Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the taming-a-small-star dept.

Power 305

Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.

cancel ×

305 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Fusion Confusion (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707717)

Fusion confusion
With facial hair cruisin'.
Fission frission
Bears smooth-faced derision.
Burma Shave

Re: Fusion Confusion (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707769)

Confusion is correct. This guys damn confused. I'd love to have the problem hes talking about as that would mean that we actually have working fusion reactors. Wake me from my grave when we have one actual working power producing fusion reactor (I'm in my early 30s).

Fast? TRANS-FUSION! (1, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707835)

Transfusion, transfusion
My red corpsuckles are in mass confusion
Never, never, never gonna speed again...
Pass the crimson to me, Jimson!

Re:Fast? TRANS-FUSION! (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708269)

WTF the Burma Shave, man?

Re:Fast? TRANS-FUSION! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708303)

You need more trans-urinal elements in your diet.

Re:Fast? TRANS-FUSION! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708449)

check wikipedia, young pup

Re: Fusion Confusion (1, Troll)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707933)

Confusion is correct. This guys damn confused. I'd love to have the problem hes talking about as that would mean that we actually have working fusion reactors. Wake me from my grave when we have one actual working power producing fusion reactor (I'm in my early 30s).

Good Morning Sleepy head! We do have working fusion reactors, they just don't work long enough or well enough to get much energy out of them.

Re: Fusion Confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708043)

Yes, currently less power out than is put in.

An actual operating Fusion electricity generator is decades away, but only if big money and effort are poured in continuously between now and then.

Re: Fusion Confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708179)

Good morning sleepy head yourself. Thats what a power *producing* fusion plant means. What we have is a working power *sucking* fusion reactor.

Re: Fusion Confusion (5, Interesting)

gewalker (57809) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708351)

Well, since the whole purpose of fusion reactors is to make commercially useful power, it is pretty clear that we do not have a working fusion reactor by any reasonable definition.

Despite having spent billions (22 Billion USD on hot fusion research by US alone) on the problem so far, with billions yet to come, we do not have working fusion reactors. Even ITER will just be a prototype with no power generation at all. Cost to develop commercially, unknown but bound to be a lot of money.

The US alone has also spent around 15 Billion developing Fast Breeder reactors, and has little to show for it. Other countries have similar experience.

Estimated cost to develop commercial LFTR reactors seems to be in the range 3 - 20 Billion USD. A commercial LFTR prototype seems to be likely 1 billion USD by most observers.

And you still have to build the reactors -- that won't be cheap either. Every known possible solution to replacing our energy infrastructure has a large economic cost, and significant to large environmental cost as well. Kind of the way large-scale engineering works.

Yet the cost of doing nothing will be larger yet, at least eventually. Peak fossil fuel is coming sooner or later, even if you master shale and methane hydrates with high recovery rates and limited environmental impact. There are a lot of third-world people in this world that would gladly join the first-world lifestyle which puts a severe constraint on expanding fossil fuels usage to match the growth in demand.

Personally, the combination of LFTR and renewable sources seems most likely to me to be commercially successful by 2050. Why, because the needed development seem to be within or nearly withing the capabilities of current engineering in both cases. Engineers are very happy to deliver good enough when the perfect seems unattainable.

Re: Fusion Confusion (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708535)

I find it hilarious that the supposed downside of having a future-proof source of energy is that on the unlikely occasion that a terrorist group gets their hand on plutonium, the resulting threat is going to be in the 50kt class instead of 20kt. Any larger entity most likely wouldn't have a problem with generating it for themselves anyway.

Re:Fusion Confusion (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708245)

Yes, we were definitely confused. Back in the 80's, we were trying to do the fusion "cold".

Instead, this guy suggests now that we do the fusion "quick" instead.

I see an Ig Nobel coming for "quick" fusion.

Re:Fusion Confusion (3, Insightful)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708537)

isn't that an h-bomb?

Who needs oil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707753)

Fusion would break the stranglehold of petro-exporting countries in the Middle East as well as belligerent exporters like Russia and Iran.

