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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the back-to-life dept.

Power 147

mdsolar writes with good news for the National Spherical Torus Experiment. Tucked away from major roadways and nestled amid more than 80 acres of forest sits a massive warehouse-like building where inside, a device that can produce temperatures hotter than the sun has sat cold and quiet for more than two years. But the wait is almost over for the nuclear fusion reactor to get back up and running at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "We're very excited and we're all anxious to turn that machine back on," said Adam Cohen, deputy director for operations at PPPL. The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) has been shut down since 2012 as it underwent a $94 million upgrade that will make it what officials say will be the most powerful fusion facility of its kind in the world. It is expected to be ready for operations in late winter or early spring, Cohen said.

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Spherical Torus (0)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#47746865)

Spherical Torus? Is that some sort of shape that has 4 or more (spatial) dimensions?

Re:Spherical Torus (4, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47746879)

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747007)

In other words, it's a torus. It may not be of the standard donut dimensions people are accustomed to when they think torus, but it's still a torus. It's like saying that a rectangle with dimensions of 50x51 is a square-like rectangle. Simply calling it a rectangle would do.

Re:Spherical Torus (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747287)

Newsflash: humans use approximations when convenient for explaining something, and do not use strict definitions at all times.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 4 months ago | (#47747319)

It's like saying the Earth is almost spherical, instead of saying it's a lump of matter with an undetermined shape.

Re:Spherical Torus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747911)

It's like saying the Earth is almost spherical, instead of saying it's a lump of matter with an undetermined shape.

In other words, it's an oblate spheroid.

Re:Spherical Torus (2, Informative)

geogob (569250) | about 4 months ago | (#47747567)

In other words, it's a torus.

No it is not. There is a very clear defintion to what a torus is, and this is not. It may be seen as a torus-like shape, but not a torus. Proper use of terminology is important in science and engineering.

It may not be of the standard donut dimensions people are accustomed to when they think torus, but it's still a torus.

Again, its not a question of what people are accustomed to, but rather a question of definition. And no, the shape named "thorus" is not defined through the shape of a donut.

It's like saying that a rectangle with dimensions of 50x51 is a square-like rectangle. Simply calling it a rectangle would do.

False analogy. Both linguisting points are absolutely not comparable. In the case of the shape of the Tokamak built at PPPL, it is neither a sphere nor a torus. It's something else, which has no specific name. In your analogy, the 50x51 surface IS a rectangle. A better analogy would be, assuming there is no name such as rectangle for a 50x51 surface with straight angles, calling it a square-like box.

Pick your battles (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47747805)

Proper use of terminology is important in science and engineering.

When we get to any actual science or engineering then I will pretend to care. Until then it really is not important in a forum like slashdot to anyone but a few overly pedantic people who don't know when to pick their battles. Just because people here generally care about science and engineering doesn't mean we can't deal with a little obvious imprecision in a description of a shape. No one will be negatively affected by the fact that it isn't truly a torus and most of us are well aware that it isn't actually a torus by the proper defintion. It's like pointing out that the Saint Louis Arch is actually a catenary [wikipedia.org] instead of a parabola as is commonly assumed. Interesting but ultimately not genuinely important 99.999999999% of the time.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47748129)

Topologically, a teacup with a handle is a torus. No BS.

Re:Spherical Torus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748219)

Topologically, a teacup with a handle is a torus. No BS.

Wrong. A teacup is homeologically equivalent to a torus. That doesn't make a teacup a torus.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47748379)

What other equivalence is there?

Re: Spherical Torus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748485)

moral equivalence...

(What a genuinely pathetic conversation.)

How come no one mentions that the world's most powerful fusion reactor consumes more energy than it produces?

Re: Spherical Torus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47748631)

A cup of hot tea can produce infinite improbability which is better.

Re: Spherical Torus (3, Insightful)

Zalbik (308903) | about 4 months ago | (#47749165)

How come no one mentions that the world's most powerful fusion reactor consumes more energy than it produces?

The first airplane only flew 120 feet. Clearly air travel should never have been researched after such an abysmal failure in one of the first attempts.

