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ITER Fusion Reactor Enters Existential Crisis

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the sartre-says-it's-meaningless dept.

Earth 470

deglr6328 writes "The long beleaguered experimental magnetic confinement fusion reactor ITER is currently in what some are calling the worst crisis of its 25 year history. Still existing only on the paper of thousands of proposed design documents, the latest cost estimates for the superconducting behemoth are soaring to nearly 20 billion USD — roughly twice the estimates from as recently as a few years ago. Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations have seized upon the moment as an opportunity to use the current global economic crisis as a means to push for permanently killing the project. If ITER is not built, the prospect of magnetic confinement fusion as a technique to reach thermonuclear breakeven and ignition in the laboratory would be in serious question. Meanwhile, the largest laser-driven inertial confinement fusion project, the National Ignition Facility, has demonstrated the ability to use self-generated plasma optical gratings to control capsule implosion symmetry with high finesse, and is on schedule to achieve ignition and potentially high gain before the end of the year."

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Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (3, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544276)

That sounds terrifying. Then I read that it is just going to go unfunded. Not quite as interesting. Well played, headline writer, well played.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (0)

zonker (1158) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544308)

Existential fusion reactor crisis = Emo meltdown.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (5, Funny)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544346)

ITER Fusion Reactor Enters Existential Crisis

Yeah, I read that and thought a fusion reactor had taken to wearing black clothes (from a thrift store), smoking (but only for affectation's sake) and contemplating existence in the face of this dark, heartless world.

Who knew fusion reactors were so...emo?

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (0)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544362)

Indeed.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (5, Insightful)

LaRainette (1739938) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544438)

Don't be fooled it is frightening.
Nuclear fusion is pretty much a potential infinite source of clean electrical energy and we have 2 options to try to master plasma confinement long enough to harvest that energy. One is investigated with ITER and the other is the inertial confinement. I don't think anyone has the authority to tell whether one or the other is more likely to be successful because it's very new and to test it you actually have to build huge tokamak reactors that cost billions and it has not been done before.
So as Pascal I'll assume it's a 50/50 draw.
Now put that piece of news back in context : humanity is maybe about to give up on half its chances to secure a clean source of energy for the forseable future.

Does that make you scared ?

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544768)

Not really. Energy unity is a big challenge, but fuel-in fuel-out is a bigger one.

If we wanted to, we could start operating a bunch more of those fission reactors; they don't necessarily make economic sense given current market prices, but those markets probably don't accurately capture the consequences of other forms of energy production, and fission is certainly still energy positive (and it is probably energy positive to pull uranium out the sea).

We have millions of hours of operational experience on fail-crazy plant designs resulting in 2 major safety incidents, 1 of which was a medium sized disaster and 1 of which was successfully contained, and we can move on to building actual fail-safe designs.

The waste is certainly a significant issue, but it is entirely manageable, at least from a technical perspective.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544892)

I'm sure Morocco, Mexico, Bangladesh, Haiti, etc. will all be thrilled to hear your endorsement of their civilian nuclear power programs. Sure, they've absolutely no chance with fusion either. But.. Isn't that an endorsement of fusion?

In any case, we'll obviously benefit more from 20 billion spent investigating fusion than from 20 billion spent on most other government funded activities, so kinda depends what else they'd spend the money on.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (5, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545040)

You have out-obtused me, I have little idea what your localities share in common.

Do you mean to insist that they lack the money or stability to operate nuclear plants? That isn't exactly entirely attributable to fission itself. And Toshiba wants to sell them safe, small scale, self contained nuclear generation. The U.S. could be tasked with providing the islands with power, the U.S. Navy has long experience safely operating floating reactors (money is an issue there, but if we want to 'continue living in a civilization', we might have to stop worrying about it so much).

I'm about evenly split on governments spending $20 billion on new fission generation vs fusion research, but I'm not very optimistic about fusion, mostly based on the numbers in a recent Scientific American article:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fusions-false-dawn [scientificamerican.com]

The engineering requirements for the jacket on a tritium consuming fusion reactor are 'hilarious'. There is no better word. The targets for laser ignition also present 'interesting' production challenges. Meanwhile, uranium reactors 'fucking work', with political problems preventing them from being built, not fundamental technical challenges.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (-1, Troll)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544794)

Does that make you scared ?

No, it makes me pleased, because a whole lot of humans are going to be killed in the upcoming resource wars. Humans are scum and I hate every last one of the motherfuckers. The less there are on the planet, the happier of a man I am. Serves 'em right for being arrogant greedy scum.

I can only hope with fingers crossed that Arabia, and China, and the Southern United states will not survive the war.

Re:Fusion Reactor... Crisis?! (0, Troll)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544908)

And while we're at it, a few less Irish would be nice. And I can't stand Nigerians or Barbadians either. In fact...

Whoops, I got my prejudice in your bigotry!

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Point proven (2, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544304)

"Anti-nuclear environmentalists"? Having them argue against a *fusion* project pretty much proves that these idiots are not qualified to remember to breathe, much less protect the environment.

