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National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the now-you're-thinking-with-lasers dept.

Science 127

sciencehabit writes "As it approaches its fifth birthday, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a troubled laser fusion facility in California, has finally produced some results that fusion scientists can get enthusiastic about. In a series of experiments late last year (abstract 1, abstract 2), NIF researchers managed to produce energy yields 10 times greater than produced before and to demonstrate the phenomenon of self-heating that will be crucial if fusion is to reach its ultimate goal of 'ignition'—a self-sustaining burning reaction that produces more energy than it consumes."

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Temporal Control Circuits (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232075)

Temporal control circuits are being used to superimpose our world views against a finite set of realities that are not congruent with excursions created in regards to the 4th and nth gates of the NWO.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 8 months ago | (#46232141)

meh... the "new world order" will be broke soon anyway... what's the point of hoarding a fuckload of cash that isn't worth anything? ...unless by "new world order" you mean the chinese government, which has been hoarding gold.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 8 months ago | (#46232377)

Yeah many years ago one of the Rockefeller's said China was the model society,
and thus the shift in manufacturing there.

As they setup the CFR, and Hillary admits on video they take their orders
from the CFR, I'd say the die has been cast.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 8 months ago | (#46232805)

I thought the NWO was some professional wrestling event.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232851)

Gold is worthless except as a very conductive metal, and to get your wife\girlfriend to give you a blow job, but diamonds are even better than gold for that.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233125)

Diamonds are a conductive metal?

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 8 months ago | (#46235103)

Diamonds are a conductive metal?

Not that I know of, but they are extremely hard and useful for use on cutting/drilling bits.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 8 months ago | (#46235943)

i'll be only too happy to take any gold off your hands for you :-)

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about 8 months ago | (#46234495)

Gold is still only as valuable as people perceive it. Gold as a currency is still a goddamn currency. Sure, it may have utility in the modern age (electronics)..but if half the NWO conspiracy actually happened the shit would hit the fan so to speak.

In an SHTF scenario (in which technology is completely or mostly wiped out..or at least the highest tiers of fabrication) I've always held the belief that gold will be valuable - sure - but goods with actual utility will be much more valuable.

If things got super bad (nuclear war etc), and there weren't steel mills I think steel would be the thing to have. Steel has so much utility that if it were even 200% it's current rarity (steel mills dissapearing would probably mean a 10s of thousands of % increase in rarity) it would certainly be the currency of choice. We know how to smelt and cast it, so it can be used for coins. We can turn it into other useful implements (think tools)..we can use it to keep us safer via reinforcing, we can make weapons out of it, farming implements, car parts (which would be INCREDIBLY valuable), and a million other uses.

The only huge utility gold has is in nano to micro-meter thick coatings for conductivity as far as I know. I'm assuming in an SHTF scenario we won't be manufacturing PCB-based electronics for a pretty good while (at least a couple years I would think.)

All I know is that personally in an SHTF scenario pre-65 silver coins and gold would be a lot less valuable than implements to get food, water, shelter, etc..or hell even food itself. I certainly wouldn't trade food for gold. Honestly I don't think dollars would become as worthless as some people think. They are still a convenient way of representing wealth. Even if they aren't government backed or the government is in anarchy...in an SHTF scenario there wouldn't be currency exchanges etc.

Re:Temporal Control Circuits (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 8 months ago | (#46235931)

gold was widely valued for jewellery and money long before the age of electronics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

so if you trip over a huge gold nugget after SHTF you'll just leave it?

also, in SHTF scenario, all fiat currencies would be wiped out and unless you had something of real value to barter you would starve... pound for pound, gold has been one of the most highly valued commodies in the world since before the ancient egyptians... no action by any NWO will change that

Not going to take them long now... (-1, Troll)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 8 months ago | (#46232113)

Fusion bomb.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (2)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 8 months ago | (#46232169)

The so-called "hydrogen bomb" has been in existence for decades. This is a fusion bomb.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46232273)

The hydrogen bomb IS a fusion bomb. Its been around since 1952.