Re: Spherical Torus (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47749699)

The first airplane only flew 120 feet.

... and sixty years later we were walking on the moon. Sixty years after the first fusion reactor, where are we?

Re: Spherical Torus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47749703)

The first airplanes did not fly.
The pilot did not go for a short ride with plane prototype 0.001alpha.

Re: Spherical Torus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47750035)

"Clearly air travel should never have been researched after such an abysmal failure in one of the first attempts."

Clearly the govt should not have wasted taxpayers money and done the research. Thank goodness it didnt.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47748403)

Resembles my last X-Ray: Digestive track of an overweight dude.

Re:Spherical Torus (4, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | about 4 months ago | (#47746961)

Spherical Torus?

I wondered the same thing. However, the National Spherical Torus Experiment web site [pppl.gov] has this explanation:

The magnetic field in NSTX forms a plasma that is a torus since there is a hole through the center, but where the outer boundary of the plasma is almost spherical in shape, hence the name “spherical torus” or “ST”.

There are also some links to more detailed descriptions.

Re:Spherical Torus (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 4 months ago | (#47747013)

Not to be confused with a spherical taurus in a vacuum.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 4 months ago | (#47747303)

I've read of tokamak's plasma described as a pretty good vacuum.

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747019)

Maybe it's a moon sign....

Re:Spherical Torus (2, Funny)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 4 months ago | (#47747079)

I'm an Elliptical Pisces,

what's your sign?

Re:Spherical Torus (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 4 months ago | (#47747795)

With a name like that, expect things to go squarely pear-shaped...

Public cynicism about fusion (3, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47746871)

Public cynicism about fusion seems to have peaked at almost exactly the same time as there are a lot of new ideas and experiments ready to go.

Even the needlessly big, expensive NIF has hit some amazing recent roadmarks recently(scientific net positive), while at the same time their funding is being slashed. Lots of new clever experiments seem to be promising(like Larwenceville plasma physics' Focus Fusion record heat density), in an era where no one in policy positions seems interested in chasing the tech.

I'm glad Princeton is getting back in the game, but everything I hear says there won't be enough funding to actually get the staffing they need.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47746895)

Fusion is a money pit. We've been chasing the mythical beast of fusion for decades and are not any closer to it this century than we were last century. Even putting aside the joke that was Pons and Fleishman, this is nothing more than a wild goose chase and Ponzi scheme.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47746915)

And here is that cynicism personified. Notice how anonymous coward here doesn't mention any sort of concrete goals he thinks should have been met, and haven't. Notice how he talks about a money pit, but doesn't talk about allocation. It always always always reads as repeating complaints you've heard somewhere else.

Tell me, how much slippage on the NIF timeline would be too much? Or ITER? What scientific results do you think have been unsatisfactory?

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47746947)

It helps to frame the discussion in terms of economics. If you take every dollar bill that has ever been spent on fusion research, wadded them up into a big ball, and threw them into a wood burning furnace, you would have a better return on your investment than you have right now. Hell, you could buy lottery tickets and have a better ROI.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 4 months ago | (#47747045)

Isn't that true of pretty much every technology that's still in the development stage? There was a time when microprocessors weren't worth the materials they were made with, but they seem to have paid off in the long run. If we can get fusion to pay off, the benefits could potentially far outweigh what we've gotten from the microprocessor.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747447)

No. Microprocessors were pretty much instantly useful and weren't in development for decades before they were useful.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2)

geogob (569250) | about 4 months ago | (#47747589)

It's because of AC like you I need a cushion on my wall. Else my head would hurt a little bit more every few days.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747819)

Why? He was 100% correct. You can get 2+2=4 from a pile of rocks.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747655)

No, they were not instantly useful, for one, they couldn't be let to get hot, for two, storage was a pain in the arse, for three, they evolve slowly, and are still in development, something any techy would know. I would like to ask, do you even follow technology and science? Or do you simply s**tpost on fusion?

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748461)

Really? The vacuum tube was invented in 1907. The FET transistor was invented in 1925. Thee point-contact transistor in 1947. The first 'high frequency' one in 1953 (60Hz). Digital computers appearing in the 40s but with mechanical equivalents decades earlier.