      Brett

Actually read the articles next time, Brett. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544384)

Well, Brett, I see you didn't even bother to read the articles. The summary blatantly misrepresents the environmentalist groups.

Based on the quotes in the articles, they're clearly not anti-nuclear. They're just asking for proper government regulation of any installations that are in fact built. Now, it's debatable whether the US government is capable of offering such regulation, especially after the BP disaster. But nevertheless, asking for regulation does not make them "anti-nuclear".

Re:Actually read the articles next time, Brett. (0, Redundant)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544604)

Based on the quotes in the articles, they're clearly not anti-nuclear. They're just asking for proper government regulation of any installations that are in fact built. Now, it's debatable whether the US government is capable of offering such regulation, especially after the BP disaster. But nevertheless, asking for regulation does not make them "anti-nuclear".

+1 Insightful

Still kinda dumb (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544836)

Now, it's debatable whether the US government is capable of offering such regulation, especially after the BP disaster. But nevertheless, asking for regulation does not make them "anti-nuclear".

Okay, but the problem is that if you think you need successful regulation to prevent a BP spill-like disaster, then you still kinda don't understand fusion power.

The problem with the BP spill is that once a problem occurred and oil leaked, the oil does what it naturally does and continues to be pushed out by the pressure underground. The problem with fission reactors is that when the control rods fail, the enriched uranium does what it naturally does and continues to release neutrons in a chain reaction.

When a fusion reactor fails, the fusion stops on a timescale that to human eyes would be called "instantly". The whole reason nuclear fusion is such a hard thing to make into a power source is that it takes so much damn effort to make the source material actually fuse because that is not it's natural state until you get enough of it in one place that you call it a star. It's inherent in the nature of the power source that it can't go out of control. "Out of control" means "stopped".

I'm an environmentalist, but also pro-fission. Yet I do think concerns about regulation of fission reactors are valid. How worried am I about regulation of fusion reactors? None worried.

Re:Still kinda dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544916)

The problem with fission reactors is that when the control rods fail, the enriched uranium does what it naturally does and continues to release neutrons in a chain reaction

The reaction stops all by itself. If you're going to argue against nuclear fission, please base your arguments against current designs.

Re:Still kinda dumb (2, Funny)

snowboardin159 (1744212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545034)

I dont think you read the whole post up there, nuclear fission would not stop until the uranium or plutonium or whathaveyou has completely run its course. Fusion on the other hand would stop if there was a pressure failure, or a heating failure. Thats why we make fission bombs, and cannot possibly ever make a fusion bomb(it just doesnt work that way)

Re:Still kinda dumb (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544988)

The problem with fission reactors is that when the control rods fail, the enriched uranium does what it naturally does and continues to release neutrons in a chain reaction.

I'm sure that you are already aware of this, but just so that anyone reading this don't misunderstand, this kind of thing can only happen using a crap-tastic fission reactor design. In a non-ancient reactor design, what will naturally happen if the process goes out of control is that some passive mechanism will disrupt the process. E.g. the reaction material will expand from the heat so much that a lot of it will spill out of the reactor and thus halt the process because there won't be enough material left to sustain a chain reaction. Chernobyl happened because a test was run on purpose of the kind "let's disable all safety mechanisms and run the reactor at max and see what happens." If you do even that in a modern reactor, nothing will happen due to the reactor design.

Re:Actually read the articles next time, Brett. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544854)

They're just asking for proper government regulation of any installations that are in fact built.

Have they demonstrated the need for "proper government regulation"? Do they have a clue for "proper government regulation" of a fusion reactor? Of course not. It's just another burst of noise from a bunch of idiots.

Re:Actually read the articles next time, Brett. (1, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544990)

Well, you have three groups inside all those we refer to as "greens":

1st) People that defend the interests behind everything oil-related, and therefore are against nuclear power and other sources that can mostly replace oil-based power today. This includes most of the people that is against hydroelectric, atomic, etc.
2nd) Tree-huggers, hippies, snobs, etc. They just either feel guilty, or want to look cool, or just want to belong to a group and be against something. They just like the idea of solar/wind power. "ah, mother earth and father sun gives us all we need". That kind of crap. They don't really understand anything about power production. They are against anything nuclear
3rd) People truly concerned about the environment, that understand that humans are part of the environment, and that we can't stop progress.

Sadly, the 3rd group is a minority.

Re:Point proven (2, Insightful)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544636)

All you have to do is wipe out 90% of the human population and the whole energy-problem goes away... for a few decades at least

Other than that... Most forms of energy generation besides nuclear are either too dirty, too expensive or too widely displaced to be of much use to our crowded population centers.

As far as nuclear goes, the same people who argue that 'there is no safe place to store the waste' actually work to block the creation of a safe place to store the waste, and will continue to do everyting possible to prevent the use of (provenly) safe nuclear energy.

So, what's the deal with that? Irrational fear or nuclear energy, or just a general hatred for humanity?

