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International Fusion Reactor Project Moves Forward

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the good-political-news-for-once dept.

265

mjgp2 writes to mention a BBC article about an agreement which will begin construction on the second most expensive scientific collaboration, after the ISS : the world's first large-scale fusion reactor. From the article: "The seven-party consortium, which includes the European Union, the US, Japan, China, Russia and others, agreed last year to build Iter in Cadarache, in the southern French region of Provence ... He said that the participants would aim to ratify their agreement before the end of the year so construction on the facility could start in 2007. Officials said the experimental reactor would take about eight years to build. The EU is to foot about 50% of the cost to build the experimental reactor. If all goes well with the experimental reactor, officials hope to set up a demonstration power plant at Cadarache by 2040. "

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265 comments

10 Billion Dollars? (-1, Troll)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402686)

even international parties involved in an experimental nuclear fusion reactor project have initialled a 10bn-euro (£6.8bn) agreement on the plan.

10Bn over 35 years for cheap clean energy?

Bah! I say - much better to spend 10bn/month [guardian.co.uk] to secure access to limitless supplies of the cleanest energy!

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1, Funny)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402739)

yea but that 10bn/month buys over 100K dead as well. I mean just try to buy that many hitmen...

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403053)

yea but that 10bn/month buys over 100K dead as well. I mean just try to buy that many hitmen...

Boo hoo, poor terrorists. Let me play a little violin for them. Bush is a fucking pussy for not nuking the entire middle east as punishment for 9/11.

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402745)

Bah! I say - much better to spend 10bn/month to buy lots of bags of m&m's.

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1)

javachip (934245) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402761)

I'm thinkin', 2040 for the DEMO power plant!?! Jeez, it's not like they're writing VISTA, for god's sake! Hell, by then we'll all be flyin' around in magnetic powered [wikipedia.org] aircars ('course I'll splurge and get an airSUV(tm)!) By the way, where the hell is John Galt when you need him?

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1)

Liquorman (691815) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402955)

Why wait until then for energy produced by amazing sources. Check out this intense welder that uses water for fuel! [slashdot.org]

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1)

javachip (934245) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402966)

Well, your URL was amazing, anyway... ;-)

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (1)

SlimFastForYou (578183) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403268)

Yes, but will Duke Nukem Forever be done before then?

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403091)

Once again...sitting on slashdot trying to get first post for upmods (usually with things that are neither insightful nor informative, and usually leftist politically (which is also not surprising)), or posting in the first highly moderated comments if you "miss" your chance.

You're pretty pathetic.

Re:10 Billion Dollars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403205)

You're pretty pathetic.

I am honestly surprised you dont think that applies to you too.

wow - power by 2040 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402688)

Sweet, gotta start somewhere I guess.

Re:wow - power by 2040 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402772)

Well, at least the cockroaches that survive the nuclear war will have a source of electrical power.

- Anonymous Optmimist

Knocked down by 6 years (2, Funny)

PoitNarf (160194) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402695)

"If all goes well with the experimental reactor, officials hope to set up a demonstration power plant at Cadarache by 2040"

Guess the traditional "40 years away" is now 36 years?

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402718)

You live in 2004?

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (2, Funny)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402870)

John Titor?

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (5, Funny)

antiaktiv (848995) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402732)

And maybe the traditional 36 years is now 34 years.

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (1)

PoitNarf (160194) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402917)

Yeah, shoulda previewed it more closely :P

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (1)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402978)

I hate to break it to the project leaders, but if everything goes well private industry will build fusion reactors well before 2040.

Re:Knocked down by 6 years (1)

csnydermvpsoft (596111) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403107)

I hate to break it to the project leaders, but if everything goes well private industry will build fusion reactors well before 2040.

Good - then they will have accomplished their intent. They're not trying to take over energy supply from private industry; they're trying to get clean, cheap energy. If industry jumps on the bandwagon, all the better.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403032)

"Project estimated to cost 10bn euros and will run for 35 years"

Why not the US? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402700)

Is it because of the war on science in the US that we didnt get the reactor? Or are we putting all of our money into the Mars colony project?