Re:Who needs oil? (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707849)

Fusion would break the stranglehold of petro-exporting countries in the Middle East as well as belligerent exporters like Russia and Iran.

Then? The Banking vampire elite will need to generate new, ethnically-rationalized hate-conflict to keep us all at each other's throats - instead of removing their boot from our collective face.

Re:Who needs oil? (5, Insightful)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707961)

Why would they need to create a new hate conflict? There's plenty of that to go around as is. Arab vs. Jew, black vs. white, East vs. West...it's not like conflict wasn't around before banking cartels, you know.

Re:Who needs oil? (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708199)

Why would they need to create a new hate conflict? There's plenty of that to go around as is. Arab vs. Jew, black vs. white, East vs. West...it's not like conflict wasn't around before banking cartels, you know.

Sure, banking cartels just turned it into business practice.

Re:Who needs oil? (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707929)

Fusion would break the stranglehold of petro-exporting countries in the Middle East as well as belligerent exporters like Russia and Iran.

You're assuming said fusion plants would be radically cheaper to construct and operate than existing fission plants...something the anti-nuclear activists would probably complicate despite the obvious benefits of fusion over fission. Never underestimate the public fear of the word "nuclear" even if the processes involved are ridiculously different.

I can hear the rallying cry now: "They want to build a plant that works the same way as a thermonuclear bomb! Do you want a nuclear bomb IN YOUR BACKYARD???"

People are still terrified of fluoride in their water. Can you imagine their reponse to the above?

Re: Who needs oil? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708473)

Sure, there will be nuts, by never underestimate the power of cheap.

Re:Who needs oil? (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708487)

Can you imagine their reponse to the above?

So why are you putting the FUD out there? Sure people are ignorant, but It's not as if people can't know the difference between addition and division.

Re:Who needs oil? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708185)

It would also destroy the value of the dollar, which is boosted by OPEC.

Ready in 30 years (4, Insightful)

Moof123 (1292134) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707767)

As it always has, and likely always will be.

Re:Ready in 30 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707813)

I hope not. [helionenergy.com]

Re:Ready in 30 years (3, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707951)

We all hope not. And past performance is not an indication of future results. (Which is a good thing, in this case.) But the past several decades have pretty much beaten all the enthusiasm out of many of us.

Practical fusion would be a complete game changer in many different areas. Cheap enough, it would not only pretty much kill the oil industry, but may even make the "green" energy industry redundant. (Solar, wind, tides, geothermal.) Dirt cheap electricity, commonly available, would make electric vehicles a lot more interesting. Cheap centralized power would probably reverse the current tendency to diversify power and make upgrading our aging electric power infrastructure a priority. And so forth. Fusion is a very disruptive technology.

Maybe that's the real reason we don't have it yet.

Re:Ready in 30 years (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708079)

past performance is not an indication of future results.

That is a good rule of thumb when INVESTING. When doing science or engineering, it is nonsense. Past performance (also known as experimental results) are the ONLY reliable indicator of future results. There is little reason to expect cost effective fusion power in the next several decades.

Re:Ready in 30 years (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708561)

Past performance (also known as experimental results) are the ONLY reliable indicator of future results.

So you're saying that the bulletproof way of making something complicated work is to employ people who did something simple that worked? I'm really not sure what your sentence is supposed to mean. I would have thought that future technological results depend mostly on inherent problems with the goals that we're not aware of yet.

Re:Ready in 30 years (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708131)

Maybe that's the real reason we don't have it yet.

No. The "real" reason we don't have fusion power yet is because it requires creating a little piece of THE SUN inside a contained vessel. That's mind bogglingly difficult.

The folks at Lawrence Livermore took a nice big step earlier this year and nobody involves has been mysteriously murdered.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/fusion-energy-milestone-reported-by-california-scientists/2014/02/12/f511ed18-936b-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html

Re:Ready in 30 years (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708255)

Nobody needs to get murdered. You merely must create an environment where it's more profitable to research fusion energy than it is to commercialize fusion energy.

