

Steven Chu where are you?

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136519)

So the Europeans and the US governments say they are firmly convinced of dangerous anthropogenic global warming but they won't spend 15 Bn over 10 years to speed this up?

Probably because its not going to work. Fusion can only be made to work on a large scale, if at all. Every step along the way will cost the 15 billion you speak of and we are probably 100 years away from commercial production of energy. Wind, tide, photovoltaic and solar thermal power work right now. They can be tested on a small scale for a couple of thousand bucks then scaled up as far as you want in many cases.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (4, Informative)

afc_wimbledon (1052878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137013)

Wind, tide, photovoltaic and solar thermal power work right now.

Wind power only works when it's windy, and where it's windy, and not as efficiently as generally advertised. NIMBYs object to serious scale windfarms on land, and they kill migrating birds and cock up radar. There will also need to be a hugely expensive and unsightly ( or buried, and even more expensive) expansion of power grid systems.

Tidal systems are hideously expensive - estimates of UKL 23 billion for the Severn Barrage for example. And they have massive negative effects on wildlife too. NIMBYS are not fans of these either.

Photovolatic systems are unproven, but on a serious scale would probably involve enormous quantities of highly toxic chemicals. Like wind power, solar power is not available where the power is needed all the time, or even any of the time in many populated regions.

Barring a massive program of depopulation, there are no quick answers to power production vs climate change. Some or all of the three methods above will probably be part of the solution, as will be fusion power, fission power, carbon sequestration and other technologies, plus a lot of money. Anyone who says otherwise is probably selling snake oil.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (5, Funny)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137041)

NIMBYs object to serious scale windfarms on land

NIMBYS are not fans of these either.

Barring a massive program of depopulation

Well, there's your solution.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136539)

First off that money is best spent on wars killing people reducing carbon - the massive amounts from the death machines and production maintenance and repair of the military complex.

Second by then it will be to little to late since the bio systems are already breaking down to a degree of mass extinction world wide. 25% mammal species are gone in last 100 years, most big sea fish... Our growth rate is unsustainable and we know it yet don't care. OIL IS THE ANSWER !!!! drill in arctic!!!! nuclear is good cause we only have to use retarded amounts of energy(oil/gas) to extract and strip mine land for to collect it!

Re:Crazy to fund for something we have already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136543)

Natural fusion energy is there everywhere, the sun provides plenty of energy for presently just a little more cost than usual
methods. If we would invest even a fraction from what is spend there and in fission programs we would have already reduced the cost of solar electricity to what it will be anyway within 10-20yr.

Big business and political powers dont like energy sources that are decentralized because they loose a way
to control their power source, the population.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (2, Insightful)

tomtomtom777 (1148633) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136631)

So the Europeans and the US governments say they are firmly convinced of dangerous anthropogenic global warming but they won't spend 15 Bn over 10 years to speed this up?

Please note, that it is not 15 Bn to get fusion energy. It is 15 Bn for fusion energy research. The equations depends on the amount that such research would help. If there is only a tiny chance that the development of fusion energy would be a tiny step closer with this research, 15 Bn is suddenly quite a lot

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (4, Informative)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136667)

So the Europeans and the US governments say they are firmly convinced of dangerous anthropogenic global warming but they won't spend 15 Bn over 10 years to speed this up?

Please note, that it is not 15 Bn to get fusion energy. It is 15 Bn for fusion energy research. The equations depends on the amount that such research would help. If there is only a tiny chance that the development of fusion energy would be a tiny step closer with this research, 15 Bn is suddenly quite a lot

But it is not a "tiny step", it is the last and most important step that is supposed to iron out the last big problems with the design and materials before a grid-connected multi-GW power plant can be commissioned (that would be DEMO [wikipedia.org] , now not likely to come on stream before 2040).

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136663)

So the Europeans and the US governments say they are firmly convinced of dangerous anthropogenic global warming but they won't spend 15 Bn over 10 years to speed this up?