Re:Why not the US? (4, Funny)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403058)

No, they're putting it in France in case it blows up.

Re:Why not the US? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403136)

And, if it blows, say goodbye to great food, wine,
    cheese. Oh, and people. And a generally nice place.

Reaaaaly intelligent !

Re:Why not the US? (1)

ral8158 (947954) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403152)

Because the US is the center of everything that happens in the world. Of course. Seriously though, the US didn't get it, because A) It's a worldwide effort from several countries, (7, I think?) the chances of it being in the US aren't exactly low, but if you're throwing a dart at a board, then chances are it won't be the US. There's really no reason to have it in the US, either.

Why should it be the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403318)

Why SHUOLD it be in the US?

We are gnats on an elephant (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402705)

We are these little intelligent creatures that live on an insignificant planet revolving around an insignificant yellow star in one of billions of solar systems among billions of galaxies in this universe.

It's amazing to me that we should be able to probe the laws of the universe with our limited energy reserves and stunted perspective.

Will we really be able to create the conditions that led to the creation of the universe in an Earth-based laboratory?

It's really fucking amazing.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402770)

Yeah fusion had nothing to do with the birth of the universe.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (-1, Troll)

ahsile (187881) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402791)

I'm pretty sure 99.9% of life here isn't intelligent. Take Dubya for example...

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (3, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402823)

"gnats on an elaphant"... BadAnalogyGuy

Congratulations on what is easily the most apt user ID on /. :-P

Minor quibble though - I wouldn't call this "creating the conditions that led to the creation of the universe". Fusion =! the big bang - this is more like recreating a dwarf star (one which can burn deuterium, but not elemental hydrogen).

Though it's still obviously a big deal, from a science/engineering/environmental perspective.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (1)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402944)

The better question is,
Will we be able to create the conditions that led to the creation of the univers in an Earth-based laboratory without killing ourselves!
I certainly hope so. Cheap clean energy is a good thing.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402969)

Ummm... fusion didn't help create the universe.

It was more of an anti-matter/matter reaction. But don't let that from keeping your sense of wonderment.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (2)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403062)

Actually, no ones KNOWS how the universe was created. My theory is that that the great Squirrel God was bored so he created the universe as his plaything. Now he carries the universe around in his mouth. Also, he says the universe tastes like licorice.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403175)

I beleive the universe was sneezed out in the great green Arkleseizure. Every day, I pray for deliverance from the coming of the great white hankercheif...

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403057)

Actually it is not that amazing.
The probability of intelligent lives discovering truth is indeed small...
But, as you mentioned, there is so much matter and so much variations in the universe, that this probability converts to millions of possibilities.
We are just lucky that we fell in to that lot.

Re:We are gnats on an elephant (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403178)

A fun fact I like to wow people with is where the hottest and coldest places in the known universe are; New Jersey [pppl.gov] and Colorado [nist.gov] .

Well at least they were. Princeton's Tokamak is no longer running and lot's of people have BECs now.

transporting electricity (3, Interesting)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402707)

Just like there is room for improvement in battery technology, is there any chance we can come up with a way to transport electricity over long distances without it diminishing in power as fast as it does now? Or do physics tell us otherwise? That's the one thing holding us back from making super-duper large nuclear plants in the middle of nowhere...

Re:transporting electricity (1)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402721)

You'd simply need a resistance-free wire. ... good luck with that.

Re:transporting electricity (2, Informative)

ShaneThePain (929627) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402756)

high temperature super-conductors.

Re:transporting electricity (2, Informative)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402915)

here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconductors [wikipedia.org]

Transmission losses represent a certain percentage of transmission. All they do is lower the efficiency. Use 2 cables in parallel instead of 1 and you halve the power lost through heat.

Fusion doesn't look like it's gonna be cheap anyway so it's just a balance between transmission costs and the costs associated with citing these facilities closer to their customers

Re:transporting electricity (1)

Nutt (106868) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402795)

Superconducting wires would elminate resistive losses but I think you'd still have inductive and capacitive effects so there's no way to get a perfect lossless line.