Re:Point proven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544744)

All you have to do is wipe out 90% of the human population and the whole energy-problem goes away.

I believe we have a fusion power solution method after all. And they said nuclear weapons wouldn't solve anything. Fools.

Re:Point proven (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544856)

It's not waste that is perfectly good fuel in most cases. Build the right reactors people.

Re:Point proven (3, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544946)

So, what's the deal with that? Irrational fear or nuclear energy, or just a general hatred for humanity?

(Relatively) cheap oil. Give it another 5-10 years and those same clueless environmentalists will be the first ones calling for fission.

That's right kids, Nuclear power plants are the next 'tech boom' so be sure to bone up on your physics and chemistry and math. There's money in them thar cooling towers!

Re:Point proven (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545054)

That is just another tool used by the all-powerful oil overlords.

There are two major power sources available today: Hydraulic and Nuclear. Hydraulic is actually awesome. It holds virtually no risks except for the occasional flood, and that only affects a small area around the facility. Nuclear has to be handled with care, but it's been proven that all nuclear accidents so far have been the cause of lack of maintenance and safety measures, basically, if operated properly, nuclear can be perfectly safe. And I'd rather have a small amount of liquid and solid waste coming from specific locations that can be properly contained, rather than huge amounts of gaseous waste coming from all over the planet with no way whatsoever of containing it.

Neither is perfect, but both are far better than oil and both are renewable. They should provide humanity with all the power it needs until we reach the next paradigm shift and come up with a real solution to the energy problem. Anyone against them is not pro-planet, or anti-progress, or anything like that. They are just sock puppets of the oil overlords.

Re:Point proven (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544852)

"Anti-nuclear environmentalists"? Having them argue against a *fusion* project pretty much proves that these idiots are not qualified to remember to breathe, much less protect the environment.

Perhaps they just distrust anyone who promises something that sounds too good to be true. It's not the most open-minded or logical response (although I don't know how many environmentalists that described anyway) but after the promises of things like "clean coal" it's somewhat understandable. Maybe it's just general anti-science paranoia. Environmentalists are hardly the only group to have those. I'd say anti-science politicians have had far more pernicious effects in other areas, like stem cell research and education.

Also worth keeping in mind, the article associated with "anti nuclear environmentalists" is actually talking specifically about "Europe's left-wing Green politicians." They may just be trying to score points with their base, which that's a different, worse (in my book) type of crime than just being opposed to all things nuclear.

Re:Point proven (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544948)

Edit: "anti-science politicians have had far more pernicious effects in other areas, like stem cell research and education," was an overstatement. Continued dependence on coal rather than nuclear power has probably had worse real-world impacts than delays in stem cell funding and occasional lapses in teaching evolution. That's at least partially the fault of politicians.

Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544312)

Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations . . .
 
Do those actually exist? Why? How exactly is fusion bad for the environment? I can understand fission, but fusion? come on, people... I know there are issues with tritium and the structure becoming slightly radioactive, but consider the alternatives.

Re:Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations (1, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544332)

The hard greens don't like what we do with power.

They are undoubtedly morons who have never done any stoop work in their pampered lives.

Secret motives? (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544600)

So, you are positing the "what some of them _really_ hate is the technological lifestyle" argument?

Re:Secret motives? (2, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544686)

Not an argument a fact.

Here's a cite: http://www.energybulletin.net/51797 [energybulletin.net]

I was looking for another specific example. Google returned this.

I consider my position supported.

Including the 'hard greens are undoubtedly morons...' part. (read some of that blither on the link)

Finally fuck you moderator, Flamebait my ass. Hit too close to home.

Re:Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544624)

You're definitely right about fusion, but hell, even fission seems more efficient than mass burning of coal and oil.
misguided priorities? cost/benefit analysis skewed by misperception of risk?

Re:Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545150)

Actually, fission power may not be more efficient than exploiting the tar sands [crudeoilpeak.com] (figure [islandbreath.org] ), so not the best oil, far from it. Energy efficiency has to take account the amount of energy necessary to extract and refine the fuel. Added to that, I remember that BBC a few months back was quoting a report indicating that for the last couple of years, the stockpiles of nuclear fuel have been going down. The impression I got out of it was that the output from mining might be going down. It's hardly a substitute for dwindling fossil fuels.

Other than wind, solar and geothermal, fusion is really the only substitute. Of course, going into orbit and putting permanent lunar bases and power stations is my favorite way of harnessing all the solar goodness.

Re:Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545192)

People consider oil/coal/whatever burning a logical approach. We need to rephrase that: Our society is based on burning a limited supply of shit that died ages ago and rocks that take millions of years to form.

Wow, that sounds ridiculous.

Burning oil/coal is the equivalent of a bunch of guys marooned on a desolate planet with just tools and books on how to build a clean energy source. Instead of reading the books and building one, they burn the books.

I see oil and coal as parts of our bootstrapping process. Coal and a steam engine were phase 1. Oil is phase 2. It is now time for phase 3, which should be nuclear + hydroelectric. Stage 4 is still unknown, but it's probably fusion.

figures (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544314)

"Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations" = luddites who want most people dead, and the survivors living in caves, eating lichens, while shivering in the dark.

