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ITER Fusion Project Struggles To Put the Pieces Together

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the failure-to-fuse dept.

The Almighty Buck 138

ananyo writes "The world's largest scientific project is threatened with further delays, as agencies struggle to complete the design and sign contracts worth hundred of millions of euros with industrial partners. Sources familiar with the project warn that the complex system for buying ITER's many pieces could put the fusion reactor project even further behind schedule. Rather than providing cash, ITER's partners have pledged 'in kind' contributions of pieces of the machine. Magnets, instruments and reactor sections will arrive from around the world to be cobbled together at the central site in St-Paul-lès-Durance in southern France. Because no one body holds the purse strings, designs for the machine's components face a tortuous back-and-forth between the central ITER Organization and national 'domestic agencies', which ensure that local companies secure contracts for ITER's components. Managers say the project remains on schedule. But it would hardly be the first time that ITER had been delayed or faced budgetary difficulties."

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Summary of the summary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41818713)

The ITER project has an overly complex management for purely political reasons, and that causes complexities, delays and increased costs. However the managers think everything is fine.

Re:Summary of the summary (2)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | about 2 years ago | (#41818981)

Re:Summary of the summary (0)

They'reComingToTakeM (1091657) | about 2 years ago | (#41819851)

To summarize the summary of the summary of the summary: Pork.

Re:Summary of the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819271)

Its very simple: If you put billions into such a project, you want to ensure that you get something out. That is why it was decided to contribute parts of the reactor and not money, to assure the sharing of technology and knowledge. The fact that this is so difficult only shows how non-trivial the intended technology transfer is.

summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41819321)

For sixty years fusion scientists have been saying "We've almost got it." They're promising that if we keep throwing them billions, they might have something feasible in another fifty.

The highest power levels obtained even after half a decade's research was 65% of the input power and lasted for half a second. The power levels needed to keep the reaction self-sustaining are an order of magnitude higher, and to generate useful power is yet another order of magnitude *or two* higher than that.

There are no known materials that can withstand the radiation and temperatures anywhere nearly long enough; even a second's operation permanently damages and contaminates huge parts of the reactor vessel.

I can think of no technology which has comparable levels of continued failure. It's time to put large scale fusion research to bed until other necessary technologies have caught up, and put the money saved into solar/wind/hydro generation and grid improvements.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819577)

There are no known materials that can withstand the radiation and temperatures anywhere nearly long enough; even a second's operation permanently damages and contaminates huge parts of the reactor vessel.

No, a second of exposure is easily handled and we have materials that we are pretty sure will get into the hours regime. The work that needs to be done is to bridge the gap between something that runs for a day to something that runs for a year.

The highest power levels obtained even after half a decade's research was 65% of the input power and lasted for half a second

That has been improved to about pretty close to equivalent 100-120% for 10s based on D-D reactions in a machine that didn't want to use tritium. Getting this up to a Q a few times that is should not be an issue. Getting the efficiency up to commercial viable levels may be much more difficult though.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (3, Insightful)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 2 years ago | (#41819579)

We built the LHC, a massive expense, for no reason other than basic science. There is, to my knowledge, no goal for the LHC that will directly justify its cost, but we built it anyway because basic science is important. This is no different. Maybe it won't work, that's fine. But we'll learn something in trying, we'll have a better understanding of what it required, maybe we'll figure out some new materials to get us closer to a working reactor, maybe we'll just end up with a lot more data to examine. If we don't keep trying what do you think will drive the other technologies required for fusion? Saying we shouldn't do it because we could put the money elsewhere is just as dumb as saying we shouldn't explore Mars because people are starving in Africa.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41819821)

We built the LHC, a massive expense, for no reason other than basic science. ... This is no different.

Actually, it is very different. LHC is about basic science. ITER is not. It is about engineering, not science. We understand the science of fusion just fine. We just haven't figured out how to build a contraption to make it happen in a controlled way.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821139)

We understand the science of fusion, but are still relatively in the dark about the nature of plasma physics and especially magnetic confinement which in many ways is the key to a successful fusion reactor.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 2 years ago | (#41821163)

We just haven't figured out how to build a contraption to make it happen in a controlled way.

Well... We can make it happen [wikipedia.org] in a controlled way, we just can't keep it controlled for very long. Sure, it has limited practical uses and the reset costs are a bit high to be productive, but, you know, baby steps.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821359)

LHC is European, and Europe is calling the shots. ITER is a world wide mess where the US, Russia and Japan have a fraction of command. So it will not prosper.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#41819597)

For sixty years fusion scientists have been saying

For 15 years slashdotters have been failing to read the summary, let alone the article.

"We've almost got it."

No, they haven't.

They're promising that if we keep throwing them billions, they might have something feasible in another fifty.