Re:transporting electricity (3, Informative)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402894)

Superconducting wires would elminate resistive losses but I think you'd still have inductive and capacitive effects so there's no way to get a perfect lossless line.

I think you could take care of inductive and capacitive losses by going to DC. If you really could use superconductors for the entire distribution network, then in theory, you'd eliminate the need for high-voltage AC transmission to avoid I^2*R losses, followed by step-down transformers to provide safer low-voltage levels in customers' homes. Funny -- as I recall, didn't Thomas Edison propose DC in the first place?

Re:transporting electricity (1)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403045)

Actually, inductive and capacative losses don't really play into the equation with superconductors. They expell any external magnetic or electric fields, so there's nothing to induce a current with.

Although, I think that you would want to continue to use high-voltage low-current in these lines because there's a transition current where the material stops being superconductive.

Re:transporting electricity (3, Informative)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403224)

Actually, inductive and capacative losses don't really play into the equation with superconductors. They expell any external magnetic or electric fields, so there's nothing to induce a current with.

Fields inside the conductor are not the issue. The inductive and capacitive effects occur when two conductors, super or not, are near each other, as they would be if they were part of an AC transmission-line network.

Re:transporting electricity (1)

Nutt (106868) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403082)

Duh. I knew that, guess I'm just stuck in an AC frame of mind. I was just thinking that it'd be cheaper to continue to use AC transmission since the grid is already set up to use it. Using DC for the long distance part would work better than AC but an inverter plant would need to be built to convert the DC back to AC for use.

Re:transporting electricity (2, Interesting)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403223)

Go to wikipedia and look up HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current). There are
certain situations where HVDC is advantageous and economical to use over
normal AC distribution.

Also, high quality switching power supplies can convert DC to DC analogous
to how a transformer converts AC to AC with similar efficiencies. As the
price of copper increases, transformers will actually cost more to make
and we may start seeing AC distribution replaced by DC distribution.

If that happens, the real question is whether or not the last mile would
be DC (very few of our home appliances would actually prefer AC).

Re:transporting electricity (2, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403083)

I think you could take care of inductive and capacitive losses by going to DC.

This is, in fact, what is done for long-haul lines. The disadvantage if that you need to convert at either end, but as the transmission line length increases, there comes a point where it's more cost-effective to do that than it is to run AC and lose efficiency charging and discharging a big capacitor 60 times a second. And thyristors have gotten a lot cheaper. You also avoid corona discharge, dielectric losses, and so forth. But you've still got to have at least a couple of hundred miles of transmission line to make it worth it, so you only see it in the longer runs (or underwater, where the capacitive losses are much higher.)

Re:transporting electricity (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403244)

HVDC transmission is also used to link different AC networks that are
out of phase with each other.

Re:transporting electricity (5, Informative)

centie (911828) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402871)

Physics tells us that the energy lost from transmitting electricity (as heat) is RI^2, and power is IV (I = Current, V = Voltage, R = Resistance). So to send lots of power without much heating, you use high voltages and low current. This is whats done currently, to the point where the wires can't really take much more voltage (well, not cheaply anyway).

There's only one proposed solution I'm aware of, which is using high temperature superconductors as wires. These have very low resistance (in some cases theoretically 0) so reduce the energy lost by ohmic heating (the RI^2 thing). Plus they can conduct around 10* the voltage of current wires. The only problem is there still very difficult to make at all, let alone into wires, having only been discovered in 1986. The link below has some more info,

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/electricity/publication s/doc/underground_cables_ICF_feb_03.pdf [europa.eu]

Re:transporting electricity (1)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403157)

Because of Ohm's Law (V=IR) the equations for heat (RI^2) and power (VI) are equivalent. Its voltage drop in the power lines (or other component) that determines power loss. OTOH the electromotive force is the total voltage difference determines the total power.

Re:transporting electricity (4, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403192)

in some cases theoretically 0)

It's not theoretically 0, it's really actually 0. It's a macroscopic manifestation of a quantum-level effect. In high-temperature superconductors, there is a finite resistance, but in 'classical' superconductors, it's really zero: current flows with no applied voltage.