If fusion could be made to work for 2-3 times the cost of coal electricity massively reducing C02 emissions without massively cutting energy usage would be possible.

The fusion boys should aim for the same energy price as coal power, simply because wind and solar are almost there. Wind energy suffers more from a lack of space to place the turbines at this moment (and in the future possibly from a lack of energy storage)... Solar power is believed to reach normal electricity prices in areas like Spain and Italy in the next few years.

If fusion is 2-3 times more expensive, and no cleaner than solar/wind power - why invest in it?

for 10 billion, you can also construct 10 Gigawatts of wind power... which will eventually (within a few years) pay itself back.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (4, Interesting)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136773)

for 10 billion, you can also construct 10 Gigawatts of wind power... which will eventually (within a few years) pay itself back.

Because 10GW of wind power gives you a LOT less energy than 10GW of nuclear. Typical wind power capacity factors are 20-40% (wind doesn't always blow), typical (fission) nuclear capacity factors are 90%-ish. Thus nuclear plants are cheaper than wind even if they cost 3 times as much per GW.

In addition, wind power needs additional grid investment and lots of pumped storage to even out spikes in capacity to be suitable for base load power, while nuclear power plants are suitable from the get-go.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137003)

Segueing from that, the next Big Investment should be in a HVDC European backbone, so that there's the potential (ho ho) to transport and sell power, and thus the incentive for any given region to fully exploit its renewable resources.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137045)

If fusion is 2-3 times more expensive, and no cleaner than solar/wind power - why invest in it?

Because it produces more power per area, and does not depend on local weather conditions. This also means that you can use it as a power source outside of Earths atmosphere and far away from the sun.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

jiriw (444695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137073)

I'm all for wind and solar but you might want to remember the fact those two aren't continuously available. Solar has a 24h cycle with roughly half of it producing no power at all. And ... well, the answer to the other one... is blowing in the wind.
Don't give me the battery crap to manage low yield hours. Battery storage is fine for emergencies. It's not fine for large scale use because it's wholly inefficient and materials consuming (to make them, and keep making them to replace degraded ones). Same goes for long distance power lines. Either you lose quite a lot of energy in transport or you lose it because you cool your superconducting lines over too long a distance, unless you make a mega research project for spanning the globe with a large scale efficient superconducting power line which will cost you comparable billions and comparable international cooperation. A third option is making hydrogen of the spare electricity in high yield hours. But before that is efficient enough and researched through I think we have better options.
So we need some stable energy sources beside wind and solar. Hydro is good, in those areas where it can be available, reliably. But those areas are small and not always near places where people want to live. Besides, hydro also can have quite an environmental impact. (China, three gorges anyone?)
So we're left with the polluting forms energy generation for a stable grid. Which are:
-Gas: Relatively clean on the CO2 front, easily distributable for use in small 'neighborhood' serving power plants. But it could be better used for, for example, cooking. Besides there is a limited amount of it in fossil form.
-Oil: Out of the question. Oil is much too useful for making products to waste it on electricity generation.
-Coal: Say bye bye to the coastal plains because they are gonna flood if we keep going on as we are doing now.
-Fission: In it's current form with all its problems: Wholly inadequate, but we might have to stick to it, if we don't research fusion and get something good out of it. Only thing I see this become a better option is going the breeder reactor way and burn ALL the uranium (including the U238), take the risk and say 'Nuclear weapons proliferation up my a**'. To have a cleaner way of fission also requires quite some research. Especially in how to get those hot reactors safer than they were in the past. There are a lot more of dangerous isotopes we have to handle this way, but when done wisely it will ultimately lead in far less radioactive polutants than the current way we use nuclear fission.
-Fusion: It's complex, it's hard to do. Every shortcut we tried up to now failed miserably. The only way we think it might reliably work is the way of ITER. We owe it to our (grand) children to at least try it once. Give it a good chance before we 'pull the plug'. A couple of billion is nothing compared to the wealth of knowledge it will surely enrich the scientific community with and the chance we have for this being the prelude to something marvelous.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136697)

I am all for investment in fusion technology, but that money should be better spent. Even if the Tokamak approach can be made to work, it will never be economically viable. It is extremely expensive, and there is no hope of scaling it down; the physics requires such an enormous and complex machine.