The match you use to light a fusion bomb is a small atomic (fission) bomb. [britannica.com]

Re:Not going to take them long now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232459)

Actually, most of the yield of a thermonuclear weapon comes from fission, not fusion. The fission bomb triggers the fusion, which then acts as a sort of "booster" for the fission process.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 8 months ago | (#46232549)

most of the yield of a thermonuclear weapon comes from fission, not fusion

Wrong. Go read Wikipedia.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (2, Informative)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46232773)

Then do as you say and you'll find out you're wrong. Example: Castle Bravo had a yield of 15 megatons, 10 of which were fission, only 5 were fusion. This is a common feature of actually weaponized "hydrogen" bombs and most of those devices tested by the US somewhere down in the Pacific where they didn't care what happened with the fallout.

The Soviets, on the other hand, realized that since they had to test on their own territory, they best reduce the fission yield of their test devices as much as possible to cut down the fallout. Their largest bomb hat a yield of 50 megatons, with only 1.5 megatons of fission yield. But they could have added 50 megatons of fission yield at any time by replacing the lead tamper with natural uranium (which was in fact the original plan) and presumably another 50 or so by using highly enriched uranium in its place.

D-T Fusion releases seriously fast neutrons (some 17 MeV) that can split any kind of uranium and makes fission much more efficient, because you don't need to rely soley on the chain reaction to give you enough neutrons before the whole thing blows apart.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 8 months ago | (#46233357)

So in fact the yield doesn't have to come mostly from fission. Its just usually done that way because its more efficient.

The fact is fusion is 10 times more powerful per unit of weight than fission at delivering explosive power.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46233633)

It's at best 5 times better. (21MeV from fusion of H-2 and H-3 vs. 200MeV from fission of U-235 or Pu-239). But since you won't use pure tritium and deuterium, and instead something like partially tritated lithium deuteride, where you breed your tritium from lithium in-situ, the ratio drops further to something like a factor of 3. In terms of volume (which is important for MIRVs), you'll find that using uranium is in fact *better* by a factor of 3 to 5.

And it isn't going to be lighter in any case, since you'll need some sort of a tamper anyway - and you might as well use uranium for that while you're at it.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (3, Informative)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 8 months ago | (#46233637)

The GP was correct. The vast majority of weapons that were actually built obtained most of their yield from fission. The exceptions were mainly tests and oddities like neutron bombs.

You don't get any fusion yield without surrounding it with something heavy to squeeze it, so the weight of the actual fusion fuel is irrelevant. They figured that if they needed something heavy in the bomb anyway, it might as well be uranium because that gave 2X to 3X the bang for free.

Re:Not going to take them long now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232661)

The hydrogen bomb IS a fusion bomb. Its been around since 1952.

The match you use to light a fusion bomb is a small atomic (fission) bomb. [britannica.com]

Isn't that what parent said?:

The so-called "hydrogen bomb" has been in existence for decades. This is a fusion bomb.

I look forward to the day they ignite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232123)

The earth will never be the same after that.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (4, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | about 8 months ago | (#46232245)

Never mind ignition, as big an achievement it'll be. It'll be the engineering challenges of building a fusion power plant that'll bring them unstuck.

I'm keen to see how they're going to cheaply and automatically manufacture, load and position the targets to micron-accuracy in the chamber. I'm also interested in seeing how they're going to engineer the chamber to harvest the energy from the reaction, and to withstand the tremendous punishment it'll have to take, being jackhammered by tiny fusion explosions 10 x a second.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 8 months ago | (#46233337)

No mod points today, but yeah, I think maintaining precision in the process of capturing power output at the level of several hundred megawatts is going to be interesting. I'm getting up there in years; I've pretty much given up on commercial fusion power in my lifetime.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (1)

speedplane (552872) | about 8 months ago | (#46234925)

I think it's fair to say no one living today will see fusion in their lifetime, especially anything from the national ignition facility.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234203)

The biggest achievement is the naming, no politician would personally want to shut down a "National Ignition Facility".