Re:Ready in 30 years (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708471)

Actually, its fairly trivial. I'm working on doing it in my back yard workshop actually. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

Fusion is very easy to attain if you know the physics involved.

Net energy surplus is something else entirely. Its the harvesting part that is killing it right at this moment, but much like building a workshop fusor is trivial now that its well understood, in 100 years, building a fusion reactor might not be a whole lot different. Fusion has some really beautiful requirements that make it naturally safe from a 'OMG THE PLANT IS GONNA BLOW CAPTAIN' perspective.

Re:Ready in 30 years (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707993)

As it always has, and likely always will be.

I don't think you are correct. Fusion seems to be quite doable to me. Right now we have some issues with materials and reactor designs, but the basic physics are in place and understood. I think we are closer than 30 years myself.

Of all the things we spend money on, the national ignition facility seems to be one of the best scientific investments we can make and IMHO we should redouble our investments in similar research equipment.

Re:Ready in 30 years (5, Funny)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708113)

Right now we have some issues with materials and reactor designs, but the basic physics are in place and understood.

The basic physics was in place and understood in 1952. They just had some issues with materials and reactor designs.

Re:Ready in 30 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708227)

Published in 1983 and still valid:

www.askmar.com/Robert%20Bussard/The%20Trouble%20With%20Fusion.pdf

Re:Ready in 30 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708307)

Published in 1983 and still invalid:

www.askmar.com/Robert%20Bussard/The%20Trouble%20With%20Fusion.pdf

Fixed that for you.

Re:Ready in 30 years (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708419)

I work in fusion, so I assure you that I and most of those I work with actually *agree* with this article to one extent or another. Optimistically let's look at the following: ITER is built and achieves breakeven (but no power tapping), then DEMO is built and demonstrates power to grid. You're still talking 20 billion dollars for a Fusion plant that (if built using Tokamak tech) will be fragile and prone to failure (disruptions, ELMs, and other physics issures). No company in their right mind will pay this sort of money for something that fission can do much cheaper and more reliably. IMHO fusion is the answer of the future, but will require technologies that do not yet exist (extreme radiation resistant materials, better superconductors, and so on). What the article points out is that current fusion research has the problem of being a physics solution looking for an engineering solution, where it should have been an engineering solution (i.e. aneutronic fusion) looking for a physics solution. The article, while harsh, is unfortunately very valid.

Re:Ready in 30 years (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708629)

You're arguing against Tokamak fusion. But what about, say, HiPER? Looks to me to be a much more comercializeable approach, yet it's still "mainstream" fusion, just a slight variant on inertial confinement ala NIF to make it much smaller / cheaper / easier to have a high repeat rate (smaller compression pulse + heating pulse rather than a NIF-style super-massive compression pulse). The only really unstudied physics aspect is how the heating pulse will interact with the highly compressed matter; NIF and pals have pretty much worked out the details of how laser compression works out. Beyond this, pretty much everything else is just engineering challenges for commercialization, such as high repeat rate lasers, high-rate hohlraum injection and targeting, etc.

I've often thought (different topic) about how one can get half or more of fusion's advantages via fission if you change the game around a bit. Fusion is promoted on being passively safe (it's very hard to keep the reaction *going*, it really wants to stop at all times), it leads to abundant fuel supplies, and there's little radioactive waste (no long-term waste). But what about subcritical fission reactors? Aka, a natural uranium or thorium fuel target being bombarded with a spallation neutron source. Without the spallation neutrons, there's just not enough neutrons for the reaction, so the second the beam gets shut off, the reactor shuts down, regardless of what else is going on. It'd be a fast reactor, aka a breeder, aka, your available fuel supplies increase by orders of magnitude. And your long-term waste would be much, much less in a well-designed reactor. Spallation neutron sources have long been proposed as a way to eliminate long-lived nuclear waste by transmuting it into shorter-lived elements.

Re:Ready in 30 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708513)

This is article has nothing to do with Polywell or Bussard. It was written by an MIT professor.