The first microprocessor wasn't until 1968.

And the power of those first ones was still limited - hence you needed rooms full of them to be able to do a modest amount of 'useful' work, such that the smallest school calculator now is more powerful than the most powerful computer in the world at that time. Most of what we would consider 'useful' now has only possible in the past couple of decades.

So really... they weren't in development for decades before they were useful???

Besides, fusion is a little different to compare - the transistors and early microprocessors weren't useful for much, but were useful for some specific tasks so we got immediate gains while still during their development. Fusion requires you to hit reach a special point of development before it becomes useful - where you generate more power than you consume. Until that point it's not useful yet because you're running at a loss.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748933)

No. They were useful right away. There was no "room full" of microprocessors.

And even if there were, they were still useful! How can you not see that?

They had radio within a decade of the vacuum tube, fusion still hasn't lit a christmas tree in half a century!

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748021)

"There was a time when microprocessors weren't worth the materials they were made with"

That claim will need quite some substantiating.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47749105)

I think you'll be waiting for as long as fusion power has been promised!

This kind of story offends the prevailing geek narrative that somehow all technologies are just a question of "willing" them into existence.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47750017)

No such narrative exists. Stop making up strawmen.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#47749969)

There was a day when 'real computers' ran hot, requiring cooling water, raised floors etc.

The first cold running, air cooled computers were just lab curiosities. Of course in hindsight they were hugely valuable, for where they took us. But at the time they were as useful as tits on a boar.

The definition of microprocessor is a little nebulous. Single chip isn't even generally true today.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2)

lostmongoose (1094523) | about 4 months ago | (#47747191)

It helps to frame the discussion in terms of economics. If you take every dollar bill that has ever been spent on fusion research, wadded them up into a big ball, and threw them into a wood burning furnace, you would have a better return on your investment than you have right now. Hell, you could buy lottery tickets and have a better ROI.

That's an awful lot of words to say exactly nothing. You would have achieved better ROI by not posting at all, if you can't be bothered to actually respond.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748381)

Newsflash: it's not an easy project to solve.

It's also not been funded well enough, and much of the technology required has only been invented in the past couple of decades. The money spent on fusion development to date is tiny compared with other spending - for instance all the money spent on the Iraq war in a single day is probably equivalent to the fusion research funding in the past 50 years.

There have been projects that recently generated more power than they consumed, for a short period of time. The next generation under construction are expected to be able to run for usefully long periods of time producing power.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 months ago | (#47747047)

It may be cynicism, but it is well placed cynicism. I'm all for funding fusion research, but the reality is that we are decades away from seeing anything remotely economically viable.

And the other reality is that we do have solar which is already economically viable but still behind fossil fuels (if you forget about externalites). If I were king of the world, I'd fund solar heavily because it can do good NOW. Serious good. World saving good.

And, yes, it is a false dichotomy to say we can only fund one. But the other reality is that we have only so much money for the sciences and one dollar spent on one project is one not spent on the other. If I were King of the world I'd also cut military spending and fund sciences much more heavily.

But, alas, I am not King of the world.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747097)

It may be cynicism, but it is well placed cynicism. I'm all for funding fusion research, but the reality is that we are decades away from seeing anything remotely economically viable.

And the other reality is that we do have solar which is already economically viable but still behind fossil fuels (if you forget about externalites). If I were king of the world, I'd fund solar heavily because it can do good NOW. Serious good. World saving good.

And, yes, it is a false dichotomy to say we can only fund one. But the other reality is that we have only so much money for the sciences and one dollar spent on one project is one not spent on the other. If I were King of the world I'd also cut military spending and fund sciences much more heavily.

But, alas, I am not King of the world.

Uh-oh, someone has been drinking the renewables koolaid again.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 months ago | (#47747115)

Uh-oh, someone has been drinking the renewables koolaid again.

Thank you for your well-reasoned, informative response. Based on your information, I am changing my entire worldview. Thanks again, Anonymous Coward!

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747109)

And, yes, it is a false dichotomy to say we can only fund one. But the other reality is that we have only so much money for the sciences and one dollar spent on one project is one not spent on the other.