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235437)

The NIF design is completely unworkable as a power plant, even after reaching ignition. There's a site under the DOE umbrella that actually gives a design for something that would use NIF's approach to make a real power plant but it's just completely bogus.

The problem is that NIF's capsule, once ignited, will only burn for a fraction of a second. They have no way to keep injecting fuel to keep the star alive if you will. So the DOE design is to basically commission 15 NIF reactors on site -- and fire each in succession for a given second of time. This means that for a NIF power plant site to work, they would have to feed and align a new cryogenically cooled capsule into each of the 15 chambers once a second which is basically impossible. It also means 86400 * 15 cryo-cooled capsules needing to be stored and ready every day.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#46232293)

Fortunately we can use the LHC to create a black hole [youtube.com] to dump this in if things go wrong.

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234461)

Obligatory episode of Squidbillies [youtube.com] .

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about 8 months ago | (#46232347)

I just want to know how many first steps they can take, it seems I am always hearing about this first step or that first step

Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (1)

MisterSquid (231834) | about 8 months ago | (#46232573)

I just want to know how many first steps they can take, it seems I am always hearing about this first step or that first step

Actually you're misremembering what's alway been the first step. It's just that before taking a second step, one must go halfway and take the first step. But before taking that first step, one must go halfway and take half a step. But before taking that half a step, one must go halfway and take a quarter step. . .

tl;dr: it's halfsies all the way down.

Re: I look forward to the day they ignite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235301)

the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
don't do it.

Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quote (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 8 months ago | (#46232131)

Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off. "They didn't get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser," says , the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the , or JET.

Not sure if this is a rehash of the same fusion discussion here a few weeks/months ago...

Re:Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232345)

Not sure if this is a rehash of the same fusion discussion here a few weeks/months ago...

Of course it is, we get to discuss it once when the arxiv preprint goes up and once again when the prl/nature papers get published. Now with moar SCIENCE!

Re:Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232435)

If you actually read the Nature article you find out that the error bars on the data are the only thing that breaks even.

Re:Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quo (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 8 months ago | (#46232387)

JET is in the UK, NIF is in California.

Where all those stupid Americans are you know...

Re:Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234045)

Stupid is as stupid does you know http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/02/12/1318251/majority-of-young-american-adults-think-astrology-is-a-science

Re:Reddit title more irresponsible, but better quo (3, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 8 months ago | (#46235121)

"Not sure if this is a rehash of the same fusion discussion here a few weeks/months ago..."

In part.

The NIF did manage to spark a fusion reaction that actually output more energy than was input to the fuel pellet.

However, it is important to note that it was not more energy than the total input to the system. The energy used to power the lasers was still more than the energy of the fusion reaction. So it wasn't "break even".

From the day on they ignite ( or any other team ) (-1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 8 months ago | (#46232173)

the world will not be the same again. Cheap energy, without CO2 pollution. Wow.

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (1, Informative)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#46232251)

They had a net gain in output energy vs input by like 5% several months ago and all they got was defunded and everyone saying they were lying. So not really.

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233199)

Yup, lobbyists won't let this happen. Even the government wants the tax money from expensive energy (worker's incomes, land leases, etc)

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#46232295)

the world will not be the same again. Cheap energy, without CO2 pollution. Wow.

Except the fuel is radioactive (tritium), and the fusion creates lots of neutrons that irradiate and structurally weaken everything around them, likely producing more nasty nuclear waste than fission reactors, which were also once predicted to produce energy "too cheap to meter."

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 8 months ago | (#46232321)

likely producing more nasty nuclear waste than fission reactors

I'll need a source to believe that's "likely" rather than "conceivably".