They've been promising that they will get it if it is funded to an adequate level.

It has only ever been funded at the level which will never be sufficient.

You're blaming "scientists" when politics is at fault. That makes you are part of the problem.

Mod parent up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819625)

Mod parent up!!!

Re:Mod parent up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819753)

No!!!

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

chispito (1870390) | about a year ago | (#41822217)

You're blaming "scientists" when politics is at fault. That makes you are part of the problem.

Can I blame the scientists for trusting in bureaucrats?

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about a year ago | (#41823463)

They've been promising that they will get it if it is funded to an adequate level.

And this is where everyone knows they are full of it. In doing basic research, money /= breakthroughs, it can yes but is not a guarantee. If you just fund me enough I can do "X" where "X" is anything you can dream. " What? I haven't reached it yet? You haven't funded me enough!" It should be funded for other good reasons, but not the one you mentioned.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

maudface (1313935) | about 2 years ago | (#41819719)

Fusion isn't a waste of time, tokamak is a waste of time.

Bussard reactors, look into them. They're way more promising, would cost a lot less, have been proven to scale well such that a prototype costing around ~$200m work hit break even.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41819995)

What are you basing you opinion on? Do you actually work in the industry, or did you read a press release?

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820061)

hes an armchair fusion scientist, for sure. It's funny the audacity of predicting success on an untested device, especially when that's clearly what has burned the fusion community all along.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820171)

A breakeven tokamak could be built for $100-300 m now, with a lot more certainty that it would work. It would be a waste of money though, as it wouldn't teach us much new and a lot more is needed than just breaking even.

have been proven to scale /quote

This has been said for a lot of fusion designs, and it has fallen short for many of them too. The only way it can be "proven" to scale is to build a full scale one. If you wanted to be risky and assume it scales all the way, there is a long list of other designs that look like they would scale too. If you are not a gambling person, you would have to take several steps, demonstrating scaling works every step of the way, as many other designs currently are doing, as tokamaks have done so far too.

polywell (1)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#41821923)

You must be talking about those EMC2 [emc2fusion.org] folks...

Unfortunatly, although the Navy continues to fund research into Polywell style fusion reactors, there are several big hurdles to overcome. The biggest ones (to me) are that the concept has unknown scaling constants (e.g, does a "big" version lose too much efficinecy), and they most expensive component (the magnets) are inside the reactor and get bombarded with radiation which creates and equally big material science headache as some of the alternate approaches.

Read more about it here [askmar.com] ...

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (5, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41819913)

Actually, for 60 years fusion scientists have been saying "with current funding, it's probably impossible" which isn't the same thing as saying "almost got it". This [wikimedia.org] graph shows what leading scientists in 1970 thought they could deliver with different levels of funding. Do note the 'actual funding' line at the bottom, the one that is well below the 'fusion never' line that would never produce the equipment, expertise, and practical knowledge that would be required to build an economical fusion reactor. Quite frankly, given that this is what actual scientists in the field were saying 45 years ago, it's remarkable they've made as much progress as they have.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 2 years ago | (#41821307)

Quite frankly, given that this is what actual scientists in the field were saying 45 years ago, it's remarkable they've made as much progress as they have.

The problem is not just primarily the money to build a big machine. It is instead how to build the big machine that is a huge open question. It is clear that given enough money in the 70s they would most likely have burned it building the wrong machine. So it is probably better that they didn't get that humongous shipload of money, because it would have ended in tears. The field would have been discredited.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819987)

That's not exactly right. We already know that fusion power generation works, it has been demonstrated in several reactors before. What ITER is supposed to achieve is to show that a Tokamak reactor design is viable for continuous operation (which no one ever demonstrated before, but which works theoretically) at a scale that would be economically viable.

The secondary goal (and this is the major cost drivers) is that every participating country is supposed to be able to replicate the reactor design at home. So instead of making an economical choice, just gathering money and contracting out the individual components, the deliberate political choice was made to have every country deliver one slice of the complete reactor assembly, which is a nightmare both economically and for the project management.

ITER is in trouble, but it's not for scientific or technical reasons, it's purely politics that is making everything horribly complicated.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820093)

We already know that fusion power generation works, it has been demonstrated in several reactors before. What ITER is supposed to achieve is to show that a Tokamak reactor design is viable for continuous operation (which no one ever demonstrated before, but which works theoretically) at a scale that would be economically viable.