Did I miss the breakthrough? (4, Interesting)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707771)

Did I miss the part where the human race had a miraculous breakthrough in fusion technology? Even setting aside the expected issues with neutron radiation (sorry, no Mr. Fusion Home Energy Kit) there isn't any fusion technology today that is even close to breakeven on an experimental basis. As for commercial operations...

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707787)

What you've missed about fusion technology could fill a journal. Maybe even more than one.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707837)

" If JET can reach break-even point, there’s a very good chance that the massive ITER reactor currently being built in France will be able to obtain the holy grail of everlasting green power generation: self-sustaining fusion.

Dozens and dozens of journal summaries with that miraculous word 'if'

sPh

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707869)

And, of course, there's an ENORMOUS step from "breakeven" to "commercially viable". Heck, there's a huge step from "ignition" to "commercially viable".

What we know about tokamaks makes commercial viability extremely unlikely, even if the physics problems all are solved.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708005)

I know this is an unpopular viewpoint, but I'm beginning to think that Tokamak is a way to funnel tax dollars into researcher's pockets. If we ever do achieve practical commercial fusion, we may look back at the Tokamak like modern pilots look back at the manned ornithopter attempts of the 1800's.

But if the Tokamak ever is made to be commercially viable, we're probably talking about a few gigantic power generators, which would mean we probably need to do something about that decades-old power line infrastructure.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708013)

It's not a "physics" problem to solve, it's an engineering problem. The Physics are fairly well understood. What we need now is the equipment to be engineered which will require some new engineered materials and a few engineering breakthroughs..

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

apraetor (248989) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708305)

They talk about the break-even point because it's the key to fusion power. If you can find a thermodynamically-viable way to accomplish that, then generating excess power to run our world is just a matter of tuning (unless a new problem crops up) the system to provide some excess power, even if it's not very much. Any amount of excess will be useful, because you can scale up the plant to whatever size is necessary to generate useful quantities of excess power. I'm a ChemE, not Physics post-doc, so correct me if I'm mistaken. :)

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708451)

Can you get practical amounts of excess power for less than can be provided by other sources in a rigorous total cost calculation?

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (0)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708003)

What you've missed about fusion technology could fill a journal. Maybe even more than one.

It already has... Oh that was your point.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707825)

Yup. The rest of us have been enjoying cheap and clean energy from our fusion reactors for a while now. Sorry you missed it... we were going to tell you, but got distracted piloting our flying cars and jetpacks all day.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707871)

Darn. Just this once I was hoping to be one of the Kool Kids.

sPh

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707969)

You missed the part where world leaders became practical people and put the needs of the many at top priority. Shortly after, they decided that the taming of fusion power was a project worthy of the resources of humanity and funded it accordingly.

These tragically fictitious events are antecedent to the breakthrough that you also missed.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1, Insightful)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708075)

Fusion power research is being funded at least $20 billion/year worldwide, and has been for over 20 years. If you can point to some concrete areas where more cash would help?

sPh

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

styrotech (136124) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708309)

Did I miss the part where the human race had a miraculous breakthrough in fusion technology?

Maybe not miraculous breakthroughs, but we've been getting better at directly utilising our only currently usable fusion reactor.

Then again it is ultimately responsible for nearly all our other energy sources too.

Re:Did I miss the breakthrough? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708463)

I'm pinning all my hopes on this project [indiegogo.com] .

From the updates:

In a July 23 editorial [nature.com] , Nature magazine has joined the calls to redirect fusion funding to aneutronic fusion—fusion that produces no radioactive waste. Speaking of the difficulties facing the ITER tokamak program, the editorial urged that, “Given these realities, the prudent course for the world’s funding agencies would be to support research into alternative fusion fuels, such as deuterium-helium-3, or proton-boron-11—which require higher temperatures to ignite, but produce very few neutrons—as well as alternative reactor designs that would be simpler, cheaper and more in line with the kind of plant that power companies might buy.”

Nature specifically urged that one of the projects that should be considered for government funding is “Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in Middlesex, New Jersey, which is trying to exploit a configuration known as a dense plasma focus to build an extremely compact reactor that does not emit neutrons.” Read more here [lawrencevi...hysics.com] .