Re:figures (3, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544574)

Maybe they just like burning coal and oil? Or perhaps they think it's fun to dramatically alter a region's environment with dams and reservoirs for hydroelectric.
Solar and wind is great but the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day, and the wind doesn't blow every day. And I bet if you look hard enough you can find an environmentalist that is against geothermal power.

Re:figures (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544648)

"but the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day"

Actually its pretty good, the odd eclipse every now and then but sure seems to shine a awful lot after that.

At least I've never heard about the sun going out at anytime.

Re:figures (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544902)

The sun does not shine 24 hours a day?
So does the fusion just stop? This is the first time I have heard of this.

Or maybe you mean, in one spot in that case I advise you to think about a solar array in orbit.

So let me get this right... (4, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544330)

Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations...

So let me get this right, despite the fact that nuclear is incredibly safe, low-polluting, we still can't do research on it to make it safer and to increase "green" energy? How do these people expect us to get electricity?

Can't do coal because that pollutes, can't do oil/gas/diesel because that pollutes, can't use hydroelectric power because that can damage ecosystems, can't use wind power because it poses a risk to birds/bats, can't use biomass because if used at an industrial scale it still pollutes, and I'm sure if solar was halfway economical they would be protesting them because they were "ruining" the beauty/ecosystem of the desert.

Really, if you want "green" energy in our lifetime, support nuclear power. If not we still have way more than enough coal/oil to use...

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544474)

How do these people expect us to get electricity?

You might be a little behind the curve here. The purpose of the Green movement isn't to create economical and sustainable energy; It's to allow the Boomers to purchase indulgences in the form of carbon credits and other non-sense to relieve their guilt over having cut investments in every major social institution from education to medicine, so that they could live the most hedonistic lifestyle possible.

If they were serious about creating sustainable and renewable energy, they would invest more in physics to prevent the eventual heat death of the universe. Or, of more immediate concern, how we're going to survive as a civilization when we run out of drinkable water. Because of all the resources we have on the planet, oil is not the one I'm worried about: I can live without oil. I can't live without water. And guess which one's disappearing faster? /sarcasm

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544670)

But its pretty easy to desalinate water if need be, its non-trivial to make more oil.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Informative)

bheekling (976077) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545030)

De-salination is also quite costly. It costs around $0.5/m to de-salinate in Israel, Saudi Arabia etc. On the other hand, as I learnt (and calculated) in my water treatment course last year, fresh water treatment costs Rs.~5/m which is around $0.1/m.

So, it currently costs 3-5 times as much to de-salinate than to just treat underground/river water for human consumption. Of course, it'll get cheaper as the demand increases, but that will take time.

Re:So let me get this right... (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545166)

But its pretty easy to desalinate water if need be, its non-trivial to make more oil.

Easy? No. What follows is a lot of statistics I pulled from a lot of sources. I can't footnote them all here, because it would make the post hideously long and unintelligible.

The largest desalination plant on the planet is the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is scheduled to go online this month. The estimated cost construction cost is $550m USD and requires 2,000MW of power. It houses 8 desalination plants, each capable of producing 17.5m gallons of water. The power plant will cost another $1.7B USD. There was also a 400/132kW substation built for the project, at a cost of $60m USD.

Operating costs for the project cannot yet be determined, however in the past about 45-50% of the operating costs of a desalination plant was energy costs. Right now, a coal-fired base plant costs about $1.6-2m per MW of output. For simplicity and to low-ball our estimate, we'll say that it costs $1.6 per MW. $1.6m x 2k = $3.2B USD, or a yearly operating cost estimate of $6.4B

Total construction cost: $2.31B USD.
Water purified daily: 140m gallons
Operating costs: $6.4B/yr
Cost per gallon per day: $0.13

Now, let's assume that we had to switch to desalination and purification of potable water in this country. The per capita usage of water in the United States from 1996-1998 was 160.6 gallons per day. We'll ignore any adjustments or looking for more recent data in the interests of getting a ballpark estimate. The current estimated population in the US as of July is ~310.2m. That means our yearly use of water is somewhere around 49.82B gallons of water, per day. To purify that much water using desalination would cost us around $236.4B USD per year, just in maintenance costs.

Still think desalination is "easy" ?

Re:So let me get this right... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544722)

"how we're going to survive as a civilization when we run out of drinkable water."

Who's "we"?

There are areas without enough water where the lack thereof may affect human settlement, but I and millions of others don't live there and are not affected by the death of those who do.

Re:So let me get this right... (1)

Kirijini (214824) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545112)

There are areas without enough water where the lack thereof may affect human settlement, but I and millions of others don't live there and are not affected by the death of those who do.

Do you live in the central United States?

When the Ogallala Aquifer [wikipedia.org] dries up in 25 years, you'll suddenly be in one of those areas without enough water.