Of all major industries, energy has the smallest percentage total revenue directed to funding research. That's already hinting at a problem.

And there's the fact that a fuckton of that is going to "exploration", i.e. finding more fossil fuels we don't really need.

Solar is good. Solar is wonderful. Solar has legitimate problems too. You seem to be perfectly willing to sell out the long term future for the medium term, which is the weirdest case of short-sightedness I've ever seen.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (5, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 months ago | (#47747211)

You seem to be perfectly willing to sell out the long term future for the medium term, which is the weirdest case of short-sightedness I've ever seen.

And at this point, I think you are deliberately misstating my argument. Fusion is a dream at this point that the most knowledgeable in the sciences say is at least 60-80 years away from economic viability. Don't believe me? Look at the ITER roadmap, publically available. And the reality is that the visionaries are usually overoptimistic. You and I will be dead before it becomes viable and our children as well. And that is assuming this becomes viable as there is always a risk when talking about advanced tech like this. Even if you are convinced the science will work out, political upheaval could mean that we can't see the project through to the end. Just imagine a more indebted US and Europe having to cut science and a China that no longer has a market to sell to and collapses on its own centrally managed bureaucracy. Insert your own worst case scenario and you see why century long, multi billion dollar research projects are risky.

So, fund it? Sure. But not at the expense of something that is a sure thing and will have a huge benefit now. You state that solar is somehow selling out the long-term... unless you mean over a billion years from now when the Sun goes nova, I'm not sure how this is remotely accurate.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747909)

And at this point, I think you are deliberately misstating my argument. Fusion is a dream at this point that the most knowledgeable in the sciences say is at least 60-80 years away from economic viability. Don't believe me? Look at the ITER roadmap, publically available.

And how much of that is precisely because we keep cutting funding or simply not devoting the resources that could make it viable in, say, 20 years? No, fusion is seen as a long-term investment so there's every incentive to make long-term funding decisions that seen no reason to get a result in 20 years vs 60 years if it means spending three times as much (at least) in 20 years. That it creates some sort of morale problem seems to be missed or ignored.

And the reality is that the visionaries are usually overoptimistic.

No kidding. You're playing the part of visionary too, btw.

You and I will be dead before it becomes viable and our children as well. And that is assuming this becomes viable as there is always a risk when talking about advanced tech like this.

Certainly, the way we keep putting off funding, that's pretty much a given. The real issue is that solar isn't a viable option for mass deployment as energy needs grow--there's too much daily variability which can't average out without massive energy storage tech (which we aren't pushing hard enough either)--and neither nuclear nor fossil fuels are really long term answers. But if all you care about is you and your kids? Move to an island and become self-sufficient.

Even if you are convinced the science will work out, political upheaval could mean that we can't see the project through to the end. Just imagine a more indebted US and Europe having to cut science and a China that no longer has a market to sell to and collapses on its own centrally managed bureaucracy.

The US and Europe are already cutting science funding and China is developing itself as its own market, including massive nuclear/solar/whatever short-term energy it needs so it doesn't have to rely upon the US/Europe--and honestly, given how its trying to transform itself by urbanization and consumption, the US/Europe market aren't near large enough so it inherently has to rely upon itself. Very few countries are thinking that long term, but if any country could be said to be in a position, China is actually the one taking the lead and working on a 50 year project [theguardian.com] with gusto. Perhaps we'll be lucky and China will see the need for fusion and the US/Europe can buy the tech when they're done?

Insert your own worst case scenario and you see why century long, multi billion dollar research projects are risky.

Everything is risky. But the real question is if we don't spend multi-billions on such research projects, do we really gain anything? More money in the bank? No, in the long-term we need massive research projects precisely because, just like VC, some of the work pays off so massively to make all the waste worthwhile. Hell, that's the foundation of accepting capitalism--where tons of money is wasted infighting and fueling companies that'll implode from inefficiency--over more regulated systems--and it's not merely a question of not trusting any one organization since distributed socialistic programs along with government oversight would be both a dead weight loss and yet undoubtedly better than the current self-made conglomerates. But, I digress.