Fusion Has Already Failed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707797)

an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels

This is contrary to what we know about the cost of fusion power. Fusion powerplants are going to be hideously complex, very expensive, and probably very unreliable (due to the complexity). If a study came to the conclusion fusion is going to be cost competitive, it cooked the books somewhere.

Look at ITER: $20B and rising, it will only make 500 MW(th) -- six times less thermal energy than a 1 GW(e) fission reactor -- and it doesn't even include the advanced materials needed to withstand commercial reactor levels of integrated neutron flux.

The sad truth about fusion is that it was never going to succeed, and it already far too late to compete with alternatives. By the time a commercial fusion reactor might be built, solar will totally kill it (even with the cost of diurnal load leveling.)

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707873)

Look at ITER: $20B and rising, it will only make 500 MW(th) -- six times less thermal energy than a 1 GW(e) fission reactor -- and it doesn't even include the advanced materials needed to withstand commercial reactor levels of integrated neutron flux.

Uh, ITER is a government project. Of course it's expensive and doesn't achieve much.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (1)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707927)

Yeah, I'm always excited about garage experimenters running a 500 MW neutron source away from the heavy hand of the government.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708067)

The government does 10's of thousands of project a year. ON time, within budget with little waste.

the ITER is using extremely cutting edge experimental reactor. Of course there are unknowns.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708467)

But are there unknown knowns? LOL

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708081)

Nevertheless, fusion would make for an awesome ship engine. It's probably worth studying just for that.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (5, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708147)

Look at ITER: $20B and rising, it will only make 500 MW(th) -- six times less thermal energy than a 1 GW(e) fission reactor -- and it doesn't even include the advanced materials needed to withstand commercial reactor levels of integrated neutron flux.

Well, that's ITER's point now isn't it? We know what is required to make fusion work, we just don't know how long we can sustain a reaction because we do not understand how the large neutron flux will affect the materials in the container and we still have difficulties maintaining the containment. It's an engineering problem now, not something that is clearly impossible.

IMHO, investments in such experiments should be expanded, by both government and industry. Just like getting a man on the moon, We need a JFK'esk commitment to making this work.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708249)

That's because ITER is a research project. We'll use it to conduct research that will help understand and develop solutions on the way to a commercial reactor.

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708515)

Look at ITER: $20B and rising, it will only make 500 MW(th) -- six times less thermal energy than a 1 GW(e) fission reactor -- and it doesn't even include the advanced materials needed to withstand commercial reactor levels of integrated neutron flux.

International Thermonuclear *Experimental* Reactor

Re:Fusion Has Already Failed (3, Interesting)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708595)

That's the kind of thinking that led navies across the world to build dreadnaughts. which could be sunk by a couple of airplanes dropping torpedoes.
Fusion in it's current configuration, and our current state of knowledge, sure it's a joke.

But, going with the airplane example; you're looking at the Wright Brother's first plane, and saying "nope, will never be useful, look at it, it can only fly 3 feet off the ground for a couple hundred yards". Solar panels 30-40 years ago were laughable as well mind you.

Knowledge has a way of building on itself in an exponential fashion. Once the first working (energy positive) reactor is built, you can bet it will be only a matter of months before that design gets improved upon by a thousand different scientists.

But yes, short-sighted people like yourself are what drive the issues in the US. If it doesn't go from drawing board to mature product instantaneously it's clearly a waste of time, effort, and money.

Wait for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707809)

mdsolar submitting a poorly thought out jingoistic rebuttal in 3... 2... 1...

Fusion is not the answer (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707853)

The answer is magnets. Lots and lots of magnets.

Re:Fusion is not the answer (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708153)

Funny because the Fusion solution requires magnets, really strong ones.

here we go again, power plants in 10 to 20 years (0)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707861)

which we've heard for 50 years.