The problem with superconductors as a transmission line isn't so much the temperature (although that is a problem). It's not even the materials properties (high-temperature superconductors are basically ceramics. They're brittle and not very strong, which means they aren't very useful as wires). It's the fact that, in addition to a critical temperature Tc above which they don't superconduct, superconductors also have a critical magnetic field and a critical current density. Exceed any of those, and they stop being superconductors, which can lead to some quite catastrophic failures. High-temperature superconductors have much higher critical field strengths than low-temperature ones, and higher critical current densities, but you can't just run all the current you want through them and expect them to not blow up/melt/spontaneously disassemble.

Re:transporting electricity (3, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402927)

Like someone else said, what you're thinking of is high temperature superconductors.

Superconductive materials transmit electricity without resistance. A 10 meter long superconductive cable will have the same losses in transmission as a 10 kilometer one. I am unsure whether this is because the resistance is zero, or so close as makes no difference, but the upshot is vastly improved effeciency for any proccess that is ineffecient due to electrical losses.

The problem is that most superconductive materials only remain superconductive if they're very very cold. Unless you fancy equipping your transmission lines with cryogenic plants, you can't use them to carry power. There has been a lot of work on "high temperature" superconductors ("high" in this case can mean what we'd consider ambient temperature), but AFAIK we don't have a solution yet.

Ironically much of the research into these materials is tied into magnetic confinement for fusion research - if you're using a magnetic field to confine the fusion plant's plasma, then you'll get much better results with superconductive coils than you would with normal materials (though under the circumstances, we might be able to get away with low temperature superconductors, since the energy lost to running the cryo plant is offset by the energy saved from higher magnetic field effeciency).

Re:transporting electricity (1)

Jonboy X (319895) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402964)

[I]s there any chance we can come up with a way to transport electricity over long distances without it diminishing in power as fast as it does now?

6 words: dump trucks full of car batteries

That is all.

Re:transporting electricity (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403189)

...as long as the dump trucks don't run on said batteries...

Re:transporting electricity (2, Insightful)

Goblez (928516) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402993)

So my dream-like thought here would be a method of converting electricity into light and back. Seeing as how we can do it for information, I would think that it would be possible at some point in time. Or does this enter the realm of the Unification of forces in Physics?

Re:transporting electricity (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403143)

I recall that being proposed for orbital power - you put a solar array in orbit, a recieving station on the ground, and beam the power back via microwave. The upshot was that the effeciency of ground based solar is much lower than that of orbital solar, due to the lack of atmospheric interference, which offsets the losses in transmission from converting electricity to microwaves then back again. Of course, for this to be workable, you'd need cheap launch technology... and try getting green energy folks to support space research.

What I don't know is how much power you're losing in the conversions. If it's greater than the amount you'd lose in transmission over power lines, then that's out. And I'm also not sure how you'd go about transmitting light (or other radiation). Would large scale fiber optic lines lose power over distance?

A perfectly parralel ray of light through total vacuum would be completely effecient (or at least it's effeciency would not diminish with distance), and also thouroughly impossible.

Re:transporting electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403145)

Are you thinking of light bulbs and solar panels here? That's one way of doing it...

What you're really thinking about, though, is microwave power transmission... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_power_trans mission [wikipedia.org]

Re:transporting electricity (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403098)

why bother? why not go with a decentralised system of solar and wind and geothermal energy sources instead? Then there is way less power transit, and thus way less loses.

Re:transporting electricity (2, Insightful)

VAXcat (674775) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403248)

Because you lose all economies of scale.

Re:transporting electricity (1)

gomoX (618462) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403132)

No, actually the reason you don't put power plants in the middle of nowhere is because those cables are ridiculously expensive to make and deploy (because the longer the distance, the higher you want the tension to be in order to reduce resistive losses, and the higher the tension, the bigger the towers to keep the conductors apart) and this is just economically speaking. Nobody wants to live near HV towers, if you live in city, because you have heard that they give you cancer, and if you live elsewhere, you like your landscape enough to have it ruined by ugly structures and cables. Therefore it requires a lot of lobbying and convincing people.