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#46233133)

Actually it was fusion power that was going to be too cheap to meter but it makes a good story to attribute it to fission plants. The prediction was the product of a marketing executive, not someone with any real knowledge of the science, engineering, finance or commercial operation of any such facility. Makes a great soundbite though, doesn't it?

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233275)

likely producing more nasty nuclear waste than fission reactors,

It will produce more waste by volume, but it will be short lived, much shorter than fission waste with only a little effort in selection of materials. You can find leftover parts from experiments like TFTR that are no longer radioactive because things like activated iron and copper decay quite quickly. The only reason you can still find it though is it is required to be labeled as radioactive waste as long as it has any measurable radioactivity, even if it is less than background or less than newly created metals that have been no where near a neutron source.

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233979)

May I ask where you were educated in atomic structure? neutrons MIGHT create a bunch of funky isotopes, if they hit. However they are not damaging to just have them around, nor are the nuclei of atoms large targets. Also, much of a fission reactors "waste" could be re-used either as fuel, or as medical isotopes or similar; however, the process of reprocessing the "waste" produces a small amount of bomb quality material, which is why it isn't done.

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235259)

Since you must have an education in atomic structures if you were to call someone out like that, surely you've heard of neutron embrittlement and issues like Wigner energy, things that fission reactor engineers already have to deal with that fusion reactors will have to deal with also due to orders of magnitude more neutron flux. And you probably don't need to be reminded that of popular figures that each atom is expected to experience 100 displacement events before a material is replaced, and that there are whole projects like IFMIF dedicated to dealing with material issues.

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232617)

I'm sure the same was said about nuclear power planets...

Re:From the day on they ignite ( or any other team (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233995)

I'm sure the same was said about nuclear power planets...

What do you mean "was" it still is; however, radiation scares have made nuclear unpopular.

Not break even yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232179)

They still need to produce 100x more energy to break even.
To be economically viable, they probably need 1000x more.

Re:Not break even yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232971)

That's why I invested my fortune in this new start-up company working on perpetual motion.

Now that the Voodoo is swept away (5, Funny)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46232185)

I love this bit from TFA:

In 2013, NIF researchers began to explore the problems more scientifically; there was also a change of leadership at the lab and new researchers joined the team.

Apparently casting those chicken bones under the reactor had no effect and they had to switch to SCIENCE!

Sigh. Journalism majors.

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232379)

The issue is that the previous management were attempting to achieve ignition through an engineering approach. They assumed that the science was well understood and all they needed to do was tweak the knobs and dials on the laser until they got the result they wanted.

When this spectacularly failed to work there was a change in leadership and the new guys are actually doing experiments rather than just firing the 'ignition' capsule over and over.

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232699)

What? Engineers couldn't just design one? Next you'll be telling me that some kind of intellectual is going to do experiments until ignition just happens by chance.

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232383)

What were they using before science at this science facility? Astrology?

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (2)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 8 months ago | (#46232505)

Voodoo based economics.

They gave the hydrogen a tax break, hoping that at some point it would be incentivized enough to fuse for them.

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233101)

Well, it's a little unfair. The problem is that the strong nuclear interactions are totally unwieldy. You can't solve them without giant supercomputers, which are not always up to the task of working on such complicated systems. They used the best models available and figured that a little experimentation would guide them to the right answer. But things turned out not to match the models as well as they had hoped.

Thus, they had to scramble to put together a more rigorous model, which is what has been translated here as "explore the problems more scientifically". Car analogy: When driving, you might figure, I'll just steer and if the car seems to be drifting one way or another, I'll correct for it. But it turns out there's ice all over the place and you're just skidding around. You might stop and map out all the ice patches and figure out exactly what path you need to take.

Re:Now that the Voodoo is swept away (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46234221)

The problem is that the strong nuclear interactions are totally unwieldy. You can't solve them without giant supercomputers,

Shhh. Don't tell Richard Feynman and his buddies [wikipedia.org] .