In the mean time, there are a number of other very promising approaches which continue to be neglected, and these could be funded at a small fraction of the cost. What is very frustrating is that most of these have been around for a long time, and some were even cancelled so that our futile pursuit of Tokamaks could continue.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (2, Insightful)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136795)

In the mean time, there are a number of other very promising approaches which continue to be neglected, and these could be funded at a small fraction of the cost. What is very frustrating is that most of these have been around for a long time, and some were even cancelled so that our futile pursuit of Tokamaks could continue.

Such as?

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136895)

The reason the tokamak approach has been followed for ITER is that it is currently the most promising. Temperatures achievable in tokamak reactors are orders of magnitude higher than in other machines. Tokamaks have demonstrated fusion-relevant temperatures (~10 keV, 100 million degrees C) and net power gain (briefly in TFTR and JT60-U), and long pulse operation (in e.g. Tore Supra). Other approaches still need much more research before they get to the ITER stage.

The only other designs which come close are stellarators, and this approach is also being followed with this machine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendelstein_7-X
The main problem with stellarators is that they need very complicated coil arrangements (whereas tokamaks' are pretty simple), greatly increasing the costs. Until relatively recently (10-20 years), the computing power necessary to design these machines properly simply wasn't available. Wendelstein 7-X is projected to have a performance similar to the JET tokamak (which was built in 1982).

Non-toroidal designs (e.g. linear machines, fusors etc.) always have problems with loss of particles/energy along magnetic fields (end loss), primarily due to fast electrons. This is because non-toroidal magnetic field structures always have nulls or holes where plasma can escape: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy_ball_theorem

Disclosure: I am a plasma physicist working on tokamaks

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28137017)

What about inertial confinement? Granted, it didn't look promising for a while, but with fast or shock ignition the predicted gains are much higher.

OK, even if they can show high gain there's still a lot to do in terms of driver and target factory development, but it's an interesting approach. There seems to be more scope for reducing driver laser cost than reducing tokamak cost as well.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137119)

Assuming there's decent energy gain, the challenge for ICF becomes the rate. For laser ICF, you need a rate on the order of 1 Hz (generously). It's going to take a while before that becomes possible. And when the rate goes up, the neutrons will have to be dealt with.

solving the problem is not the goal (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136719)

the governments and special interest groups don't want the problem solved. When it is "solved" then all the regulatory structure and special fees/taxes won't have application. The lose revenue and control over other people.

Look, we have known for a long time in the US that Nuclear power when done right is great for the environment. Yet at every corner it was shot down by one group or another. I have been watching Georgia Power trying to spin up two new nuclear reactors and it took years just to get it to the PSC and be allowed to price it out. Now they are past the point of being allowed to bill for them reactors they must fight to get them started. I seriously doubt they will get these two new reactors on line.

When control and tax (read cap and trade) comes along people are going to see their electrical bills skyrocket. Yet where will the base load power supply come from? Coal. There are no alternatives to it. My county spend almost a decade just to build a reservoir for drink water, I cannot imagine what it would take for to get one large enough for power generation.

So again, we have technologies to fix the problem, we even have the money, but the powers that be and the groups supporting them don't want it fixed. They need the problem to guilt and control.

Re:solving the problem is not the goal (4, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137027)

Yet where will the base load power supply come from? Coal.

Bullshit - it'll come from clean coal. That's completely different, because it's been... polished.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1, Flamebait)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136847)

"Scientific" or other government project are not awarded according to our current need, but due to lobby of various kind.

Thats why military receives $600 billion and crucial stem cell research nil.

So much for our blessed democracy.

Speaking of democracy. Hell, you can even invade and wage a war in two different countries at once and blame the other party. This is fantastic system.