"About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies this aquifer system, which yields about 30 percent of the nation's ground water used for irrigation. In addition, the aquifer system provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within the aquifer boundary."

So maybe you live somewhere else in the US...

"The regions overlying the Ogallala aquifer are some of the most productive regions for ranching livestock, and growing corn, wheat and soybeans in the United States. (They have been called the "breadbasket of America")."

Loss of the Ogallala Aquifer is going to have a major impact on the production and distribution of food in the United States. It will affect you, especially if you like beef.

Re:So let me get this right... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544798)

The oil is disappearing much faster. The damn sun keeps making more drinkable water, and we can join that parade anytime we feel like it.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544928)

I heard that every bird struck by a windmill trickles down into the earth as another barrel of oil.

Re:So let me get this right... (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544812)


Or, of more immediate concern, how we're going to survive as a civilization when we run out of drinkable water.

Huh. Where I live the stuff falls from the sky, quite regularly. If I really had to I could pretty easily collect the stuff and store it. Do you not have rain where you live?

Also, if I'm not mistaken, I believe when the water goes down the drain, it's not actually destroyed. I've heard from good sources that it winds up somewhere downstream, and not as some people believe sucked into a black hole and destroyed. I'm not quite sure about the water that goes on the lawn... some people say that's not destroyed either, but I don't believe them.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545108)


Or, of more immediate concern, how we're going to survive as a civilization when we run out of drinkable water.

Huh. Where I live the stuff falls from the sky, quite regularly.

Wait for hurricane season. I hear oil's going to fall from the sky pretty impressively.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Insightful)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545038)

If you have enough energy at your disposal, both oil and water are non-issues. Water is H20 and there is H and O2 floating about in the air. All it takes to make it into H20 is energy. Oil is also made of H and O, and all it takes to turn air into oil is energy. Hell, if you have enough energy, you can make the H and O from scratch if you really want to due to E=MC2. Energy is all you need.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Informative)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544706)

if solar was halfway economical they would be protesting them because they were "ruining" the beauty/ecosystem of the desert

Actually, there already are groups who are concerned about solar in the desert, precisely because of the harm the vehicles and associated traffic can cause to desert tortoises and other fauna which are relatively fragile.

Two very extreme views (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544904)

You are thinking of the best nuclear power in theory and conveniently forgetting the steps required to make the fuel and they are thinking of the worst nuclear power ever in practice and forgetting that Chenobyl scared everyone into taking more care.
Both views are extreme, both, unfortunately for your optimism, are wrong.
Reality is between the two until we actually put in some R&D to bring your view closer to reality. Instead there is some stupid blinkered view that we got it all right in 1970, which means those efforts today that are very close to getting it right don't get much funding.
Supporting nuclear power shouldn't always mean spend a vast amount of taxpayers money and fifteen years to build a 1970s plant painted green (eg. Sweden), it should mean not swallowing all the bullshit from the US nuclear lobby and instead looking at the emerging technologies that may even be commercially viable. That does mean looking offshore at things developed in countries where they actually spent money on R&D if you want a prototype this decade.

Don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544340)

Make room in the budget. And then throw a few anti-nuke hippies in the barrel to see if that helps bring the Joules(in) / Joules(out) ratio under unity.

Terrible summary (4, Insightful)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544352)

Anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations

The above statement appears to be ad-hominem nonsense. Quoth TFA:

green parliamentarians who believe that ITER is too costly and too speculative to warrant support. Rather than spending money on nuclear fusion, the greens would like to see ITER's funding spent on near-term renewable energy sources.

ITER is terribly expensive. Combined with a substantial risk that the project could fail to produce valuable results, it seems that asking hard questions and investigating alternatives for that investment is a wise move.

Re:Terrible summary (5, Informative)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544558)

I dispute your assertion that my phrasing was ad-hominem. Greenpeace's current stance on the matter is thus: "Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy" Sortir du nucleaire's stance is that ITER is a hazard "because scientists do not yet know how to control DT reactions", a statement so laughably stupid I don't even know where to begin with it. There's a whole website devoted to trying to use scare tactics to shut it down at http://www.stop-iter.org/ [stop-iter.org] These people are dangerous and calling them out on their dogmatic bullshit ideology isn't ad-hominem, it's an urgent necessity.

Re:Terrible summary (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544804)

Yes, and there are some environmentalists who think the LHC is going to destroy the earth. That doesn't mean that anyone who supports the environment thinks that the LHC will destroy the earth. Similarly, "Sortir du nucleaire" opposing ITER does not mean that everybody who falls under the same umbrella denomination of environmentalist is a science wacko. Not to mention that I find Greenpeace's stance fairly reasonable: so far, ITER is indeed a massive boondoggle where even the scientists who are involved aren't sure that it is the best way to achieve commercial fusion.

Your phrasing was an ad hominem because it didn't identify the groups who made that claim,and instead preferred to make an unsubstantiated generalization.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

zblack_eagle (971870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545214)

We're all guilty of confusing a bat shit crazy vocal minority of any general group as being representative of the aims and views of that group. Other people have made a similar mistake in response to this article. But the author of the summary, while not in the summary itself, did clarify that they were specifically talking about "anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations" rather than "anti-nuclear environmentalist organizations".