Fusion has been demonstrated, but not fusion power in the sense of capable of producing useful work. The best we have demonstrated is either about 60% of the energy back, demonstrated directly, or about 120% energy back in a reactor that was not burning DT plasmas, but just DD plasmas at conditions that are pretty well understood to be equivalent to 120% back from DT plasma. ITER won't demonstrate continuous operation, just much longer operation on time scale of 10-20 minutes. It is supposed to have a return of about 500-1000 % of power depending on what mode it runs in. The 500% point is important, because the plasma can self-heat at that point (80% of power goes into neutrons that leave the plasma not contributing much to its heat). But a factor of 2000% is estimated to need to make an electricity generating plant.

ITER has no goal related to do with making sure every country could build a copy of it in their own country. Although that in principle can be done with most fusion experiment as it is not hard to get copies of the designs and many parts (might need some help with assembly from people who built the original...), there is no need or desire to build copies of ITER. Once ITER is built, a second one would mostly give redundant information, and it would be followed up by improved or different designs, most likely a demonstration plant that actually produces some amount of electricity.

The costs just come from both the physical scale and bureaucracy. Also, as a research reactor, it has a lot of equipment for analyzing what the plasma is doing that a commercial reactor would not need. They've also had cost over runs due to changes in the price of raw metals since it was originally designed, and redesigning it so that components can be assembled and serviced by remote control so that personnel would not have to be exposed to the radioactivity of activated materials. The latter was tacked on pretty late in the process and involved redesign of a lot of parts.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41820079)

I'd like to fund an entirely solar and wind powered community.

By which I mean, build a town and surrounding farmland. Power it with nothing but solar and wind and whatever storage mechanism you can dream up, cost no object. Go hog wild.

Then power all of that off of renewables, and see if it's possible.

If it is, then calculate every Joule that they import, including the energy required to construct the place, and including the energy required to keep the people producing all those imports clothed, fed, housed and entertained.

And make Greentown export that energy from their, uh, "spare" capacity. Every single Joule of it.

Because I'm a civilised man, I'd suggest that we bail them out just before cannibalism sets in.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41821629)

Please mod it up!!

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (3, Informative)

elfprince13 (1521333) | about 2 years ago | (#41820125)

Distressingly, ITER is actually on schedule per dollar with its original plan. It's the amount of dollars falling behind per unit time, rather than the science and engineering per dollar.

On the material science front, there's two issues - normal operation, and disruptions. With normal operation, there are materials that ought to be able to do a pretty good job of withstanding the environment inside the reactor, but the trick is finding ones that will do so without poisoning the plasma. Right now, there's some really cool work being done with liquid-lithium walled reactors to try and ameliorate those problems. As far as disruptions go, that's a confinement issue, there probably aren't materials that can deal with it. But almost all of the research being done with the computational plasma physicists I was working with this summer was going into understanding the magnetic reconnection events that lead to instability and disruptions. There are also reactor designs other than tokamaks which ought to be inherently more stable, but which have had tremendous difficulty getting funding due to the politicized nature of the work on ITER. NCSX, for example [wikipedia.org] would have had some very interesting results had it not been cancelled, but thankfully other stellarator experiments are under way (HSX, LHD, and the Wendelstein 7-X).

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (2)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#41820217)

We spent more as a nation (the UK) on cellphone ringtones last year than we did on fusion power research, and we have JET in Oxford.

Maybe if they were actually given serious funding you could complain about them asking for more.

Just a couple of weeks shaved off Afghanistan and/or Iraq would fund the project for quite a while.

I see you haven't been following along with the level of research - the JET could run net positive (just), but they have not done so because it would just be a dickwaving exercise and their budget is tight, and doing that experiment would make it hard for the current series they are running (experimenting with different wall materials, where you need to keep going inside the torus).

I can think of no technology which has comparable levels of continued failure. It's time to put large scale fusion research to bed until other necessary technologies have caught up, and put the money saved into solar/wind/hydro generation and grid improvements.

It's hard to deliver results with a drip, drip, drip of funding. Despite this, what has been achieved so far is a very long way from "continued failure".

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#41824037)

We spent more as a nation (the UK) on cellphone ringtones last year than we did on fusion power research, and we have JET in Oxford.

So maybe the ITER scientists should sell ring tones for funding?

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821117)

Well said. Actually, we need to be producing Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, forget about solar/wind/hydro.

ITER is a massive fraud, perpetrated against the taxpayers. It will NEVER produce cheap electricity, it is an outrage that because the politicians who give the go ahead for its funding don't understand (or WANT to understand) that it will never work, we ALL have to pay for this bullshit, with OUR taxes.

Let's hope the e-mails of these fraudsters are revealed a la ClimateGate, I'm sure they would prove very telling.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821491)

Let's hope the e-mails of these fraudsters are revealed a la ClimateGate, I'm sure they would prove very telling.