Re:Crazy- this should be funded more to go faster (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136989)

The parent makes a very good point, and I'd like to add- The excuse for underfunding fusion power research has for a long time been that fusion power is at least 30 years off. Seems like a great reason to start aggressively pursuing it _now_. After all, in 30 years we will need fusion power more desperately than ever. Researchers in the field have long pointed out that the problems with fusion as a source of energy are not theoretical, but technical hurtles. This _is_ the solution to our ongoing energy crisis.

I've got the promo materials in front of me... (4, Funny)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136485)

and I swear, it's like reading the Duke Nukem Forever "reviews" that appeared when the product is/was/ vaporware.

"The ITER tokamak, 24 metres high and 30 metres wide, will be smaller than a conventional power station. It will produce up to 500 MW of thermal power in a toroidal fusion plasma of 800m^3 volume confined by strong magnetic fields. It will demonstrate prolonged power production aiming ultimately a steady-state operation."

In the words of wikipedia, citation please?

Re:I've got the promo materials in front of me... (3, Informative)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136701)

In the words of wikipedia, citation please?

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2004.04.004 [doi.org]

But seriously, with the hedging language in the statement you've quoted, there's nothing controversial. Note the "up to" and "aiming ultimately". (Plus "prolonged" in this line of business means a few minutes.) Fusion scientists are cautious people, having made rosy predictions in the past that never came to fruition. And when you're cautious, it's hard to convince lawmakers to hand over the money.

On the other hand, ITER as a concept has been around since the '80s. If they had just gone ahead with it back then, we would have learned a lot by now. Same goes for the cancellation of the SSC.

Re:I've got the promo materials in front of me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136979)

Wikipedia invented citations?

I'll cross my fingures harder for polywell then (4, Informative)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136505)

Don't know about anyone else but polywell is far more interesting to me. IF it works, then it will be much better then tokamak. At this rate, IF it works, it could also beat tokamak to net energy production. I have a dream of cheap energy! Nearly all the worlds problems come down to energy! I'll keep dreaming. ;-)

Re:I'll cross my fingures harder for polywell then (3, Informative)

BerntB (584621) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136615)

Nebel recently claimed in an interview that he expects to know if Polywell will work or not in 18-24 months [nextbigfuture.com] . Not a long wait, really...

There are some other funded projects that might work (and some that probably won't). It would be good for the world if at least one did. Maybe it is time to buy shares in an electric car-builder...?

General Fusion [wikipedia.org] seems the coolest; steam driven pistons! :-)

Re:I'll cross my fingures harder for polywell then (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137101)

Hmmm. "18-24 months" sounds like a round of funding to me. I'm 100% certain that the answer will either be "Yes, it will work" or "It might work. Please insert more credits to continue research."

French Fusion aka (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136513)

Freedom Fusion in the U.S.A.

Say What? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136515)

What's wrong with those Frenchies? My gf and I produce plenty of fusion energy all the time.

Not "French" (5, Informative)

Liquid Len (739188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136533)

The title got it wrong: this is not a French experiment, but an international one which happens to take place in France. There's a difference...

Re:Not "French" (5, Funny)

krouic (460022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136565)

When (if) the experiment is a success, it will become a "US led experiment".

Re:Not "French" (1)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137087)

When (if) the experiment is a success, it will become a "US led experiment".

Actually, I've heard lots of grumbles about the US not funding / underfunding ITER.

Re:Not "French" (1)

who knows my name (1247824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136603)

the I in ITER stands for international...

Re:Not "French" (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136635)

...this is not a French experiment, but an international one which happens to take place in France. There's a difference...

Clearly you haven't encountered the French. As long as something is based in France then it is French in their eyes, and that's all that matters to them. It's why there are two European parliaments - one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg that all the MEPs spend ridiculous amounts of money moving their stuff between, just to satisfy the French.

Re:Not "French" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136643)

The title got it wrong: this is not a French experiment, but an international one which happens to take place in France. There's a difference...