Woooo (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#46232205)

Woooo, install one in my Tesla Roadster! I'll make the Mr Fusion label if they handle the magnetic containment field not resetting my radio presets in the dash.

Re:Woooo (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 8 months ago | (#46232407)

My money is on this version...

http://iec.neep.wisc.edu/ [wisc.edu]

This is the reason ppl are talking about mining the moon, Helium-3 is
needed for this method.

Re:Woooo (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46232979)

That movie was fucking awesome.

Still this old school apporach? (1, Funny)

Identita (1256932) | about 8 months ago | (#46232219)

Why not just ask the Taelons?

great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232249)

i'm glad a bunch of egotistical overqualified government welfare recipients are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on their pet projects so that they can brag about nobel prizes, while the youth of america are being cut off from the job ladder by idiots on the left and right pushing for a higher minimum wage.

heil obama!

Re:great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232513)

Are you really that stupid and ignorant, or you are just trolling?

Re:great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232893)

Are you really that stupid and ignorant, or you are just trolling?

Well, you replied... and I pointed that out...

if this keeps up... (2)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 8 months ago | (#46232319)

If this keeps up, the magnetic fusion guys, who achieved break even (ignition) decades ago, are going to start crashing NIF press conferences so they can get noticed. The NIF press push and lack of discussion of the field as a whole has got to drive them crazy. I'm sure it's not doing any favors for their budgets.

Re:if this keeps up... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46232437)

May be they should deal with the immense loss trough X-Ray issue?

Re:if this keeps up... (4, Interesting)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#46233225)

The best performance of a tokamak I know of was the JET run back in the 90s where they got about 22MJ out of plasma in about 1.5 seconds, a rate of 15MW for that time. It was nowhere near "ignition", it took significantly more energy to create that plasma than it emitted while it lasted.

The NIF people talk about "ignition" because that's what they do, it's in their name after all. Magnetic fusion people talk about Q factor. Q=1 is breakeven where the same amount of fusion energy is produced as is pumped in to make and heat the plasma. I think the best Q figure JET has ever achieved is about 0.6 and only for a very brief time.

The ITER tokamak under construction on France is expected to return values of Q > 10 eventually, with 50MW input producing more than 500MW of thermal energy in a fusion plasma that can be sustained for hundreds of seconds and hopefully it won't have to be rebuilt after every run.

Re:if this keeps up... (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 8 months ago | (#46233273)

What I don't see talked about is how much 'fuel' will this require. I've seen claims that a glass of water could power a city and such, but realistically what's the need in fuel amounts?

Re:if this keeps up... (3, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#46233465)

Nobody really knows since nobody's ever got a significant amount of fusion to work for long enough to figure out the gas mileage, so to speak.

The golden chalice is deuterium-deuterium (D-D) fusion which can be done with just heavy water, D2O which is expensive but abundant (it makes up about 1 part in 40 million of water molecules), it just has to be separated out from regular water using centrifuges or other processes. Assuming a lot of fusion power plants are built then there would be be cost savings per tonne of deuterium produced the same way uranium mining and processing is a lot cheaper today than it was during WWII. D-D fusion is hard though.

The easier road to fusion is deuterium-tritium, so-called D-T fusion but tritium is only produced in small amounts in nuclear fission reactors. There is a way to produce tritium in a working fusion reactor by using a blanket of lithium to absorb neutrons but it's very experimental and unproven. ITER is being built in part to test the idea of Li breeding of tritium and it's likely JET will also be used to test the concept, it's being repurposed as a materials testbed for ITER.

Re:if this keeps up... (1, Informative)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 8 months ago | (#46234831)

...D2O which is expensive but abundant (it makes up about 1 part in 40 million of water molecules)...

That 1 part in 40 million figure, while not wrong, is misleading.

Quoting Wikipedia:

It [duterium] has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in 6,420 of hydrogen.