Well, looking back through my emails, I see negotiation of times of meetings, a lot of proofreading and commentary on various write ups, and requests for specific numbers and answers... seems pretty boring to me.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 2 years ago | (#41821167)

I can think of no technology which has comparable levels of continued failure. It's time to put large scale fusion research to bed until other necessary technologies have caught up, and put the money saved into solar/wind/hydro generation and grid improvements.

And how much difference do you think that would make? Solar/wind and the like already get vastly more public funding than fusion. Adding the fusion budget to it would barely be noticeable.

Re:summaery cubed: fusion is a waste of time (1)

kharchenko (303729) | about 2 years ago | (#41821507)

That's right, drop it. Because $20 billion per year in tax breaks to oil companies is money well spent, but using $20 billion dollars to learn how to build a real fusion reactor is a total waste. Why try to go after a technology that can bring virtually unlimited locally-sourced energy when we've got such bright prospects in oil trade?

I can... (2)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#41821609)

I can think of no technology which has comparable levels of continued failure.

I can, it's call the NIF [wikipedia.org] ...

Decoding the actual message (0)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41819491)

A subsidised government project has elements of bureaucracy and corruption.

News at 11?

Re:Summary of the summary (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | about 2 years ago | (#41819783)

The ITER project has an overly complex management for purely political reasons, and that causes complexities, delays and increased costs.

Sure, but that's the nature of huge projects. They require huge amounts of money from numerous sources, and each source wants to make damn sure they get something in return for their investment. Could a more efficient management structure be imagined? Maybe. Could it ever actually be implemented? No.

However the managers think everything is fine.

They say everything is fine because if they don't the investors will lose confidence and the project will collapse. The actual lack of fine-ness causes many headaches for the scientists and engineers who have to deal with unrealistic planning, but somehow they usually find a solution. Think of it this way: the managers say what they say because they have more faith in their staff than they do in the politicians funding the project.

Re:Summary of the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820247)

Classic Systems Engineering problem. They better NAIL down the interfaces or this thing is doomed.

Re:Summary of the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41822787)

Actually, one of the major sources of cost overruns has been last minute changes to "interfaces" due to a change requiring diagnostics and components to be assembled by remote controlled robot to reduce worker exposure to activated isotopes...

Re:Summary of the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820323)

Watch out what you wish for! We better be prepared to extreme turmoil in the middle east when the Saudi Royal family can’t pay for security any more when the petro-dollars stop flowing. If nobody needs to buy their oil any more, where will they generate income? The Arab Spring was/is a walk in the park compared to this mess. Maybe that's why fusion is always just ten more years away??

TLDR (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41818723)

TLDR is its a "pot luck" fusion reactor and its a hell of a lot of coordination work to make sure they don't end up with 25 bags of doritos and nothing else, and theres always some cheap bastard who wants to eat at the buffet but doesn't bring anything, and half the attendants have conflicting food allergies and religious food prohibitions.

Re:TLDR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819025)

TLDR is its a "pot luck" fusion reactor and its a hell of a lot of coordination work to make sure they don't end up with 25 bags of doritos and nothing else, and theres always some cheap bastard who wants to eat at the buffet but doesn't bring anything, and half the attendants have conflicting food allergies and religious food prohibitions.

I have to find a way to get that on a t-shirt...

Re:TLDR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819133)

Print the page, staple to t-shirt.

You're Welcome

Politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41818759)

Yeah, let politics and private interest handle building a fusion-reactor, genius...
 

Monoculture (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 2 years ago | (#41818849)

Wouldn't it be great if just one company controlled everything so that... no wait.

Re:Monoculture (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#41824205)

Wouldn't it be great if just one company controlled everything so that... no wait.

Are you thinking of iTER? :-)

Monetary crisis (2)

Chemisor (97276) | about 2 years ago | (#41818929)

The euro crisis must be deep indeed if government projects have to rely on barter.

Re:Monetary crisis (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#41818941)

The euro crisis must be deep indeed if government projects have to rely on barter.

It is impossible to distinguish sufficiently advanced satire from sufficiently refined ignorance. /Was/ that a joke?

Re:Monetary crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819811)

Maybe it's a joke that's funny because it's true?

Re:Monetary crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820925)

This has been the case before the euro even existed. Nice try.

Re:Monetary crisis (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#41821751)

It is impossible to distinguish sufficiently advanced satire from sufficiently refined ignorance.

I *so* need this on a bumper sticker or t shirt, or both.

Re:Monetary crisis (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#41821865)

Thank you for that fascinating satire of modern consumerist culture.

"In-Kind" contributions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41818953)

I wonder which country will be supplying the bubble-gum, bailing wire and duct-tape to make all the pieces fit together?

Re:"In-Kind" contributions (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#41819163)

That would probably be the host country, so France.