You don't get it, an experiment is International when it succeeds but French when it fails.

Re:Not "French" (1)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136693)

The title got it wrong: this is not a French experiment, but an international one which happens to take place in France. There's a difference...

Merde! We give you suppositories and this is how you repay us!

And in other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136535)

Sounds suspicious to me. Read the whole FA and no mention of SAP..

overbudget, late, increase staffing (0, Flamebait)

omz13 (882548) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136551)

Why is it that most government projects always end up late and over budget? So much for getting the specs right, decent planning and project management, and PRINCE2, etc. And the bit that made me really chuckle, "increase in staffing to manage procurement". For crying out loud. Why not throw out the staff they currently have and get in people who are more efficient. Just throwing more people at the problem is not the solution. Of course, in these economically challenged times, one has to ask whether such gigantic projects are value for money. Why don't they do smaller less ambitious projects, which might actually produce something useful... but I suppose those big white elephants are always a great way of keeping a bunch of people employed.

More like 2032 if you take into account... (5, Funny)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136559)

the French 30 hour work week.

Re:More like 2032 if you take into account... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136825)

1050 - don't forget the strikes.

Re:More like 2032 if you take into account... (1)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137131)

1050 - don't forget the strikes.

The French have discovered time travel? Mon Dieu!

"EU10" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136577)

It's EUR for the currency if that's what they're referring to with the 10 billion...

5 billion? Chump change! (5, Interesting)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136587)

Seriously ,GM burnt through 5 billion in 3 months and we got bupkis for it. Costing only 5 billion extra over 20 years sounds pretty good to me if there's a chance we'll get fusion out of it. In fact, given unlimited funds, how much can we expedite this? We've spent hundreds of billions on banks that are worth less than nothing. Let's build some hardware!

Re:5 billion? Chump change! (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136995)

In fact, given unlimited funds, how much can we expedite this?

Clearly you haven't thought this through. If we had unlimited funds then we could just _buy_ all the oil we needed, and then send the excess CO2 into space.

(listen carefully... you might hear a whooshing sound if you think i'm serious)

News at 11 (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136619)

Trying to turn theoretical ideas into concrete practical projects is expensive. Damn expensive. However, if anything concrete at all comes out of it then the payoffs are going to be almost infinite.

Fusion (4, Interesting)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136629)

The idea of fusion and benefits of fusion are tremendous compared to fossil fuels but I've always wondered how long will it last before it starts eating a significant enough portion of the hydrogen to be a concern. (Or possibly when the helium concentration will become high enough to be a concern.) I imagine that we have enough reserves of hydrogen in the oceans it won't be a concern for many many many years to come but it is an interesting thought experiment.

Ultimately the only "safe" power sources are those that derive their energy from external sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and wave power; all of which are powered by the sun's energy and/or gravitational interaction with outside sources (aka moon). Granted eventually the sun will run out of hydrogen and we won't be able to use it as an outside source of energy. As long as we're burning things that have a finite source in the closed system of the planet we'll eventually run out or pay some unforseen consequences (Global Warming).

Not exactly the largest concern when it comes to alternative power but still and interesting topic to think about.

-Lifyre

Re:Fusion (2)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136653)

All things are finite.

Re:Fusion (4, Informative)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136717)

to provide 1TW for 1 year would require about a cubic meter of water based on the proton proton chain. ~25MeV per 6 hydrogens, means 75000 moles of water at 50% efficieny to produce 1TWyr, 0.018kg/mole means about a 1000kg ballpark. Wiki lists global power consumption at about 15TW, so even if you allow much lower efficay, and energy costs to extract hydrogen from the water etc, its concievable that your local swimming pool could power the world for a couple of years

Re:Fusion (2, Interesting)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136765)

How much more difficult using a H-H reaction would be instead of a D-D reation or a D-T reaction as is used currently? D is moderately abundant in the oceans (something like .015%). My math skills are very rustly after 5 years of not using them at all.