So, fund it? Sure. But not at the expense of something that is a sure thing and will have a huge benefit now. You state that solar is somehow selling out the long-term... unless you mean over a billion years from now when the Sun goes nova, I'm not sure how this is remotely accurate.

The sun doesn't shine in the dark. The sun doesn't shine nearly as well in the space of New York City (or the North East of the US) vs the Great Plains--energy vs population density. Mass urbanization is counter to effective use of solar (that needs to blanket every square inch of property). The suburbs are worth more as commercial and residential space than solar and consume more than they'll produce even if you mandate solar on all buildings. There is no hope of miniaturizing solar technology since it inherently needs a certain area for energy collection. And all sorts of complex schemes of space mirrors, batteries, etc? A mass amount of effort to account for all the deficiencies of solar.

Solar is great at a medium term solution. And with fusion as the backup power, it could be a central part of long-term energy technology. But it alone (or with its cousin wind) is not the solution and trying to take money away from fusion because solar is viable now misses the point. Fusion is all but provably viable (the largest part of proving viability is figuring out the damage of radiation and the cost of rebuilding fusion reactors, as everything else is merely a matter of scaling up to increase per unit efficiency). And if it's not viable, then it's a good use of money to spend even a trillion dollars now to find out and seek alternatives than to make it an endless money hole.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748059)

The real issue is that solar isn't a viable option for mass deployment as energy needs grow--there's too much daily variability which can't average out without massive energy storage tech (which we aren't pushing hard enough either)--and neither nuclear nor fossil fuels are really long term answers. But if all you care about is you and your kids? Move to an island and become self-sufficient.

Blatantly false. It would require an investment in infrastructure to efficiently transport energy around larger areas of the world, but solar by itself could meet our future energy needs by itself or almost by itself. When is the last time that the entire world was cloudy at the same time?

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748523)

And how much of that is precisely because we keep cutting funding or simply not devoting the resources that could make it viable in, say, 20 years? No, fusion is seen as a long-term investment so there's every incentive to make long-term funding decisions that seen no reason to get a result in 20 years vs 60 years if it means spending three times as much (at least) in 20 years. That it creates some sort of morale problem seems to be missed or ignored

Exactly. [iter.org]

Break ground in 2008, 5 years before construction begins (2013), another 2 before assembly of the reactor (2015), 4 more years before commissioning (2019), and only starting full operations in 2027. That's 19 years. It should not take 7 years simply to build the building that will house the reactor, unless money is so tight that they have to pull money out of multi-year budgets. If you throw enough funding at it they should easily be able to go from breaking ground to first plasma in a fifth of the time their roadmap shows. The building that takes 7 years to build should be able to go up in 3 months easily.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (3, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 4 months ago | (#47747225)

Many of the delays in fusion research can be attributed directly to inconsistent funding.

If you keep on yanking money and then giving it back again, you're going to get FAR less productivity during the funded periods than if there were continuous funding.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747299)

What's "turnover"?

No, see, I'm a US Congressman, and the notion of an employee being replaced is confusing to me. It doesn't happen here.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47748263)

Many of the delays in fusion research can be attributed directly to inconsistent funding.

As this chart makes clear [imgur.com] and should be part of every fusion discussion.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Insightful)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 4 months ago | (#47748417)

And it's insane when you compare fusion research funding to military spending in general, or what we spent on the Iraq war specifically. If we'd spent a fraction of those amounts on energy research...my God. It's not for sure that throwing money at energy research will solve all our problems, but come on, our society runs on energy, and the cheap energy we got from long-chain hydrocarbons is never coming back.

When I think about threats to the future of stable society, lack of cheap energy is #1. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would have all kinds of interesting ideas as to why the government isn't pumping more money into solving this problem.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47748517)

If we'd spent a fraction of those amounts on energy research...my God. It's not for sure that throwing money at energy research will solve all our problems,

But it would solve the problem of oil money funding ISIS. (That is, if we combined it with electric cars, since most oil goes to power transportation, not power plants)

Fusion Funding Profile (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747327)

There was a good bit of debate among nuclear physicists around the time of the oil crisis on how to best accomplish practical fusion. A Manhattan Project or Apollo Program type approach seemed wasteful given the large available coal resource and it was pretty clear that the problem was bigger than either of those to examples. So, a long term program timed to pay off when the coal ran out was adopted. That decision now frames how many PhD's are produced each year in related fields and how we intersect with the international research community etc.... But, we are probably getting the most bang for our research buck using this moderate approach.