Design by committee (0)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | about 2 years ago | (#41818965)

I doubt this project will ever do more than be a shining example of how not to do innovation. I'll bet that a small focused team, privately funded, will figure out a path to safe and large scale fusion before ITER does. Perhaps Bill Gates will lead the charge. His life's turn to altruism is good for the planet.

Re:Design by committee (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 2 years ago | (#41819067)

This assumes that there is such a path. I'll bet no private funders are rich enough to take a bet on whether it is possible or not. Wasting billions once to find out it isn't technically possible currently is one thing. Wasting the billions twice is just, well, a waste.

Re:Design by committee (4, Insightful)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#41819093)

I'll bet that a small focused team, privately funded, will figure out a path to safe and large scale fusion before ITER does.

There are certainly many problems with the way ITER is planned - the way they've distributed the manufacturing to keep all of the member countries happy is a recipe for inefficiency - but I think you underestimate how difficult projects like this actually are. Keep in mind that ITER is actually a scaled down version of what they originally wanted to build, and an actual commercial plant would be even more massive. One article I read mentioned that ITER required 150,000 km of superconducting wire; this isn't exactly commodity hardware. There's simply no way this wasn't going to cost many billions of euros, and require the full-time efforts of thousands of people.

Perhaps Bill Gates will lead the charge.

I would love to see private investors step up to the plate, but Bill Gates' net worth is about $66 billion, and ITER is currently projected to cost around 20 billion euros, so he'd have to drop a huge chunk of his fortune on what is still only a proof-of-concept machine (actually commercializing fusion power would require many billions more). Funding biomedical research as he's been doing is relatively cheap by comparison.

The only way a small, privately financed team will figure out commercially viable fusion power is if any of the proposed "LENR"/"cold fusion" schemes turns out to be successful. Obviously it would be great if this were to happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Design by committee (1)

invient (1905274) | about 2 years ago | (#41819965)

It be great if lenr could get federal funds to do the research needed... In a sense some federal funds do go to it but only because the scientists at spawar have done it on the side. We now have a method to easily replicate the original p and f experiment using co-deposition of palladium ( no longer have to wait for the palladium to absorb enough deutrium to trigger the reaction ). The Italians, specifically celani, have progressed work done with nickel and hydrogen. The most interesting experiment that I know of is palladium loaded zeolite with hydrogen gas, you can find the video in coldfusionnow.org ... The nanor MIT device is also of interest. I realize ITER is based in established science, but there is now a theory which requires no new physics and explains the effects seen from the many repeatable experiments, widom-Larson theory. We also know that lenr experiments can be done for a fraction of a fraction of the ITER cost, why should we limit our energy research horizon especially with such promise and the increasing number of repeated experiments by MIT, spawar, and even NASA.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820193)

We also know that lenr experiments can be done for a fraction of a fraction of the ITER cost

If you can demonstrate it can be done for a tiny fraction of the cost, you should be able to get commercial investment. Businesses and venture capital are much more willing to take risks with small amounts of money than large scale, long term investment.

Re:Design by committee (1)

invient (1905274) | about 2 years ago | (#41820521)

The problem with getting private funds is due to the patent office denying anything that smells like the p and f claims. What investor is going to go into a business where the product is not protected and relatively easy to duplicate... Not many. This has bred secrecy in the field for those close to production, they cannot release either their research or the product itself without a patent cause they have responsibility to their investors. What we do get from them is internal test data, observations from scientists, and eventually third party verification.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821451)

I haven't seen any trouble with LENR people getting patents on their stuff before, whether it looks like it could work or the ones from complete crackpots that look like quite obvious BS that if it works would have already been seen in conditions common in household appliances.

Re:Design by committee (1)

invient (1905274) | about a year ago | (#41823451)

The NASA patent is marked for examination (20110255645), but I have never seen any patent other than George Miley's (8227020) get through the patent application process... Rossi will need to provide more info for the EU to issue him a patent, and here are his patent filings (http://ip.com/patfam/en/40296889)... most LENR patents are in the queue...

What other LENR patents have been issued, other than Dr. Miley's?

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41823921)

The last one I see in my email inbox discusses 6764561 by Melvin Miles. It seems to be a common (although definitely not universal) theme of emails I get from people, that they can't possibly be wrong because it has been patented. I've gotten cold contact emails from people charging me to "disprove patent XYZ" or that I am contradicting federal law by not recognizing it as correct because it has been patented... At some point a 2 or 3 years ago I remember one that listed several dozen patents, although I don't have quick access to my email archive from a previous employer I had back then.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820479)

Who cares about inefficiency, I'm worried about QUALITY. At the number of countries and contractors involved, how can this *NOT* turn into a clusterfuck? If even one of those thousands of parts is wrong, it could end up leading to ITER sitting for who knows how long inoperative, and as a result of that, requiring ridiculous amounts of both time and money to ensure the parts have not degraded or been otherwise damaged in the interim.