Re:Fusion (2, Interesting)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136815)

Pretty darned difficult:

Even at temperatures in the sun's core, 15,000,000 Kelvins or 27,000,000 Fahrenheit, the average lifetime of a proton against pp fusion is about 8,000,000,000 years.

http://www.tim-thompson.com/fusion.html [tim-thompson.com]

Re:Fusion (2, Interesting)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136867)

Thinking about it a bit more, in comparison, the ideal temperature for DT fusion is 15 keV = 174,000,000 K. I don't know what the pp fusion cross section vs temperature looks like, but since it's not in the tables of the NRL Plasma Formulary [navy.mil] it's probably not worth pursuing.

Re:Fusion (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136941)

Ok you can have that badge now.

Re:Fusion (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136915)

Wow. Interesting, useful, and mildly disheartening information. No badge though cause you didn't use both absolute scales. Granted the difference between F and R (or C and K) at millions of degrees is silly.

Re:Fusion (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136951)

But then again, the reaction rate goes up with the power of 28 or something of the temperture... (sorry, dont know it by heart. Just remembering that a few million kelvin can make the difference between "last till the end of the time" and "woooooshhh" :). Carbon cycle is even worse...

Re:Fusion (2, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136731)

"The idea of fusion and benefits of fusion are tremendous compared to fossil fuels but I've always wondered how long will it last before it starts eating a significant enough portion of the hydrogen to be a concern."

If your fusion powerplants are eating a significant portion of Earth's hydrogen, then it's time to relocate somewhere where the temperature is not high enough to boil oceans.

Re:Fusion (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136987)

If your fusion powerplants are eating a significant portion of Earth's hydrogen, then it's time to relocate somewhere where the temperature is not high enough to boil oceans.

Boil oceans? If fusion powerplants are eating a significant portion of Earths hydrogen, then it's time to apply SPF 10^50 ASAP and get off this fscking ball of plasma as fast as you can.

Re:Fusion (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136843)

I think you have some difficulties understanding scale. Let's take a look at an example fusion reaction, combining two deuterium atoms into tritium and a proton (note: This only occurs in 50% of deuterium-deuterium fusion reactions, but the numbers are similar for the other outcome, helium and a neutron). Deuterium has a molar mass of 2.01410178, trituim has 3.0160492, and a proton has 1.00727646677. That means, fusing two moles of deuterium gives a net mass change of 0.00487789323g. You can get the energy released from this directly by plugging it into e=mc^2 (ignoring momentum for this back-of-an-envelope calculation). The output is around 4.4e11 J. The current global energy consumption is around 5e20 J. To get this amount of energy from deuterium fusion, you would need to burn around 2e9 moles of deuterium per year.

2e9 moles sounds like a lot, but it's only around 1.1e9g, or 1.1e3 tonnes. It's around Deuterium is a naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen, and accounts for around 0.015% of all hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, accounting for about 75% of the total mass. 76% of the Earth's surface is covered with water. How much water would you need to get this much deuterium?

The molar mass of water is 18.0153, so you need 18.0153g for one mole, which contains two moles of hydrogen. We need just under 6667 moles of hydrogen to get one mole of deuterium, so we need about 1e13 moles of water. Now we're at some big numbers, around 2.4e11 kg of water. Because the density of water is roughly 1g:1cm^3, that's around 2.4e8m^3.

Still sounds like a lot? The volume of Earth's oceans is around 1.4e18m^3. At our current energy consumption rate, it would take around 5.7e9 years to burn it all. Note that this is longer than the current age of the Earth. Note also that this would only have a tiny effect on the oceans even after using all of the deuterium, since we would only be removing 0.015% of the hydrogen.

Of course, these are just rough figures. Fusion efficiency is likely to be low enough that we've only got enough readily-accessible deuterium for a few tens or hundreds of millions of years. It's a short-term solution, but only in as far as staying living on a single planet around a single star is.

Or possibly when the helium concentration will become high enough to be a concern.