Re:transporting electricity (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403168)

Using high-voltage AC gets the loss due to transmission down to VERY LITTLE. Like, single-digit percentage points in total transmission loss. High-tension lines in the us are ~700V, while in other places they are commonly something like twice that. Residental power in the US is ~220 at the pole, brought into the house that way, and split into ~110VAC circuits (except for the dryer and maybe electric stove - these pull from both sides for the 220V.)

Anyway all that babbling is prelude to a question: In the US we use 110 in the home and 220 on the pole. The UK uses 220 in the home, right? Do they use 440 on the pole, or is it still just 220? If the voltage is higher, it's more dangerous (jumps further) but losses are dramatically reduced.

Re:transporting electricity (4, Informative)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403287)

Actually... even in residential areas (US and Canada), the line voltage on overhead transmission wires is typically 13800 volts, and long distance power transmission is done at 45000 volts and higher, up to 500 kV for really high power, long distance lines. These voltages are high enough that you need to use 3, 4, or six-wire bundles (spaced about 8 inches or so apart) to keep the electric field gradient low enough so you don't get corona discharge around the wires.

Manhattan Project (1, Insightful)

spycker (812466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402738)

Instead of $300B spent in Iraq we should have spent it here on fusion reactor research!!!
Thats what happens when politicians are un-educated rubes.

Re:Manhattan Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402857)

Whoever rated this post a "Troll" is an @$$.

Re:Manhattan Project (2, Interesting)

Stickerboy (61554) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402867)

"Instead of $300B spent in Iraq we should have spent it here on fusion reactor research!!!
Thats what happens when politicians are un-educated rubes."

That's really funny coming from a poster that thinks progress in fusion research is directly proportional to how much money is thrown at it.

I bet you also subscribe to the "if only we spent the space program money on solving poverty/homelessness/starving people in Africa!" line of thought.

Re:Manhattan Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15402939)

I guess money doesn't buy speed in construction. Encourage a greater interest in talented students to pursue physics. Etc. Of course if Haliburton got the no bid contract the money just might get pissed away. Other than that how could someone be so naive to think the amount of money allocated makes no difference? Even with waste, if successful it would be worth it. And you seem to be ignorant for how long there has been no real expenditures in this area.

Re:Manhattan Project (2, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403101)

Actually, progress does increase with economic resources thrown at it.

It's a derivative of Moore's law.

The more money spent on more scientists (hiring, training), the better chance of coming up with original ideas. The constant flow of money spent each year on semiconductor R&D results in chip costs going down.

Spend $10bn/month on fusion research. Or $10bn/month on a public rail transportation infrastructure, instead of roads for cars. It'll be worth it.

Sure beats killing people.

Re:Manhattan Project (1)

pinkocommie (696223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403103)

How about spending the 300 billion on researching basic sciences and attracting more and capable minds to it. You can't honestly tell me that doubling the amount of capable people working on understanding the universe won't accelerate our understanding of the same (not to mention unforeseen applied sciences advantages)
Time / Is America Flunking Science [time.com]
Government spending on research [timeinc.net]
Also I know that there isn't a 1:1 correlation the point is the more you expand scientific knowledge of all kinds, the larger the potential for new discoveries (standing on the shoulders of giants and all that)

I sure do (0, Flamebait)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403228)

I bet you also subscribe to the "if only we spent the space program money on solving poverty/homelessness/starving people in Africa!" line of thought.

The ISS was put up a few years ago piece by piece and cost over a hundred billion dollars just in construction; NASA allocates another $10-20BN a YEAR for it. What did it get us? A plaything for the world's richest people, something for space fetishists to admire ("the sense of WONDER!") and something to put in our kids textbooks (which even in the US, they're starting to have to share because school budgets are getting slashed.)

A hundred billion dollars buys a lot of cement, plywood, 2x4's, and tin roofing. Buys a lot of wheat/rice/corn. It also buys a lot of tractors, schoolbooks, etc. To put things in perspective: the US's largest construction project, The Big Dig in Boston, MA, was unbelievably extensive and complex; 10 years, countless engineering challenges, and they overhauled Boston's inner highways and tunnels while keeping the city (mostly) moving. Despite the problems with cost overruns and fraud on the part of various contrators, it came in at about $15BN for a decade of work.