Global warming was not a concern at that time. Fortunately though, other smaller research efforts initiated at that time have delivered sooner and those can provide a solution to end carbon dioxide emissions.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747803)

Military research is one of the most useful kinds, or do you not like your internet, jet planes, ships and, communication satellites? As for the solar viability, that is questionable at best, sure there are a couple of good areas for solar; however, lighting birds on fire or blinding pilots of overflying planes are not acceptable side-effects. Also, the power quality of residential solar will kill delicate electronics extraordinarily quickly with cost prohibitive power conditioning gear(solar condos in my area are so bad the utility will pay for the solar power because they have to and simply not use any of it, it doesn't go into the grid or anything).
Solar power, due to the toxic emissions in manufacturing(PV), the limited areas of viability, the lighting of birds on fire, poor power quality, and sundry other problems which no current technology is able to fix, do not make good sense to simply dump money on, whereas fusion is and will continue to be the holy grail of energy generation, one that continues to creep closer despite a lack of funding brought on by numerous reasons, one of which is indeed that it seems to still be farther off for payout than the officials in charge of allocation of budgets ability to take credit for having funded it to leverage a reelection bid.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747817)

If I were King of the world I'd also cut military spending and fund sciences much more heavily.

But, alas, I am not King of the world.

I would overthrow you and your weak military, and usurp your place as king. I wouldn't make the same mistake you did, though.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47746935)

I don't think you know what a Ponzi Scheme is. Let me help [wikipedia.org] .

It may or may not be feasible, but all the money ever spent on fusion wouldn't pay for the development of one medium sized oil field so as money pits go it is a relatively small one.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (3, Insightful)

LordKronos (470910) | about 4 months ago | (#47747089)

We've been chasing the mythical beast of fusion for decades and are not any closer to it this century than we were last century.

First, I think you are wrong. There has been a lot of progress, and although were are not yet CLOSE, we are CLOSER.

That said, how many hundreds of years did man spend trying to learn how to fly? Guess we should have given up on that pursuit a few hundred years ago.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (4, Funny)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47747231)

Yes, as we all know, that big shiny thing in the sky burns wood.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

CaptnZilog (33073) | about 4 months ago | (#47747455)

Fusion is a money pit. We've been chasing the mythical beast of fusion for decades and are not any closer to it this century than we were last century. Even putting aside the joke that was Pons and Fleishman, this is nothing more than a wild goose chase and Ponzi scheme.

Well, while I agree on the money pit thing, at least it's something that obeys the laws of physics... unlike the whole Pons/Fleishman "cold fusion" nonsense (still waiting for that announcement about the eCat actually producing power for someone :rolleyes:).

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

CaptnZilog (33073) | about 4 months ago | (#47747527)

I might also add, this is a $94million upgrade... for reference building the LHC cost ~$9billion, I'm betting this didn't cost anywhere near that to build initially.

I'm willing to bet if you added up the cost of every Fusion project currently going, and the LHC and all the other particle accelerators currently operating around the world, the cost would be a fraction of what was spent on 8 years of war/occupation in Iraq. Which do you think has been a better "value"?

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 4 months ago | (#47749259)

There are well-respected scientists still working on LENR/LANR reactions a.k.a. Cold Fusion. Peter_L._Hagelstein [wikipedia.org] is one of them. He teaches a LANR class at MIT. His initial interest in the field was to debunk the claims, the evidence he saw convinced him otherwise. For the past years he has been systematically performing the experiments that determine the conditions for when it works and when it does not work. I.e., he appears to be an entirely legitimate scientists investigating a phenomenon that is not well understood but could have tremendous impact; this is the quintessential science.