This is even more funny. The reason helium is so expensive is because it floats to the top of the atmosphere and is lost to space if you release it. Having helium as a by-product of fusion would be nice, as it's currently in relatively short supply. Unlike other wastes, it's trivial to dispose of. Just let it into the atmosphere, and a short while later the solar winds will scatter it into interstellar space. It's sufficiently valuable that you probably don't want to do that, however.

Re:Fusion (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137001)

So even if we double (projected to happen from 1980 to 2030) or triple our energy demands the answer is a damn long time.

While I knew helium floated to the top of the atmosphere and thats why it's expensive I was unaware it was lost to space so thank you for that tidbit.

Re:Fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28137223)

How about if we exponentially grow our energy demands at a rate of 1.39 percent per year?

Re:Moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136863)

Has anyone done the maths on the effect of taking power extracted from tides on the orbit of the moon? If we take too much tidal power might the moon be drawn into a downward spiral crashing into the Earth?

Re:Moon (1)

TangoCharlie (113383) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136871)

I'd be more worried about taking too much energy from the Gulf Stream, therefore depriving Northerm Europe of its warm water, plunging us into a man-made Ice Age. Solves the global warming issue though!

Re:Moon (1)

frith01 (1118539) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136981)

Let me introduce you to a new concept, it's called waves reaching the beach. Energy is reduced when the waves reach the beach.
If we extract that energy instead, there is no net change in energy distribution at a planetary scale.

Additionally, the moon is actually departing earth orbit, just very slowly. ( 1-3 inches / year) , so no global moon imact is imminent

Re:Fusion (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137155)

Well, many thousands of years from now, when we start to run out of hydrogen (oceans are big) for our fusion plants, we might just start fusing helium. Think of "hydrogen" as being the first easiest stepping stone... but everything upto Iron can be fused :-)

By the time hydrogen runs out, we'd likely be burning through the gasses of Jupiter, and looking for other solar systems to colonise.

If I were a French taxpayer... (-1, Troll)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136649)

This would bug me about as much as the Superconducting Supercollider did. The billions of francs the French government has wasted on this "big science" project would do a lot more good if it remained in the people's hands to spend as they saw fit.

-jcr

Re:If I were a French taxpayer... (1)

craklyn (1533019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136691)

The French get it pretty good. First, the money came from many nations and not just France. Second, the money spent on this will largely get redistributed to the local economy. This point would be much stronger if you focused on countries who paid in but did not get to run the experiment.

Re:If I were a French taxpayer... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136703)

...the Superconducting Supercollider...

...billions of francs...

And that's just the obvious errors in your two line comment.

Re:If I were a French taxpayer... (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136759)

People used to say the same about Hubble... Personally, I like the fact that Governments put money into pure-science research, because no one else is likely to.

Fusion, if ever successful, is likely to revolutionise our society, and the only way its ever going to be successful is if investment is made.

What for-profit company is likely to make a multi-billion dollar investment that, even discounting the possibility of failure, it is unlikely to see any chance of a return on for 40 years? The only industries I can think that make billion dollar investments are shipmakers and aircraft manufacturers, and their planned ROI period is much less than 40 years.

Re:If I were a French taxpayer... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136899)

I like the fact that Governments put money into pure-science research, because no one else is likely to.

It does not follow that because government funds something, that it would not happen if the government were not the source of the funding.

-jcr

Re:If I were a French taxpayer... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137247)

Name one other funding source that is willing to commit to billions of dollars over a very long period - charities and trusts certainlyt won't, and as I noted before corporations are highly unlikely to. So what are we left with?

On that note, where is the funding from Greenpeace et al for this sort of research?

IFR (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136781)

This is why America needs to re-build the IFR. It may be very important.

Re:IFR (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136977)

We should be building IFR style plants even if Polywell fusion works out in the next couple of years.

For no other reason than to have somewhere to dispose of the enormous amount of nuclear waste that has been and continues to be generated from conventional nuclear plants. Almost the entirety of that "waste" can be used as fuel in these reactors, rather than sitting in ponds where it will inevitably bite us in the ass.