So the hydrogen in the ocean is 1/6420 deuterium. Getting two of the deuteriums into one molecule is rare, but we don't really care. Chemical bonds are unimportant energetically compared to nuclear reactions.

Re:if this keeps up... (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#46234887)

I did specify D2O as being 1 part in 40 million, not DHO which is a lot more common. Deuterium for plasma fuel needs to be reasonably pure at the moment, it's one of the things the ITER program is tasked with, to see just how crappy the deuterium:hydrogen ratio in fuel can be and still produce good Q levels and burn times. This will reduce the cost of producing fuel in the long run.

Re:if this keeps up... (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 8 months ago | (#46234351)

I don't think JET ever reached Q of 1, but it can handle the most energy dense fuel of any current tokamak (The JET Q of 0.6 is still ~100x larger than NIF). However, a Japanese tokamak did reach Q of 1.25 in the mid 90s, and it wasn't something guys in the field I knew talked about as a problem by the late 90s.

There's a big challenge in getting the energy out of a fusion reactor. There are parts of a reactor which need to collect energetic particles so they could even theoretically produce power. This screws with a lot of other things in the reactor; it's not easy. Magnetic guys have been at the stage of designing those parts for a while. Given their progress, they may never finish. But those problems are a lot closer to talking about "fusion energy" than what NIF does.

A guy working on diverter physics for ITER *has* to wonder why NIF gets all this press, while no one cares about the work he does on designing the part which could actually demonstrate extracting energy from fusion.

Re:if this keeps up... (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#46234539)

I have a vague recollection the Japanese tokamak you mention (the JT-60?) was running on D-D fuel and they calculated that if they had used D-T they'd have got Q>1 but it wasn't set up to run with tritium. A moral victory if not a real achievement. The Japanese are in the ITER consortium and the JT-60 is being rebuilt and upgraded as part of the total research effort, like JET at Culham.

ITER is being built right now and the designers believe it will give them several hundred seconds of 500MW of thermal energy for 50MW of input (Q= 10). They may be wrong but they're bending metal (well niobium alloys) on the basis they're right or that they can make what they're building perform to that level in the end. If they can't then tokamak fusion is dead as a future power source.

I've not heard much more about the South Koreans and their Dash for Fusion project i.e. skip ITER and DEMO and go straight to a son-of-PROTO based on what we know right now. Supposedly there was some serious money behind it but it seems to have dropped off the radar somewhat.

The other shoe will surely drop (0)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | about 8 months ago | (#46232397)

Cue breathless, hysterical stories about how fusion energy will cause three-headed babies, global enturbulation, and the heartbreak of psorisis in 3... 2... 1...

Re:The other shoe will surely drop (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about 8 months ago | (#46232501)

Cue the anti-NIF greentard hate; "...but just use the big fusion reactor in the sky herp derp..."

3... 2... 1...

Re:The other shoe will surely drop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233143)

"...but just use the big fusion reactor in the sky herp derp..."

Well... why not? If somebody told you: I'm going to build a fusion reactor trillions of trillions of times more powerful than anything built on Earth and set it to run with billions of years of fuel and place it in space where it can't do us any harm and beam the energy back to Earth such that it lands on all parts of the planet and is free to all mankind. Why wouldn't you build a collector to take advantage of it?

We don't want your Death Panels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233261)

Why wouldn't you build a collector to take advantage of it?

We don't want your Big Solar Death Panels [motherjones.com] covering the Earth.

Re:The other shoe will surely drop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233905)

Will? Already, I stubbed my toe this morning due to some sort of disturbance in the Earth's natural energy field that all beings use for balance. Now I know the cause. Fucking scientists...

The the funding is threatened, the more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232427)

these phony "results" start showing up.

BTW, it we took all the money dumped into this project and bought solar panels that we gave to homeowners, how much power would be produced?