One word... (0)

GrantRobertson (973370) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707877)

"Thorium"

Re:One word... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707897)

Another word... "Idiot"

The word is "neutrons." (1)

localroger (258128) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707925)

Although there is some lip service to seeking "aneutronic" fusion the truth is that fusion is so hard to achieve that we don't have the luxury of being picky about the reactions we aim for, and all the practical ones generate a metric fuckton of neutrons, enough to be lethal even on the other side of thick shielding, enough to induce dangerous secondary radioactivity in many elements, and enough to knock enough atoms out of their place in metal crystalline lattices to seroiusly weaken structures made from elements that dont' become radioactive too. It's a serious enough problem that the first and most important clue that Pons and Fleischmann had not achieved cold fusion was that they were still alive.

Re:One word... (1)

jmd (14060) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708593)

Yes. Thorium. Should have been done long ago.

The power of the future... (2)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707879)

Fusion power is roughly 20 years away from being viable...and has been for the last 40 years LOL.

Seriously, I'll start worrying about proliferation risks when a commercially viable fusion reactor DESIGN is created. Building one -- assuming it's ever viable to begin with -- would take years, which is plenty of time to address proliferation concerns before it came online.

Re:The power of the future... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707983)

That pretty much sums it up. There is no reason to have any expectation fusion will be viable in our lifetimes, and its not clear what we would really learn from ITER that would change that prospectus.

Re:The power of the future... (1)

Lennie (16154) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708007)

I'm starting to think it would be easier to solve the energy storage problem than get a working fusion power.

Because it looks like solar is on a similar exponential improvement cycle as Moore's law:

https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

Re:The power of the future... (1)

Animats (122034) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708177)

Fusion power is roughly 20 years away from being viable...and has been for the last 40 years LOL.

Longer than that. Fusion power has been hyped since the 1950s. From the article:

Nuclear fusion could come into play as soon as 2050

Heard that one before.

Fusion power has some real problems. After half a century of trying, nobody has a long-running sustained fusion reactor, even an experimental one. The whole "inertial fusion" thing turned out to be a cover for bomb research. There's a lot of skepticism about whether ITER will do anything useful. It's not clear that a fusion reactor will be cost-effective even with a near-zero fuel cost. (Fission reactors already have that problem.) It's really frustrating.

Fusion reactors are a pain to engineer. They have a big vacuum chamber with high-energy particles reacting inside, and huge cryogenic magnets outside. This is far more complicated than a fission reactor, and is why the cost of ITER keeps going up.

Re:The power of the future... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708207)

That's the ITER's goal. Construction has started.

Seriously, we may be 20 years out yet, but I don't think you have a full grasp on where we really are on this. We have a design and are working the details of the materials and understanding how the materials will react to the neutron flux created by the reaction. There are still valid questions about how viable this design will be, but it's fairly certain that it will work and produce more energy than it takes to get the reaction going.

Re:The power of the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708643)

From what I gather all these predictions are based on other types of industry and development budgets. IF you fund it at a sustainable pace for 20 years, it'd probably work. if you fund it at 1/50th of a sustainable pace, you'll never get there, like what we've seen for the past 50 years.

Big fusion reactor unnecessary for boosting (4, Informative)

erice (13380) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707907)

Fusion reactors capable of producing net power are big, or seem to be being as we haven't actually built one yet.

However, if you just want to produce tritium for a boosted fission bomb, you don't need to generate net power. A farnsworth fusor [makezine.com] will do and they are small and inconspicuous.

As for deuterium: Deuterium is produced for industrial, scientific and military purposes, by starting with ordinary water—a small fraction of which is naturally-occurring heavy water—and then separating out the heavy water by the Girdler sulfide process, distillation, or other methods. [wikipedia.org]

So, no point in securing your fusion reactor because the bad guys don't have any real motivation to break in. At least, not to steal anything.

Re:Big fusion reactor unnecessary for boosting (1)

FutureRobertOverlord (3751905) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708063)

More importantly, it also depends on the design of fusion plants, since the current plan with tokamak-style magnetic confinement fusion reactors (like ITER) is to use lithium to produce tritium that will be consumed in the reactor. There might be more of a risk associated with inertial confinement (like the NIF), but I think you're right that the proliferation concerns from fusion are less worrisome, particularly when compared to a fast breeder fission reactor.