If anything such a response is representative of how knee-jerk we've become in response to the polarization and poor signal-to-noise ratio of the news where someone is always attacking someone or something else.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544578)

What I read in that article is that the Greens would love to get their hands on that budget to spend it on their own pet projects. All of which have so far failed to produce sustainable results that we can apply on a large scale, I might add.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't do those Green projects, since we are leanring from them. The same goes for ITER or laser confinement. ITER seems terribly expensive so asking hard questions is ok, but in this case I do call the Greens' motives into question as well.

Re:Terrible summary (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544582)


ITER is terribly expensive.

Compared to what? The LHC cost around 9 billion and isn't expected to have any real tangible benefit to anyone other than the knowledge. The cost of a couple nuclear reactors is about 10-14 billion.

Compared to that, this thing sounds CHEAP. These "anti-nuclear activists" need to start asking themselves what we're going to replace base-load power generation with. Sorry, but wind just isn't going to do it since the wind doesn't blow all the time. Unless they like fission, coal, or natural gas, I don't see what else is going to substitute for generating a base load power. This is really a long term investment, and even though it's not guaranteed, we need to pursue multiple different strategies. Betting on one horse is just stupid.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544654)

Not saying it would work everywhere but covering a nice piece of Nevada with solar might be an idea, the Sahara is another place for this.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544880)


Not saying it would work everywhere but covering a nice piece of Nevada with solar might be an idea, the Sahara is another place for this.

And what happens at night, or when it's cloudy? And how do you get this enormous amount of power out of Nevada and into somewhere like Los Angeles, where people actually live?

This isn't a magic bullet scenario. Solar will solve some of the problems, but it brings up its own problems as well. We don't have a super-grid capable of transmitting the power across the country. When someone wants to build big transmission lines, it becomes a NIMBY issue across the anywhere the lines would go.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545082)

wind just isn't going to do it since the wind doesn't blow all the time

If you had $20b to spend, you could build quite a bit of pumped-storage hydro [wikipedia.org] to go along with that wind.

Re:Terrible summary (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544730)

ITER is terribly expensive.

Europe's combined military budget for one year is 20 times the total cost of this project. Which has a better chance of creating lasting utility?

Spend Money Seeking Viable Alternatives? (1)

Ordonator (1539087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544364)

Nah, I see nothing wrong with the way we get our energy now. Nothing at all...

bull (1)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544374)

ITER is/was a white elephant for inertial confinement physicists.

Laser confinement is basically weapons research (refinement of bomb codes, never going to break even in sustained fusion).

Bussard-esq electo-static confinement is cool, but unconfirmed in terms of a possible break-even.

Re:bull (2, Insightful)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544524)

Yes, Polywell is "unconfirmed" as to whether it can really work. Just like Focus Fusion, and Cold Fusion (which probably isn't even fusion as such, but some kind of effect seems to be happening), and all the other alternatives that are struggling to scrape together a shoestring budget -- they're all going to be "unconfirmed" until somebody spends some money to confirm or refute them. Now we see the folly of pouring tens of billions into one experiment while letting all the others starve.

We're in a financial crisis! (4, Funny)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544408)

All progress must stop so we can, um, stay in the financial crisis forever?

Re:We're in a financial crisis! (1, Flamebait)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544552)

All progress must stop so we can, um, stay in the financial crisis forever?

Don't worry - the greens are trying their damnest to slow the economy to a point where it will never have enough surplus to support the creation of clean energy. To "save the planet".

The problem is politicians who won't say, "go take economics 101 and come back with a revised sob-story".

Come on now (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544986)

It's the "blame the smelly hippies" thing all over again, and once again the people you are blaming do not have the political power to do anything but make a mostly ignored noise as they complain.
Some would like to do exactly what you say, but that doesn't matter - how the hell are they going to?
They are insignificant and politically weak, so blaming them is just kicking a cat.

Re:We're in a financial crisis! (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544994)

The problem is politicians who won't say, "go take economics 101 and come back with a revised sob-story".

To be fair, the politicians did cut education spending, so taking economics 101 is a no-go...

Re:We're in a financial crisis! (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545104)

Isn't proposing a reduction in government spending that would slow the economy actually primarily a thing conservatives are doing?

Nuclear reactor creates Existentions... (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544414)

ITER, Europe -- Physicists at the ITER Fusion Reactor announce new physics particle, known as the Existention. Previously only observed being emitted by cats placed in trap boxes filled with deadly acid, the creation of synthetic Existentions will open up a whole new line of research in quantum bogodynamics. An anonymous source close to the research team said it happened when the tight jeans worn by one of the research assistants distracted the operator of the reactor, causing what she loosely termed a "man event".

Re:Nuclear reactor creates Existentions... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545012)

I'm not sure I understand your joke. Extension is associated with boners, how does that relate to putting cats in boxes with acid... oh god, you sick bastard.