I really hope they prove me wrong and everything works smoothly the first, or at least second time, but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41822275)

A company called General Fusion (Burnaby, British Columbia) is making rapid progress on a small magnetized target fusion reactor. They aren't making much of a public fuss about it yet- the company's all engineers and physicists, no sales/marketing teams yet and only just enough management to keep the finances in order.

They're working on something like 1% of the budget of ITER. And their design is fundamentally superior in many ways- notably, its shield/liner is liquid lead-lithium alloy, so it's more or less impervious to fast neutron damage.

If they can get it to work (an admittedly big IF), there would be house-sized, 100 MW fusion reactors available in about nine years.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41822973)

Actually, a lot of their work has been pretty public in the sense I see them at conferences quite regularly discussing progress and results. They are making good early progress, but they haven't gotten to any of the parts that have people concerned about their viability yet (i.e. the really ballsy but riskily uncertain components). Although they seem to be behind schedule and have run into money problems because of that. I think the funding they got from the Canadian government has helped mitigate some of the risk though, as investors weren't going to hold them up too much longer.

Re:Design by committee (1)

lordholm (649770) | about 2 years ago | (#41819167)

So, you want to find a private investor that forks out over 15 bn EUR in order to do an experiment... yeah right. For a commercial reactor when the technology is proven, this would be viable but ITER will not generate any profit, and as the technology will literally save the planet it is done through international collaboration.

Re:Design by committee (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#41819289)

Even when fusion is up and running, it won't be some magical free source of power like fission power was sold to be. It will still involve really advanced technologies that need to be balanced just so. One might get more energy than what was put in, but operating costs are going to be rather extreme.

It might be better for the environment and cheaper to operate than a uranium nuclear reactor, but the operating costs will not compare favorably against thorium reactors.

Re:Design by committee (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41820077)

It might be better for the environment and cheaper to operate than a uranium nuclear reactor,

This is very questionable. Fusion produces enormous amounts of neutrons (a factor of a hundred more than a typical fission reactor) that irradiate and weaken the reactor structure. You could work around that by surrounding the whole thing in liquid lithium to capture the neutrons and breed more fuel, but molten lithium is very nasty stuff, and the tritium bubbling out of it will be very hard to contain completely. Some people have proposed using He3 as a fuel, but that is utterly unrealistic (we don't have hardly any, it produces less energy when fused, and it is much harder to fuse He3 than D-T (which we still haven't done after 60 years of trying)).

Even if ITER is a success, and we achieve self-sustaining fusion, we are still a long and difficult way from commercialization. It is very likely we will decide it just isn't worth it.

Re:Design by committee (1)

AlecC (512609) | about 2 years ago | (#41820265)

I don't see why the operating costs have to be high. Fuel costs will be negligible, so you must be assuming that there are significant wear-and-tear costs, requiring replacement of damaged reactor parts etc. It appears that you are making direct extrapolation from current technology, and assuming that none of the problems they are trying to solve are actually solved. As well as the main ITER site in France, there is a materials research establishment in Japan working to solve the materials problems which would be the main contributors to operating costs, I am not saying that they are certain to succeed, but your assumption seems to be that they are certain to fail.

Re:Design by committee (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#41820441)

It just doesn't add up.

With magnetic containment you end up using too much electricity to contain the reaction for it to be worthwhile and it isn't sensible to contain the reaction with a solid material due to the pressures and energies involved.

Until we can start using artificial gravity to compress and contain the fusion reaction it will not be economically feasible considering some of the alternatives such as thorium salt reactors.

Re:Design by committee (2)

AlecC (512609) | about 2 years ago | (#41820571)

I don't follow your logic. You have to put some energy into a magnetic field to set it up, but you have to put some energy into bending metal etc to build a solid reactor. With superconducting coils and nothing going on inside, the magnetic field costs nothing to maintain.

Of course, there is something going on inside, and it will cost energy to maintain the magnetic field. But I see no evidence that this should be of the same size as the energy produced. And I would have thought that the engineers working on devices like this would have thought of that at some point over the last thirty years. What you are suggesting is that every engineer/scientist who has worked on the project and its predecessors is a complete idiot.

As I understand it, the cost of maintaining the magnetic field increases as the surface of the container, i.e. as the square of dimension, and the energy produced as the volume of the container i.e. the cube of dimension. Therefore, by just scaling up, at some point power generation must exceed costs. Of course, that may be at an unattainably large volume, which is why we need more research before attempting to build one. But is is theoretically, if not commercially, a sure thing.

Re:Design by committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41823089)

It just doesn't add up.