Serious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707931)

If all the resources (funding, brain power, political support, etc) went into Gen 4 or Gen 5 reactor designs using liquid rather than solid fuels, would LFTR's or other such reactors be in production and/or online right now?

"The only downside will be the transition period"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707937)

"The only downside will be the transition period"?!?!?!

WHAT

THE

FUCK!?!?!

Oh yeah, other than, "It don't fucking work yet."

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Tritium and Deuterium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707941)

The article's concern about Tritium and Deuterium is misguided.

Deuterium is commonly available on the open market:
https://www.unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=135

Tritium is harder to get, but can still be formed by several well understood methods:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium#Production

Anyone with the skills and equipment to build a nuclear weapon, who wants these two compounds, likely already has them.

Existing Fusion Use is Practical & Non-polutin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707955)

This amounts to using the power that already comes from the Sun &, in effect, the results of the Sun on the Earth or under the seas.

You can get power from solar energy on the surface, wind above or deep ocean currents and they all work.

Deep ocean power seems like the least disruptive and those current run 24x7. It is the easiest to design for submerged turbines and they are relatively easy to service, with oil platform technology already in use. No unproven technologies, no radiation, no birds killed with solar collectors or wind turbine blades.

Of course this is too easy for politicians and the people looking for trillions of $s in government handouts as deep ocean power isn't "sexy" or supported by some of the big Fortune 500 power entities.

Before fusion is completed successfully.. (0)

suman28 (558822) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707957)

We must all say F-U-S-I-O-N-H-O. The timing has to be precise, and our index fingers have to carefully touch our neighbours' fingers in an exact dance. You can learn more about this here [wikia.com] :)

We put all our eggs into the ITER basket. (1)

quax (19371) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707959)

Other interesting and scientifically sound approaches are limping along on pitiful drips of venture money e.g. General Fusion [wavewatching.net] .

And while some public money goes into Polywell research [blogspot.ca] , it's produced on a dime when compared to ITER.

Don't mean to knock the work that's done to advance the Tokamak design, but it shouldn't be the only game in town.

Re:We put all our eggs into the ITER basket. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708213)

Tokamaks aren't the only thing that we research.

Stellarators
RFPs
Spheromaks
IC

We, the scientists that actually study fusion, don't waste our time with things we know won't work like polywell and general fusion.

Re:We put all our eggs into the ITER basket. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708687)

Could you elaborate on why those particular designs are unworkable? And possibly also on why the others are considered to be likely candidates?

It can be rather difficult to find useful explanations about this sort of thing without actually studying fusion physics.

Still oil left. Won't happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47707975)

People are stupid. Politicians are worse. Film at 11.

It'll be figured out when there is a need. There is no need now.

Climate change? We'll figure out how to fix that, too, with all the power from the fusion reactors.

Ass backwards, but that's how these things go.

Fusion gnomes (1)

Snufu (1049644) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707977)

Step 1: Collect hydrogen
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Profit!

Not realistic (1)

amightywind (691887) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707985)

What about fusion has ever been quick? Better to make use of what we have. Build Keystone XL!

I have a compelling case for an alternative (1)

rdelsambuco (552369) | about a month and a half ago | (#47707995)

Magic pixie hair. As everyone knows, magic pixie hair, if harvested correctly, could supply all the energy needs of an exponentially growing global economy for centuries, nay, millenia. Engineers just need to figure out how to find the pixes, and harvest their hair. I'm a compelling idea man.

solar PV fusion collectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708017)

solar PV panels are essentially fusion collectors on your roof.

Ionization neutralization problem (1)

brambus (3457531) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708027)

I'd really appreciate if somebody with deeper fusion knowledge could take a look at this paper: http://www.aneutronicfusion.or... [aneutronicfusion.org]
It's possible that it's wrong, but if true, it would mean that tokamak fusion is fundamentally impossible (which would suck for ITER). The paper is by a bunch of alternative fusion research approach guys, so it's possible they're not objective here (not cold fusion, that's bunk).

a few grams of tritium a problem? (2)

slew (2918) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708051)

If it were only just getting a few grams of tritium, it isn't that hard to do. On the scale of a few grams you can just get something like this baby [tyne-engineering.com] and hide it in a commercial seawater desalinization plant to get a few grams after a bit of time (and energy)...