The 2005 Federal budget included about $65B for the department of Health and Human services, $53B for the department of Education, $50B for the Department of Transportation, $30B for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That's pretty much the meat and potatoes of all the major social things (well, except law enforcement). It totals $150B, and that is to handle the needs of about $230M people in one of the better-off nations in the world. The cost of "doing business" government-wise in Africa is probably a fraction of that; you don't need 5 tomes of federal highway standards, for example, to build a road from A to B. You just grade things, put down some tar, and stick some signs in the ground, and you're 75% there.

Given what a Billion Dollars can do in terms of basic human necessities and a country's infrastructure...yeah, I do get really pissed off every time I think about the International Space Station. Tom Toles, a Washington Post cartoonist, drew up this great comic on the endless circular nature of NASA [washingtonpost.com] .

Re:Manhattan Project (2, Interesting)

kidtexas (525194) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403329)

Actually, as someone who works in the fusion community, it would help if there was more money to go around. ONE of the reasons fusion is always 20-40 years away is that the funding isn't where it needs to be in order for that to happen.

It's a tough nut to crack and more money for more projects and more jobs would help a good deal.

Now all we need.. (2, Funny)

smaerd (954708) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402821)

...are the crew compartment, engines, storage compartment, enviromental unit, etc and we're on our way to Alpha Centauri!

It will be before 2040 (5, Interesting)

styryx (952942) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402845)

The Japanese are the contractors, they are pretty well renowned for their efficiency. So I think building time may be reduced.
More work needs to be done on the spherical Tokamaks such as START and MAST [fusion.org.uk] . Which are showing increasingly promising results. I know from an inside source that more attention is being given to the spherical Tokamak. Especially now that in nearly all the participating countries there is at least a single toroidal tokamak.

From TFA:
"However, environmental groups have criticised the project, saying there was no guarantee that the billions of euros would result in a commercially viable energy source."
This baffles me, just whose side are the environmentalists on again? It doesn't matter that there is no gaurantee. The likelyhood of it being a comercially viable energy source is very high.

Also, bear in mind that everybody knows that fusion will be "along in 20 years" and has been this way for the past 60. However, most countries in the world are producing larger plasma departments at universities and there is a much greater influx of fusion scientists. Many hands make light work. And it has already been mentioned that there are many tokamaks in the world, Russia, China, Japan and America have multiple. The UK has the current largest, Jet, and it also has the spherical tokamaks as stated.

Peace out, baby.

Re:It will be before 2040 (1)

Stickerboy (61554) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402924)

"From TFA:
"However, environmental groups have criticised the project, saying there was no guarantee that the billions of euros would result in a commercially viable energy source."
This baffles me, just whose side are the environmentalists on again? It doesn't matter that there is no gaurantee. The likelyhood of it being a comercially viable energy source is very high."

They're pointing out the obvious elephant in the room, that they're spending $10 billion to scale up a reactor design that is guaranteed NOT to be commercially viable. Maybe they should invest in basic research trying to solve the "energy input > output" for controlled fusion instead?

Re:It will be before 2040 (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403026)

invest in basic research trying to solve the "energy input > output"

Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

Re:It will be before 2040 (1)

spycker (812466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403055)

Well Mr. StickerBoy you sound and act like a high falutin' physicist well in the know. Out of curiosity why doesn't the nuclear waste industry take plutonium dilute it into the dirt that the Uranium was taken out of orignally and put that back in the hole in the mountain or ground it was taken out off? Maybe they could even process the Plutonium in some fashion before hand?

Re:It will be before 2040 (1)

barawn (25691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403311)

Maybe they should invest in basic research trying to solve the "energy input > output" for controlled fusion instead?

Huh? They have. From a basic research point of view, JT-60 [wikipedia.org] passed breakeven in 1998. From an experimental point of view they didn't, but that's due to their inability to use D-T fuel (which ITER can handle). Note that their inability to handle it is a political/radioactivity safety issue, not an engineering issue.

ITER very likely might not be commercially viable (i.e. the costs will exceed the benefits) but the basic design is theoretically viable. It should generate more power than it takes in.