Re:The the funding is threatened, the more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234091)

Given a NIF project cost of $4.2E9 in 2008 (as per Wikipedia) and an installed cost per watt of $5.3 for common non-tracking solar panels (Thinkprogress, 2013) the combined power generation would be about 793 MW peak and you'll need about 12.3 sq miles of land to host it. Given a rule-of-thumb peak-to-average ratio for non-tracking solar of 10:1, the base load equivalent of that installation is less than 80MW, enough to power about 85 thousand homes.

A single GE Frame 10 80MW gas turbine can match that base load power supply, and that's considered a 'compact' unit.

The panels would last about 20 years. The knowledge from NIF is forever. Or at least until you fucking idiots regress us to the grass hut vegan hell you insist on.

Beautiful world (1)

tsa (15680) | about 8 months ago | (#46232509)

What a beautiful world this will be.
What a glorious time to be free!

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure time for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young.

Isnt... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46232879)

...Isn't this how Fallout 3 started?

Call it what it is: A weapon test (2, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46232895)

What the NIF is all about is compressing D-T fuel by radiation pressure and finding out what kind of profile of the radiation pressure pulse has the highest yield. That's exactly what you do when you want to get a bigger bang out of the nuclear weapons you have, because your NATIONAL DICK isn't big enough yet to properly display your "patriotic" manlihood to the rest of the world that you feel like you have to dominate completely in order to feel like you've accomplished something.

By the way, the rest of the world doesn't agree with you oversized national libido, even if most countries officials don't say so openly.

Currently, they put in over 100 times as much energy into the lasers as they get out in term. Not to mention the energy it takes to engineer the fuel capsule or the inconvenient fact that it takes hours or days to properly set up and align everything, or that lasers at this kind of power level tend to wear down rather quickly. What they get out is 17kJ per shot. In order to get as little as 1MW of electricity out of this thing, you'll need a yield of 200.000.000.000 kJ per day. Plus whatever you need to keep the lasers running. (Currently 2000 kJ per shot.)

The "this is a potential fusion power plant" argument is a red herring.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46232959)

Yeah, I made a mistake there. It's either 200,000,000 kJ per day or 200,000,000,000 J per day or 200,000,000,000 kJ per day to get 1GW and not 1MW.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233095)

Kumbaya man, kumbaya :)

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (3, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 8 months ago | (#46233167)

What the NIF is all about is compressing D-T fuel by radiation pressure and finding out what kind of profile of the radiation pressure pulse has the highest yield. That's exactly what you do when you want to get a bigger bang out of the nuclear weapons you have, because your NATIONAL DICK isn't big enough yet to properly display your "patriotic" manlihood to the rest of the world that you feel like you have to dominate completely in order to feel like you've accomplished something.

What did you expect? The funding, building and research the NIF does is provided by the DoD. The primary interest IS to find ways to increase yield on weapons. The fact that the research can also be used towards civilian energy interests is a pleasant bonus.

Unfortunately, doing science like this has to be done under the auspices of other interests or it doesn't happen. Things like alternative fuels, climate change, etc., are happening under the DoD because of it. (Yes, climate studies are done because they're of vital interests to maintaining security. And alternative fuels as well as not having to rely on diesel trucked in has strategic interests - considering by the time it's all said and done, the fuel cost is around $400/gallon. Not counting lives lost)

Hell, any science done that isn't in a nation's interest is also cut. E.g., Canada cut funding to scientists with "inconvenient" topics (like pollution, fish habitat protection, environment, climate change) because they went against let's go sell oil around the world damn the earth mentality.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46233915)

It's just that the "pleasant bonus" isn't there. It's red herring.

I would be much less upset if this wasn't being called a fusion power project, because it simply isn't. And it hurts the credibility of the very real fusion power projects out there that can actually be scaled to be what they claim to be. NIF is just going to be yet another example people will hold up when they claim that fusion power is a sham and shouldn't be funded.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233187)

If the US wanted nuclear weapons with higher yields, it would simply build them and has been able to for a long time. The average nuke today is some 100s of KT, where during the Apollo era weapons up to 10MT were mounted on missiles because guidance couldn't promise to set them down close to enough to guarantee a kill of Soviet silos if they were any smaller. Basically, trying to fight energy/r^2 by adding more energy instead of just dropping multiple smaller bombs to reduce r^2 is stupid. And even if the NIF results are used to fine-tune nuke designs, okay... fine. The smaller the filthy fission bomb is, the better.