As an anti-fusion environmentalist (5, Funny)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544444)

Let me just say that fusion power is aweful; we should be using solar power instead.

I'll just wait for the irony to sink in. Yeah.

ITER is too big (-1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544462)

IMO ITER is too large. At the size and cost it is coming at, there is no way this technology could ever be used in a commercial power plant. The magnetic confinement fusion folks should scale the thing down. Try to prove basic technology elements and increase the plasma density. Otherwise it may be a "neat" project but unusable.

Re:ITER is too big (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544512)

Good point. I'm sure none of these top scientists have NEVER EVEN FUCKING THOUGHT OF THAT YOU RETARDED BASTARD. WHY THE FUCK ARE THERE SO MANY IDIOTS WHO SOMEHOW BELEIVE THAT THEIR DUMBASS THOUGHTS ARE OF ANY USE AND HAVE NOT BEEN CONSIDERED BEFORE.

it makes me want to kill myself over and over. It really does. also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded also the caps limit thing is retarded

Re:ITER is too big (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544606)

Mod parent up: +1 crazytown

Re:ITER is too big (1)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544858)

I'm sure those "top scientists" have given a lot of thought to the size of ITER and its budget -- as they plan their retirements around it.

Re:ITER is too big (1, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544982)

I'm sure those "top scientists" have given a lot of thought to the size of ITER and its budget -- as they plan their retirements around it.

Indeed: some of these people are going to retire having spent their entire careers not building working fusion reactors. So I'd rather trust the thoughts of some random Slashdot poster than a 'top scientist' who's achieved nothing of substance after spending decades and billions of dollars in research.

Re:ITER is too big (2, Insightful)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544560)

Right... I have NEVER seen commercial products made from experiments where the resulting product was smaller than the experimental rig...

Re:ITER is too big (0)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544628)

Like the Spruce Goose?

It is usually easier to scale up a design than the other way around. ITER is so huge because the designers can't be bothered to increase the plasma density too much. It is too hard a problem. Yet money does not seem to be a problem in their head. Well it is in the real world.

Re:ITER is too big (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544674)

Hmmm... like radio, television, microwave, computing, internal combustion...

Yeah, you're right I am delusional /sarcasm

Re:ITER is too big (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544754)

Like computers?

The one I am using to type this is the size of how many rooms? Oh yeah, this is my netbook, for fun I will make my next comment from my droid.

Re:ITER is too big (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544676)

The physics works the same when it comes to scaling down electronics. That's obvious based on the last several decades of Moore's law.

Since you're obviously so well schooled in plasma physics, would you care to tell us how plasma behavior scales down in the same way that VCRs did from the 70s to the 90s?
 

Re:ITER is too big (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545138)

Obviously, an ideal power generation technology would be one that neatly scales from "smart dust" to "dyson sphere" and everything in between; but we are still waiting for the magic pony to deliver that one.

I think, though, that you underestimate the potential utility of technologies that can't easily be scaled down. Assuming an ITER-like fusion system actually works(obviously, if it doesn't, or is absurdly uneconomic, all bets are off), it isn't going to replace the legions of tiny, little, fast-spin-up gas turbine units; but there are still things you can do with it.

In areas of very high population density, you can just run power lines. That won't work for the boonies; but much of the world population doesn't live in the boonies(they wouldn't be the boonies if they did).

Of broader use, though, is the fact that a fair number of industrial and chemical processes are extremely energy intensive; but create a product that can be fairly easily transported, thus effectively "shipping electricity". Things like aluminum refining. Were some sort of very-large-scale fusion widget to work, one would expect to see a relatively small number of installations worldwide, each surrounded either by extremely dense populations, or by massive industrial hubs, shipping things in and out by (presumably electric) rail.

20 billion USD... what's that expressed in (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544466)

Gulf of Mexico oil spill units?

Re:20 billion USD... what's that expressed in (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544726)

1

Use what now? (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544520)

use self generated plasma optical gratings to control capsule implosion symmetry

Wow. That's a lot of jargon for one sentence...

Well, that's all fine and good... (1)

The Altruist (1448701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544528)

but what if we need to destroy a black hole?

i've demonstrated that too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544534)

> demonstrated the ability to use self generated plasma optical gratings to control capsule implosion symmetry with high finesse.

Yeah. I do that sometimes too. Passes the time, ya know.

The only method of Fusion that appears to work (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544536)

Is the Polywell, which uses inertial electrostatic and magnetic confinement. And if physicists cared about actually giving the world nuclear fusion power they would cease work on the futile ITER project, which at this point is little more than a jobs program for some nuclear physicists, and start work on the Polywell fusion device, which only needs millions of dollars to be proven correct, not the countless billions that have been squandered on the ITER.

Re:The only method of Fusion that appears to work (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544746)

If by appears to work you mean has no scientific evidence what so ever then yes.