The true waste from an IFR is very minimal and easily managed, the plants are passively safe, and the reprocessing is proliferation proof.

Re:IFR (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137121)

My God, yes, imagine if Jacques Foreigner were the first to produce cheap abundant power. What a nightmare world that would be for our children to live in; better to drown them at birth.

Re:IFR (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137271)

????? eh? My post is about the fact that fusion appears to be taking long and longer. Far better to build a known item and continue the research into Fusion (that all major countries currently participate in). So, you have an issue that consider those working on iter to be foreigners? Obviously, you are not from Canada, Australia, EU, USA, South Korea, China, or Russia. SO where are you from?

rising costs (1)

astralpancakes (1164701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136799)

With rising costs of fossil fuels (and by extension, manufacture and transport, and by extension, materials), the costs are likely to rise even further before it's completed. Which is why it would be so essential to get ITER done on time -- we're lucky to get even one shot at developing fusion power, before industrial civilization beings to creak at the seams because of a shortage of cheap energy.

wrong aproach (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136819)

I think this super expensive design is the wrong approach to fusion and that this guy [popsci.com] is on the right track. This is assuming, of course, that fusion can work as a power source.

Re:wrong aproach (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137059)

Gah!!! My eyes!!!

If I wanted to read stuff like that I'd sit in a waiting room at a doctors surgery and browse the Readers Digests.

Things that make you go 'Hmmm...' (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136873)

gaps in the original design

I read this as "nobody has any idea how the fusion power technology is supposed to work yet."

Re:Things that make you go 'Hmmm...' (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137031)

gaps in the original design

I read this as "nobody has any idea how the fusion power technology is supposed to work yet."

1. Invest Money
2. ????
3. Fusion / Profit

Sure there are gaps, but we're already 2/3 of the way there and I'm sure that someone around here knows what step 2 is.

Shouldn't this be "plasmaware" not "vapourware"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28136961)

:P

Why the buzz? (1)

Rivabem (312224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28136997)

a) "is the power of the future and always will be.
b) "five years later than what had been previously agreed to"
c) "will cost even more than the seven parties in the project first thought"

Have they never used Java...?

The DEMO plant won't start up in 2033 then (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137043)

probably an optimistic start year anyway.

DEMO [wikipedia.org]

Might give some time for development of the superior stellarator [wikipedia.org] design to catch up to tokamaks, but perhaps time-scale of decades lend themselves to development hell.

French Fromage Experiment Also Delayed .. (1)

UncleWilly (1128141) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137099)

The French revolt!

When I was in my teens... (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137183)

Fusion power was expected to have replaced nuclear by the year 2000. It's now 2009, and it's still more than 30 years in the future. A slippage of one year per year consistently for the last 40 years does not bode well.

Also when I was in my teens, those of us doing physics and chemistry at our school were encouraged to do the radiation physics and radiation chemistry options because this would career proof us. It was just so obvious that nuclear power would completely replace coal. Unfortunately all those other kids planning to do arts degrees regressed into NIMBYs.

Personally I think we should stop pissing about, build a new generation of standardised U/Pu reactors and put the development effort into thorium reactors. That will buy us time, lots of time, since thorium is plentiful, in which we may be able to have an advanced society while we sort out fusion. Spending billions on a lot of "ifs" looks like engineer willy-waggling, especially when we have other technologies that actually work.

Meanwhile the Russians are talking about 70MW floating conventional reactors based on their icebreaker technology to open up the Arctic. At this rate, they'll be selling power on demand to the world while the West is still trying to get a net energy gain from fusion. Being sexy does not make a technology valid or useful.

France & Italy - same politics problems (0, Offtopic)

marco69v (1060046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28137257)

The problem behind this notice is indeed the fact that mr Sarcozy has signed a contract with Mr Berlusconi where France will build 5 nuclear station in Italy ! how can they approve a test with fusion with that econo/politcs/dictorial contract !?
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