Holy racial stereotypes, batman (1)

donutello (88309) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402962)

It's a little naive to generalize and claim that just because the Japanese are involved, this project will be completed ahead of schedule.

Re:It will be before 2040 (3, Insightful)

blibbler (15793) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403034)

From TFA:
"However, environmental groups have criticised the project, saying there was no guarantee that the billions of euros would result in a commercially viable energy source."
This baffles me, just whose side are the environmentalists on again? It doesn't matter that there is no gaurantee. The likelyhood of it being a comercially viable energy source is very high


I think their point is if 10 Billion Euros were spent on developing solar, wind, and other renewable energies, there would be a much quicker and surer return on investment.
On the other hand, the potential for Fusion is imense. If Fusion has the same benefits as it did in Simcity 2000, after 2050, we won't use anything else.

Re:It will be before 2040 (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403273)


What I don't understand is how billions of dollars can be spent on Tokamaks. I mean, their buffalo wings are okay, but they are loud and the service isn't consistent.

http://www.tacomac.com/ [tacomac.com]

Re:It will be before 2040 (3, Interesting)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403275)

The likelyhood of it being a comercially viable energy source is very high.

No, I don't think it is, and I don't think anyone can say that with any certainty.

I tend to class problems in three general ways:

1. Theoretical problems: We're not sure if this is even *possible*. e.g. FTL travel
2. Materials problems: We think this is possible, but we don't know what to build it out of. e.g. a space elevator.
3. Engineering problems: We know this can work, we know how to make it, we just have to work out the nuts and bolts. e.g. The Manhattan project.

Depending on the particular scheme in mind, commercial fusion is all three.

1. There are a wide variety of fusion schemes (the various aneutronic cycles, all cycles in thermal non-equilibrium), that are simply theoretically impossible [harvard.edu] to generate net energy from. Even plain old D-T fusion is *theoretically* hard; sure, we know it's possible, but getting it to proceed at a rate sufficient for useful net energy extraction might just be intractable.
2. What do you build the reactor vessel out of? You need something that can survive the 300-500 displacements *per atom* that it will experience from neutron collisions over the lifetime of the reactor. No such material is known; ITER will generate only one hundredth of that sort of neutron flux, so it can't even adequately explore the issue. There's another test facility intended to do that, but it's doesn't even exist on blueprints yet. Again, proper materials just might not exist, so you might have to replace the reactor vessel inner surface every few years, which dramatically increases the costs of the scheme and makes it much less viable commercially.
3. Everything else, and there's a lot of it, sits here. And there are some pretty big engineering problems as well, but yeah, those aren't show-stoppers. How do you get the energy out? How do you turn a flood of 14 MeV neutrons into electricity?

Why not? (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402887)

2040, you say?

Hmm, let's see.. I'm 28 now, 34 more years means... yep, I'll probably have lived a full life by then. Sure, go ahead, build your thingy, you kids knock yourelves out. :-D

By 2040 ? (4, Funny)

this great guy (922511) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402906)

Perfect date to power those Intel Core 6 Octo CPUs running Windows Vista !

Re:By 2040 ? (1)

mentaldingo (967181) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402997)

Maybe it will feature in the plot of duke nukem forever?

Re:By 2040 ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403112)

2040...so right around the time that Vista ships then?

Re:By 2040 ? (1)

pinkocommie (696223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403138)

Perfect. It'll be able to provide the 1.21 gigawatts those cores will need

Need help from real Pro-physicists. (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402947)

We use plasma to help bring atoms together to fuse.

Why not accellerate the plasma to a speed that helps this out by building the tokamak into something like a particle accellerator/collider ? Build two rings just like a collider but instead use plasma.

It would definitely overcome repulsion by atoms.

Re:Need help from real Pro-physicists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403167)

It would definitely overcome repulsion by atoms.
Sure, it's easy to get (at least some) fusion reactions even with a modest accelerator, the problem is that accelerators suck up VAST amounts of energy, so much, you never break even.
Generally, if your power plant involves a large particle accelerator, it almost always would use more energy than you can get out of.