Of course that isn't the most economical way to do it. I think a common military-industrial method today is to put lithium control rods into an experimental-sized fission reactor and collect the tritium gas that comes off... Still no fusion necessary...

They can produce tritium at fission plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708077)

If bomb makers have access to fission plants, they can make tritium. It doesn't require fusion.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

I'm also not convinced that eliminating fission plants would make it impossible to make nuclear bombs. It might just mean that they'd need to find a new way of generating enriched uranium -- say by a variation of the method they use to make tritium from fusion.

In other words, I don't know that there is any point to requiring a quick switch.

They can produce tritium at fission plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708547)

Aren't uranium (as opposed to plutonium) bombs pretty bulky?

Re:They can produce tritium at fission plants (2)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708627)

Aren't uranium (as opposed to plutonium) bombs pretty bulky?

Not really. The critical mass for U235 is 50 kg or so [wikipedia.org] , while for PU240 it's about 40 kg. Moreover, a U235 bomb is way easier to make, because it doesn't have a predetonation problem like plutonium. Just take two hunks of U235 and drive one into the other with an explosive charge. Bang. City gone. This was the way Little Boy worked. It was so simple they didn't even bother to test it before dropping it on Hiroshima. You can't do that with PU240: the neutrons get so thick as it nears criticality [wikipedia.org] that it blows the charge apart in a sub-critical burst. This is why you have to use very sophisticated shaped charges to assure a perfectly spherical implosion.

PU240 is easier to produce. U235 is easier to build a bomb with. It has proved very fortunate for the world that these two things are true.

Fusion utilisation is a threshold event. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708155)

We either pass it or we pass away, so yeah better get the sucker working ASAP.

Huh? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708291)

the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs

The primary issue of proliferation is getting the bomb grade uranium in the first place. Fission power by itself doesn't lead to weapons proliferation so long as enrichment processes are restricted to producing only 'reactor grade' fuel. Given a source of weapons grade material, the availability of deuterium/tritium boosters aren't going to make a damned bit of difference to rogue states trying to build bombs. Crappy, low yield bombs will suit their purposes just fine.

So badly misguided (5, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a month and a half ago | (#47708299)

That has to be one of the most misguided ideas I've ever seen...

Worry about using deuterium and tritium being used to boost the output of a fission weapon is like worrying about whether a heavily armed maniac's getaway car can do 120mph rather than 115mph. The basic problem isn't the speed of the get away car. If a proliferator can get their hands on sufficient U235 or Pu in the first place, they're 99.99996% of the way towards their goal - the extra .00003 provided by the availability of deuterium and tritium is all but meaningless because when it comes to proliferators it's the mere fact that they have a weapon in the first place that's the problem. That they can now build two or more, or increase the yield of a single weapon simply doesn't count for much when even a low kiloton range weapon is sufficient for their needs. (Which is deterrence generally, or failing that attacks against non military area targets. They aren't trying to crack open Cheyenne Mountain.)

Need to spend more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708417)

If you want to accelerate the development of fusion power then you need to invest more money to do more research. We should not be afraid to fail. And we should not put all of our eggs in one basket.

All Political Headline, All the Time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47708549)

"If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly"

This is the excuse every politician uses to spend YOUR TAX DOLLARS.

Of course there is nothing in it for him or his campaign contributors or his corporations in his state or district (or for Pelosi's husband for instance), so why wouldn't we allow our politicians to ramrod this through by saying "we need to do it quickly.", but why:

1. The FIRST answer is is it not proven to be economically possible as of yet.

2. Politicians rarely pick winners, just graft partners

3. Entrepreneurial behavior overwhelmingly produce the innovations to make society work and always have done so. If it was up to the Pharoahs, all transport would be human, camel or donkey. It was the Phoenicians who invented the fast high capacity cargo sailing ships that transformed trade in the Mediterranean.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?