Re:The only method of Fusion that appears to work (1)

alexwcovington (855979) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544878)

Electrostatic fusors spend all their input energy just getting the nuclei to collide. There's very little room for improvement, of which the Polywell stands the best chance of the entire class. But the Navy would have it in every boiler room if it already worked.

Re:The only method of Fusion that appears to work (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545176)

If the costs are that low, and the prospects that rosy, how is ITER stopping them? I would think that they'd be fending off the VCs with baseball bats, just to avoid being crushed by the piles of investment money...

NIF is not an energy experiment. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544596)

NIF is not a fusion energy experiment. It was developed because of the Nuclear test ban treaties. The main goal of NIF is validation of simulation codes that model thermal nuclear detonations. Only a small portion of experimental time will be dedicated non classified energy research.

But perhaps more importantly it is extremely questionable if you can build one into a power plant. To get power out of an inertial confinement device you need to implode the full at least 10 times per second. That means positioning the full firing the driver and removing the byproducts in 0.1s. By comparison NIF will be lucky to get 10 shots per day.

The problem ITER has is that the design was never finalized and keeps evolving as new results from Plasma Physics community come in everyday.

Re:NIF is not an energy experiment. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32544944)

NIF is not a fusion energy experiment.

[...]

The main goal of NIF is validation of simulation codes that model thermal nuclear detonations.

Even if true, detonations are a release of fusion energy, hence, the experience is indeed a fusion energy experiment as advertised.

To get power out of an inertial confinement device you need to implode the full at least 10 times per second.

According to my calculation, you need a single implosion.

Re:NIF is not an energy experiment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32545182)

If you were making a bomb it would be more than enough energy but then again it would destroy your power plant and all of the city it was built in. NIF will yield a tiny fraction of the output of even a small nuclear bomb. It's a High Energy\Density Plasma experiment.

NIF is expected to release 20 MJ of energy. The average coal plant in the US produces about 667 MW of power. In order for NIF to match that it needs to produce a shot

20 MJ/667 MW ~= 0.03 s

So in order for NIF to produce the same power as a coal plant it needs produce a shot 33 times every second assuming that 100% of the energy can be turned into electricity. There most optimistic estimates of a new laser driver and better target design they might get up to 100 MJ of energy. Which works out to about once every 0.15 seconds or 6 times every second.

Stellarator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32544598)

They should change the design from a tocamak to a stellarator, which look way cooler. Alternatively, didn't the late Robert Bussard say his full size polywell would only cost $200 million? Maybe try that design.

Helium 3 (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545070)

Granted, I'm a novice in this area, but it seems to me that hydrogen based fusion is a failure, and it's time to admit it. They've been promising that we'd have fusion "real soon now" since I was a kid (say 1984 or so), and it is still just as far off now as it was then. I'm far more interested in alternative approaches. Lately, the best approaches to me seem to be space-based--especially solar power satellites and helium-3 fusion using helium 3 harvested from the Lunar regolith. Probably, a combination of the two...

Sorry, but it just seems like we're throwing good money after bad here.

I smell a dirty troll (4, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 4 years ago | (#32545078)

"Anti-fusion environmentalist organizations" I wonder who that is exactly? Care to name one? I took a quick look at the referenced article, and all it said was "the greens", which I assume means the Green Parties in Europe. If that is the case then why didn't they say so? Note that they did not say explicitly any Green Party member or refer to any specific Green Party platform.

So now we have a mysterious un-named evil anti-intellectual, anti-rational, anti-scientific pressure group. How much power do these evil mysterious trouble makers have? Are they completely in control of whatever organization that they are in? Are there any other people in these groups that are in favor of fusion research? Is there any debate about the relative merits of fusion vs. other non-fossil energy sources among the "anti-fusion environmentalist organizations"?

The article referred to is in Nature, the prestigious British science journal. Do you think that they have any self interest in this debate? What are the chances that they would support the ending of a major scientific research effort in Europe in any circumstances? It's not that they are corrupt, but there is no question what side of the issue they will support.

And look how the Slashdot hoards start barking like a bunch of dogs who just caught a cat when they have a chance to trash "environmentalists". Some quotes:

"Having them argue against a *fusion* project pretty much proves that these idiots are not qualified to remember to breathe, much less protect the environment."

"The hard greens don't like what we do with power."

"All progress must stop so we can, um, stay in the financial crisis forever?"

Yes, according to the Slashdot Pundits, all environmentalists are the same: irrational anti-scientific scum who want to drive the planet into a new dark ages because of their ill founded personal vendetta against rational thought. No shades of gray here. No possibility that environmentalists can have various opinions. No possibility that there might be people in the environmental movement who are pro-fusion.

For all the pretense that Slashdot readers are rationalist who use there intellect to examine all sides of an issue, all I see here is a bunch of prejudiced morons who are more interested in thumping their chests and screaming insults at a perceived enemy then actually thinking about issues. You are exactly the same as the people who you construe as your opposition: irrational pigheads who cling to their preconceived notions and would rather make baseless charges then engage in meaningful discussion.

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