Is that because you are pulling numbers out of thin air? You act like you are certain that electromagnetic means can't contain a useful reaction, but think you know enough about artificial gravity to think that is a viable potential option?

The amount of power required to run the machines versus the amount that comes out has been steadily decreasing with research. At this point, the issue is not the amount of power needed to run the magnets, but the amount of power used to heat the plasma, and maintaining the plasma in the desired configuration. The latter is more of an issue of how/where the plasma is heated and some active feedback that doesn't require significant power.

JP Petit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819065)

For french speakers : ITER, chronicles of an announced failure by Jean-Pierre Petit.

http://www.jp-petit.org/NUCLEAIRE/ITER/ITER_fusion_non_controlee/wurden.htm

Not sure if he has an English version

ITER is fail, sure!. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819117)

Photons go straighline, not curved lines. => "ITER does always waste photonic energy that's a part of the global energies." => Downs to zero energy because of the photonic energy is sucked from the global energies.

jcpm: i'm more intelligent than the sum of those scientists.

Re:ITER is fail, sure!. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819891)

Photons go straighline, not curved lines. => "ITER does always waste photonic energy that's a part of the global energies." => Downs to zero energy because of the photonic energy is sucked from the global energies.

jcpm: i'm more intelligent than the sum of those scientists.

Yeah... but no. You must have forgotten to account for QM. Photons are waves and particles. Waves are not straight lines.

The rest of your comment seems part & parcel of timecube.com so I'll refrain my commenting.

Re:ITER is fail, sure!. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41823243)

If I had to make a guess at translating crazy to English, you are complaining the scientists are not taking into account loss of energy due to light being emitted by the plasma? If so, you are decades behind the work done on fusion plasmas, where radiative loses is a major consideration in design and operation of reactors. A lot of work is done to keep the machines clean and reduce the amount of impurities introduced into the plasma, as impurities and high Z ions typically radiate a crap ton more than the hydrogen used for the bulk plasma. Also, in an actual electricity producing reactor, any radiated power would be collected by the same heat collection systems meant to collect power from neutrons, which also go in straight lines.

In what sense is it the largest scientific project (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41819149)

The world's largest scientific project

In what sense is that? Number of people directly working on it? Number of countries collaborating?

Re:In what sense is it the largest scientific proj (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41819617)

Cost?

Re:In what sense is it the largest scientific proj (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41821077)

I just found out it's big enough to require the invention of it's own pseudo-currency:

ITER Construction will be managed within an agreed capped ceiling of 4,700 kIUA (ITER Unit of Account in thousands). This construction cap is based on the ITER Baseline adopted in July 2010 by the ITER Council and cannot be exceeded.

From here [iter.org] .

Re:In what sense is it the largest scientific proj (1)

AlecC (512609) | about 2 years ago | (#41820319)

And the assumption that it is a scientific project, when it is actually an engineering project.

The output of a scientific project is a paper. With photographs, maybe, diagrams etc. But mainly, a paper that says "we have discovered something new about the universe".

The output of an engineering project is something useful. Civil engineers build useful roads, aeronautical engineers build useful planes, and so on.

The intention of ITER is to build a useful fusion reactor - eventually. There may be a lot of science done on the way there, and there may be a lot of people with science PhDs working on the project. But it is fundamentally an engineering project.

Re:In what sense is it the largest scientific proj (1)

tsotha (720379) | about a year ago | (#41823871)

The intention of ITER is to build a useful fusion reactor - eventually.

No, not really. They don't have any plans to convert excess energy into electrical power. At best, assuming they can get it to work, it will be useful as a test bed for materials.

Re:In what sense is it the largest scientific proj (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 2 years ago | (#41821447)

The world's largest scientific project

In what sense is that?

The size of the science, clearly.

So Basically ITER = Space Shuttle (1)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 years ago | (#41819387)

So ITER is an international version of the Space Shuttle which was an intentionally lousy design that "succeeded" by maximizing the number of contractors in different congressional districts that got government $$$. The difference is that there was still enough residual talent left at NASA for the Space Shuttle to at least take flight. Not so much for ITER.

If Bill Gates really wanted to help the world, he'd take $30 Billion and make it a prize for whoever can get an operation fusion reactor running. No awards go to maximizing sub-contractor payouts in this scenario. Instead, success would actually be the objective of the project instead of failure + guaranteed taxpayer funded payouts for the next 40+ years.

Re:So Basically ITER = Space Shuttle (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | about 2 years ago | (#41819665)

If Bill Gates really wanted to help the world, he'd take $30 Billion and make it a prize for whoever can get an operation fusion reactor running

But you need the money before you start. Nobody would invest billions entering such a competition on the off-chance they might get their money back.