In my day... (4, Funny)

mentaldingo (967181) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402957)

8 years to build a test reactor? When I was a lad I had to build three in a single weekend, in the snow, and it was uphill both ways! Once I only managed two and I was beaten with a leather belt. Quite right too! You kids these days...

An idea (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 7 years ago | (#15402990)

I guess this has lots and lots of issues, due to which it was taken out.. but anyways here goes
-
The problem now is that there is no way of controlling fusion.
Then dont control it.

Have some huge contraption made ready such that a huge explosion at some specific point can be used to set up potential energy reservoirs which then can be tapped slowly and efficiently.
Now, explode anything, and now we do have a means to obtain energy from the same.

How etc is very vauge, since this is just a germinating idea. But if this is possible, then we have fusion that can be tapped (albeit inefficeintly).

Re:An idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15403105)

Have some huge contraption made ready such that a huge explosion at some specific point can be used to set up potential energy reservoirs which then can be tapped slowly and efficiently.

It's called Inertial confinement fusion [wikipedia.org] .

Re:An idea (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403135)

The problem now is that there is no way of controlling fusion. Then don't control it.

Have some huge contraption made ready such that a huge explosion at some specific point can be used to set up potential energy reservoirs which then can be tapped slowly and efficiently. Now, explode anything, and now we do have a means to obtain energy from the same.


I find it hard to imagine how you could build something that could contain a large nuclear fusion explosion and store all that energy so quickly, let alone efficiently. Whatever you build would have to be far enough away from the explosion so that it didn't vaporize; and the farther away you are, the bigger it has to be. Something of this scale [wikipedia.org] would be a good start.

Better to make the "bomb" smaller -- alot smaller -- which is exactly the idea behind laser/pellet fusion [wikipedia.org] .

Re:An idea (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403156)

Have some huge contraption made ready such that a huge explosion at some specific point can be used to set up potential energy reservoirs which then can be tapped slowly and efficiently. Now, explode anything, and now we do have a means to obtain energy from the same.

Here's a few links showing the explosions we've used. Some even involved fusion reactions.
image1 [af.mil]
image2 [ufl.edu]
image3 [mccallie.org]
image4 [smh.com.au]
image5 [pa-aware.org]

Re:An idea (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403237)

Exactly! Let's harness that!

I dont' get it... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403061)

If it takes 8 years to build, why does it take 34 years before you can demonstrate it?

Re:I dont' get it... (1)

ayne (953370) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403316)

maybe they said 2014 (2006+8) and some reporter got it wrong and wrote down 2040. any thoughts on that?

Imagine the possibilities (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403093)

well, it's not in spain, but pretty sure provence is close enough to pump out the mediterranean and re-seal the pillars of hercules and the suez. the best farmland is on the bottom near Rome and Marseille and Istanbul. but best be sure to have a boat handy in case pesky eco-terrorists bomb the fusion plant...

Orange Energy (0, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403180)

If we don't have affordable fusion power completed and boring by 2040, we're doomed.

This project by the world's biggest operators of petrofuel companies and deposits (including coal) looks more like a giant anvil they're handing to fusion science/engineering than any effort to deliver our post-petro energy tech.

Fusion power versus fission (2, Interesting)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403190)

In case you don't already know here's the advantage of Fusion power over fision: The waste product.

D-T fuel cycle Fusion produces Helium.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power [wikipedia.org]

Fission power produces low radioactive waste which can be buried
and also high radioactive waste (cesium-137 and strontium-90) which is too radioactive to be buried (they give off enough heat to boil ground water into steam. Steam could corrode the containers or break up surrounding rock, raising uncertainty about secure burial.)
The cesium and strontium has to be kept in a storage pool that circulates cooling water for 150 years, before they cool down enough to be able to be buried.
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx? ch=biztech&sc=&id=13992&pg=1 [technologyreview.com]

Both fission and fusion produce neutrons as well, which makes the reaction chamber radioactive and means that the power plant has to be buried after it's decommisioned

Re:Fusion power versus fission (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15403305)

If the shit is giving off heat, maybe we could, you know, HARNESS IT TO MAKE POWER??? Stupid nuclear scientists...
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