That said, you're almost certainly right that the NIF won't lead to a working fusion power plant.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#46233257)

That is a great comment.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233817)

It also helps that damage scales roughly with the 2/3rds power of yield, so it is more effective typically to have two smaller half sized bombs than one bomb larger than each two halves. Plus even as efficiently as they could make the bombs, weight was an issue for high yield bombs, and there are limits to what could be delivered by an ICBM.

Re:Call it what it is: A weapon test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233195)

Agreed. This is definitely not the way to produce and sustain a fusion react for power production. But it does help you refine your laser technology.

FIRST Step? What have you been doing??? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 8 months ago | (#46233145)

So, let's get this straight. This is the FIRST STEP???? You guys have been at this for decades and have spend millions if not billions in the quest for "clean energy" and this "first step" is all we have to show for it? Besides cranking up a bunch of lasers all at once every now and again, what, exactly have you been doing?

I seem to recall a story about fusion just a few months ago that said "We are only a decade or two away from FREE energy!" Fusion, it's Coming!!! etc. Pardon my skeptic bent, but I think we should skip to the chase on what's really going on and get an answer to the REAL question.

How much money do you guys need now?

I'm all for research, but lets not fool ourselves. We are not even close on this one. We might be barking up the wrong tree with this and I think we should double down on our investment and start another group to try some different ideas if there are any. So perhaps we should half the last contribution and solicit some other bright folks to do some research with the other half.

Re:FIRST Step? What have you been doing??? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46233381)

First step has many meaning. Clearly it's not the very first thing they did.

Lighten up, Francis.

Re:FIRST Step? What have you been doing??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46233649)

"You guys have been at this for decades and have spend millions if not billions in the quest for "clean energy" and this "first step" is all we have to show for it?"

From what I've been able to find, the NIF has cost $3.5Billion so far, or around 1/10 of what we will spend on F-35 fighters by the 2030s. You really have a problem with spending on fusion?

Can't answer the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46234425)

Seriously, the question "How much money do you guys need now?" has no answer. Not at present.

There was an article in Discover a handful of years ago that covered this. And towards the end they dealt with the practicality and engineering hurdles in front of various fusion technologies being worked on.

The upshot was, every single fusion method required multiple major breakthroughs to have any realistic shot at being commercialized. Not one but a minimum of three, as I recall. And that was at best! Less promising approaches could require 5 or more.

What this means is that there is no realistic timeline and no realistic cost estimate. Anything you'd get would be a Stupid Wild-Assed Guess (SWAG). Fusion is a money pit and only suitable for deep, fundamental research projects right now. Forget about near-term results, there aren't any.

Meh. (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 8 months ago | (#46233315)

They ALL take FIRST steps toward fusion energy. I'll get excited when one of these machines takes the LAST steps.

This step is going to (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46233395)

Rock you like a Hurricane!

Where are all the "Focus Fusion" comments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46235011)

It's about time for another update from these guys [wikipedia.org]

Cool. (2)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 8 months ago | (#46235315)

I bet we're only 50 years from a real fusion reactor.

-Fusion reactor spokesman, 1960

engineering, not physics (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 8 months ago | (#46235539)

We know how the physics of fusion works. What they are really trying to do now is design a cost-efficient device. That's an engineering task, not a task for physicists, and they don't seem to be very good at it.

If you look at this result, billions spent to achieve a neutron flux that theoretically contains slightly more energy than a theoretical number grabbed out of a hat, it's useless and a gigantic waste of money. They are as far away from energy production as ever.

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