ECat may well be fraudulent. Many characteristics of known frauds exist. If you examine the work of Hagelstein and others, you will not see similar evidence of fraud. You will see the work you would associate with scientists doing what they do best, examining the data, proposing theories, testing theories, sharing ideas and data.

The initial experiements that "debunked" cold fusion did not actually do so. In the case of the Princeton debunking, the actual data showed some over-unity behavior that was edited out before releasing the results. These experience were performed in a "race" to replicate and/or debunk because the claims were so exceptional. One could argue that those interested in debunking the claims were motivated by external factors. But others that disputed the claims have no evidence that they were externally motivated to do so.

I am not saying that they will ever be successful in making something commercially viable (though many are convinced this will happen). I am hopeful that this can happen as this would certainly be cheaper and cleaner than hot fusion much less fission. The actual environmental impact would be less than renewable energy technologies as well.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747547)

A boat is a hole in the water into which money is poured. We've had a Navy since our inception and yet universal disarmament hasn't happened yet. Let's just scuttle all our ships.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 months ago | (#47746917)

I really would like to hear some more news on the Lockheed high-beta fusion project and the Pollywell program.

Re: Public cynicism about fusion (4, Interesting)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 4 months ago | (#47749333)

The Skunkworks high beta fusion reactor [wikipedia.org] seems very interesting. 100MW reactor the size of a semi trailer and the complexity of a jet engine. Uses radio waves to heat the plasma (like a microwave oven). Confines plasma in a cylinder as opposed to a torus. In a tokamak reactor the confining magnetic field is created by the motion of the plasma. Thus the strength of the field decreases further from the plasma, creating an inherent instability. This creates a negative stability feedback because if the tokamak plasma expands the confining field gets weaker. I believe this is one of the reasons tokamaks need to be so huge to function.

The high beta reactor has a confining field that increases in strength as you move farther from the plasma, making confinement inherently stable. The machine was designed by Dr. Thomas McGuire who did his PhD thesis on fusors at MIT. It may be possible to build a full reactor by as soon as 2017 for a cost measured in millions, NOT billions.

Re: Public cynicism about fusion (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 4 months ago | (#47749839)

Here is the PhD thesis [mit.edu] of Thomas J. McGuire who is designing the compact fusion device mentioned in the parent comment. This 2007 thesis argues for the need to build compact fusion devices and surveys some options with their strengths and flaws. I don't think it describes in detail the high beta reactor he is currently designing at Lockheed Martin. Still, it shows the idea of him designing this reactor is plausible.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47747035)

Don't worry, I'm sure they could get a few million dollars if they built an office with a window that overlooks the NSTX machine and an oversized mahogany desk and rented it out to all of those rich Bond villains out there. I hear Dick Cheney is in the market for a new lair of evil.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (3, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about 4 months ago | (#47747293)

That gives me an idea. If you build this in a way that looks cool (obviously make it functional first and foremost, but style it whenever you get a chance), you could rent it out to Hollywood studios needing a set.

Make a control room with lots of blinkenlights, put in a window to something that glows (it can be the capacitors or whatever, if putting a window into a tokemak is a bad idea, which it probably is), have lots of big cables running around, and so on. And make every room spacious enough that you can fit a camera crew inside it. Charge them $50K/day to use it as a set, only conditions being that they can't alter or break the functional parts, and any new parts they add have to be removed once they stop using the set.

This doesn't have to fund the entire project, it just has to pay off the cost of the cosmetics and the downtime, and after that it's free money. If you spent a quarter-million dollars making it look like something out of Star Trek, you could pay that off with a week of filming Star Trek XII or whatever number they're up to now.

Plus - the public outreach. The general public are, unfortunately, idiots. You could be doing some amazing research, be the top lab in the world in your field, and they would just complain about "their" tax money being spent on it. But making something "mad bitchin'"? They can get behind that.

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747461)

Already done.
The NIF was used as a set in a recent Star Trek, posing as the Enterprise's engineering deck, with the target chamber pretending to be a warp core.

No porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748441)

I'm almost surprised that the first clients of it weren't porn movie maker.

(I mean they've already done scene in the russian equivalent of the vomit comet, and (un-successfully) attempted have Virgin Galactic allow them to film a porn. A fusion factory set isn't far-fetched).