Re:So Basically ITER = Space Shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819799)

A monetary prize wouldn't help as much for such a large project. If you make a commercially successful reactor, you will make quite a bit of money without the prize. A non-commerically viable (at least in the near term) reactor is what current government research is well on a path toward. The problem is not getting a reward for doing it right, but getting the money up front to build and test ideas. Fusion ideas that look good on the table top are a dime a dozen, the hard part is pretty much all of them show signs they need to be built larger to improve efficiency, while at the same time have a huge risk of discovering new complications by increasing size and power. There are a few small companies around, one of which, General Fusion, was started by someone who made a bunch of money working for HP at one point, although they are running into money and scale problems too. There are a lot of alternative designs being researched at the moment on the small scale, although they seem to trade one kind of problem off for another. Deciding which ones to invest in taking to the next step would not be easy, would be risky from a business perspective, and many would end up following a path quite parallel to tokamaks requiring a multi-billion dollar facility a the end to test something that is not quite a power plant.

If ITER successful then "manyfold Internet". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819457)

If ITER is successful then it will supply manyfold energy for "manyfold Internet".

As 100 billion of computers wasting gigawatts each computer, for the only a purpose: to scale manyfold the Internet size and its increasing speed of access.

mod 3o3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41819631)

anD some of the

ITER costs half as much as London Olympics 2012 (5, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#41819697)

Why can't one country step forward and just do it?

When it comes to the olympics, they're fighting over who gets to have the honour of spending a shitload of money for something nobody will really need at any time in the future. Here's something that would have an impact for everyone living on this planet for centuries to come and everybody claims it's way too expensive for a single country to do.

THIS IS STUPID!

Re:ITER costs half as much as London Olympics 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820117)

Why can't one country step forward and just do it?

China is definitely considering it. They want to participate in ITER, and are considering making their own ITER or DEMO equivalents at the same time.

Re:ITER costs half as much as London Olympics 2012 (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41820961)

Why can't one country step forward and just do it?

That doesn't solve the problem, it just moves it to a different level. You would still have states (or provinces) squabbling over it instead of countries. Just look at the SSC [wikipedia.org] . The states fought over it, and Texas won. We spent billions on it. Then the president from Texas lost the next election and the whole thing was cancelled.

When it comes to the olympics, they're fighting over who gets to have the honour

More than a billion people watch the Olympics. It brings prestige and votes. The ITER brings neither.

THIS IS STUPID!

Compared to what?

Re:ITER costs half as much as London Olympics 2012 (2)

moreati (119629) | about 2 years ago | (#41822155)

I love the quote and I agree with your point, but what numbers are you using? Wikipedia has the London £2012 budget at £9.3 billion, and the current ITER cost at â16 billion (£12.9 billion).

Re:ITER costs half as much as London Olympics 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41822653)

If you are forgetting 'london' earned alot on it as well

LANR (1)

invient (1905274) | about 2 years ago | (#41820177)

MIT - NANOR reactor...http://cdn.coldfusionnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HagelsteinPdemonstra.pdf SPaWAR - co-deposition of palladium ... http://www.spawar.navy.mil/sti/publications/pubs/tr/1696/tr1696.pdf [navy.mil] Dr. Iraj Parchamazad, Chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of LaVerne, in LaVerne, California - http://coldfusionnow.org/iraj-parchamazad-lenr-with-zeolites/ [coldfusionnow.org] Let's continue work on ITER, but not ignore the progress in the lenr/lanr field by opening up federal funding and the us patent office to researchers in this field... The very least this will attract private investors under the protection of patents in which case the scientific establishment can keep denying lenr public funding.

I see what you did there (0)

SuperMooCow (2739821) | about 2 years ago | (#41820535)

ITER fusion project struggles to put the pieces together.

'Management' is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41820741)

Fusion ISN'T a waste of time. 'Management' is a waste of time. All they need to do is sustain the burn cycle for 4 minutes +, that's if they ever get machine finished of course.

As a developer I make most of the fundamental decisions about the projects I'm working on whilst 'management' dance around and get in the way over and over again. We need more scientists and fewer 'managers'. More pragmatists and fewer philosophers.

I am personally sick of people who line their pockets by calling themselves 'managers' and consistently fail to do the job properly.

Elon (1)

Necron69 (35644) | about 2 years ago | (#41820865)

So how do we get Elon Musk interested in fusion research?

Necron69

Re:Elon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41824371)

So how do we get Elon Musk interested in fusion research?

Necron69

This

An Intrinisic Ultimatum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821193)

There is no future without fusion. We're bumming the sun's fusion, and the last sun's uranium. Either we become brilliant as the stars or cold as the void.

We've seen this movie before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41821445)

It's called "787 Dreamliner"

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