Re:Public cynicism about fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747991)

It is not so much public cynicism, more people being paid to slow or kill it.

Oil interests (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about 4 months ago | (#47748125)

Of course, we need to fund more oil power. Don't you think the fossil fuels industry has people working around the clock to discredit and defund this. I would guess even some of the skeptical AC comments on this article are coming from the fossil fuel industry.

Princeton, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47746907)

FRIST POST!!!

Re:Princeton, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747041)

did it really take you 20 minutes to turn on the caps lock and turn off the spell check auto correct in order to be able to "FRIST POST!!!"

Re:Princeton, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748267)

Why does the amount of time it took me to post from the Frist center at Princeton matter?

Re:Princeton, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47749567)

Because it means either you were in Forbes at the time and had to walk all the way over, or OIT has their work cut out for them.

Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47746971)

"Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again"

Not over-unity it wont.

Nice (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 4 months ago | (#47746979)

I visited these folks when they had an open house a few years ago.

It isn't too often you can visit a place that's working on fusion reactors.

mdsolar again (-1, Redundant)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747027)

Not another anti-nuclear post from mdsolar.....

Re:mdsolar again (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747057)

There's nothing anti-nuclear about reporting positive events in fusion development. I don't care how much bias you're used to seeing, there's no point in screaming "bias" when bias is clearly not present.

Re:mdsolar again (4, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 months ago | (#47747081)

I think you forgot to change accounts before posting.

Re:mdsolar again (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747151)

Oh, I'm so damned slow. I didn't catch that.

With that critical piece of information, I think this is snark directed at his detractors.

Re:mdsolar again (-1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747187)

No, just having fun. I'm a big supporter of nuclear fusion research and nuclear propulsion for the Navy. It is just commercial nuclear fission that makes no sense in so many ways.

Re:mdsolar again (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47747309)

Of course it makes no sense!

Why would a nice, stable form of baseline power with a compact, energy-dense fuel supply interest anyone? Amiright?

Re:mdsolar again (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747371)

Instability leading to huge accidents, no solution for the waste, weapons proliferation, too expensive, fuel source depleting....

Re:mdsolar again (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47747487)

Actually, the fuel source could be expanding. One of the "neat" things about fission is breeder reactors. It's part of the concern with the status quo, because most older reactors are no good for expanding our fuel supply.

Re:mdsolar again (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747753)

More expensive, worse for proliferation and even less stable....

Re:mdsolar again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47747489)

Nope, you busted yourself as a multi-account troll.

Re:mdsolar again (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747559)

multi-account?

Re:mdsolar again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47749595)

Fucking moron

Re:mdsolar again (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47747357)

It's the other kind of anti-technology post, the kind that goes "Let's stop and wait for $DISTANT_TECHNOLOGY, for it will be so much safer and cleaner than the known-quantity reactor types we have today." Of course, when the new tech does reach break-even and plans are drawn up to build, the same people will pop up start regaling us with 'unexpected problems' pulled out of their own colons. Each one will be cited as a reason for stopping development and construction so we can 'do more studies'.

Folks, don't forget last week, when the same effect arose in discussion of a new California solar plant.

Re:mdsolar again (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747435)

So, you agree that fission is unsafe. I wonder if their are alternatives available today that are replacing it? http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/R... [illinois.edu]

Re:mdsolar again (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47747643)

What does a redundant mod on a recursive post mean?

Re:mdsolar again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748279)

I was going to mod you up for this but I thought it might undermine the logical structure of reality.

Re:mdsolar again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748411)

It means we don't like you. Hadn't you realised?

Re:mdsolar again (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47748463)

I can tell I make you cowardly....

Note received from Richard Feynman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47748121)

Dick Feynman (1918-1988) says w00t [blogspot.com] .

Re:Note received from Richard Feynman (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#47748433)

"there was no engineer involved"

Meh (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47748231)

The spherical approach seemed like a great idea until they actually built them. Now it's pretty clear the economics are no better than the conventional MFP approaches. See the Disadvantages of this article, especially the first two items listed:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_tokamak

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