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Green Light For ITER Fusion Project

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the and-where's-my-rocket-plane dept.

359

brian0918 writes, "A seven-member international consortium has signed a formal agreement to build the $12.8 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). From the article: 'Representatives from China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States signed the pact, sealing a decade of negotiations. The project aims to research a clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves, although nuclear fusion remains an unproven technology.' ITER will be built 'in Cadarache, southern France, over the course of a decade, starting in 2008.'" If ITER is successful, a commercial reactor could be built by 2040. Funny, I seem to remember fusion researchers from Livermore in the 70s say that commercial power was 20 years away...

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FP!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16936724)

HAHAHA

Cool! (0, Redundant)

October_30th (531777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936748)

This is so damn cool!


Big science, indeed.

Environmentalists from bizarro world. (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936914)

I thought the article's seemingly mandatory 'equal time' counterpoint from "environmentalists" was slightly strange:
French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire predicted in a statement Tuesday that the United States could resist, given its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on fighting global warming.

The group also warned that the project will still produce radioactive waste, though less than conventional nuclear reactors.

Environmental activists, who generally oppose nuclear power, have argued that the project is too costly and would divert attention from current efforts to fight global warming.
Just parsing that out one statement at a time leaves me a bit confused.

The U.S. would resist ratification...because we didn't sign Kyoto...? But we didn't sign Kyoto because we didn't like the economic downsides, not because we as a country somehow like the concept of global warming and are hoping for beachfront property in West Virginia.

The second statement is also fun. So a bunch of nations finally get together and decide to do something that could, someday, potentially give us an alternative to carbon-emitting energy sources, and they pan it as distracting? What gives. Talk about not being happy with anything.

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937028)

Another good one I've heard is that we shouldn't do this because it will still be 50 years until commercial fusion power is available. Huh? If it's worth doing, doesn't that mean we want to get started as soon as possible so we don't have to wait even longer?

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (2, Insightful)

monkeySauce (562927) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937280)

The U.S. would resist ratification...because we didn't sign Kyoto...? But we didn't sign Kyoto because we didn't like the economic downsides, not because we as a country somehow like the concept of global warming and are hoping for beachfront property in West Virginia.

Who are the "we" that don't like Kyoto? The average American, or the average US Energy industry executive? Big Oil isn't going to want fusion power any more than they want emissions restrictions, so of course they would use their lobbying power to sideline it as much as possible.

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937418)

I would like to see the same amount of money poured into solar,wind and other alternative fuels. Currently, with just a small percentage of that kind of research, wind power is already very fast getting cheaper.

Re:Environmentalists - bizarro, right, or partly? (4, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937456)

I think I can speak to that.

The problem is that we currently are putting a massive amount of investment dollars in an unproven technology - fusion power - which has no proven results, when the money could be spent today on actual projects such as tidal energy, solar energy, wind energy, etc that would deliver real change by reducing C02 emissions.

However, I think both arguments ignore the real problem, which is that the use of oil and natural gas are both subsidized very heavily (taxes, investment and exploration credits) when if they were not subsidized, the market would shift more money to such alternatives and let us do research and development on fusion power reactors.

If you look at the research and subsidy pie, more than 95 percent goes to oil and gas. Get rid of most of that and put that towards fusion, and the market itself will expand use of solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, etc due to market pressures.

Sometimes, you have to walk up to the elephant in the room (oil) and push it over with a large mallet.

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937704)

not because we as a country somehow like the concept of global warming and are hoping for beachfront property in West Virginia.

Speak for yourself, asshole.

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937750)

...So a bunch of nations finally get together and decide to do something that could, someday, potentially give us an alternative to carbon-emitting energy sources, and they pan it as distracting? What gives. Talk about not being happy with anything.

I understand this to a certain degree since I feel the same way about ethanol. If fusion never leads to commercial power production then it will have been a distraction. I don't expect that to be the outcome but it's too soon to be sure.

Re:Environmentalists from bizarro world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937844)

Talk about not being happy with anything.

It seems you missed a very key word... The comments were from a _French_ anti-nuclear group.

Google and Funding (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937050)

Personally, I am hopeful that the other small project will work. It would be funny to see a 200M project succeed when govs. will not fund it, but fund large monster projects.

Make Helium, Not War (2, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937718)

Personally, I am hopeful that the other small project will work. It would be funny to see a 200M project succeed when govs. will not fund it, but fund large monster projects.

I just hope any of the approaches work, so we can be done with this War on Terrorism.

Re:Cool! (4, Interesting)

Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937258)

Considering that the U.S. uses over a quarter of the world's energy, I think the only thing cool about the project is that we're only contributing 10% of the total cost. The problem is that the reactor will take designs that have not been terribly successful at a smaller scale and try to prove that all of a sudden they would become commercially viable at a large scale.

Instead of devoting Billions to developing a large reactor on relatively low-yield/high-cost technology, I'd rather see the U.S. spend these Billions on researching how to create a more productive and economical fusion reaction ... then once the research creates results we can devote the resources to building a test reactor. Apparently the U.S. has been thinking along similar lines since they've wavered back and forth on the project for so long, and in the end committed only a token amount towards the project.

I for one... (0, Offtopic)

fishybell (516991) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936760)

I for one welcome our new experimental fusion reactor funding overlords.

20 good funding years (5, Interesting)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936770)

Estimates of when fusion would be a viable energy source didn't take into account years of under-funding. ITER could have been done years ago.

Re:20 good funding years (3, Insightful)

altoz (653655) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936870)

It's always interesting how we're trying to predict when scientific breakthroughs will occur. Isn't it the nature of science such that breakthroughs happen when you don't expect them?

Re:20 good funding years (4, Insightful)

amorsen (7485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937564)

It's always interesting how we're trying to predict when scientific breakthroughs will occur. Isn't it the nature of science such that breakthroughs happen when you don't expect them?

This isn't really science, it's more like engineering. Engineering at the edge of what is currently possibly, admittedly, but still engineering. It's unlikely that significant new scientific breakthroughs will come of this.

Re:20 good funding years (1)

SMACX guy (1003684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937752)

[It depends on whether or not you play with the "directed research" option enabled. Without it, I only know that my tech is going to advance somehow in 14 years -- maybe I'll get Fusion Power (D6), but maybe I'll get something else. With directed research, I can fairly accurately predict what will happen, when. (Of course, this ignores things like my terraforming increasing the energy production (and thus, labs output), or things like Miriam capturing the base where I built the Supercollider or Theory of Everything secret project(s).)]

Re:20 good funding years (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936948)

Dude, do you have any idea how much OIL you can buy for $11 billion? That's like 5 billion gallons.

(Yes, I'm joking, and yes I realize that all that oil would last the US about 13 days...)

Re:20 good funding years (2, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937014)

The sad part is that the "Negotiations" on where to put the damn thing and fund it have taken 10 years. Imagine how much work could have been done on this already..

Re:20 good funding years (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937452)

Not to mention that progress HAS been made in the fusion field. The Joint European Torus reactor has achieved output of about 64% of input. A result like this has NOT been around for very long. JET is an improvement over earlier designs, and ITER will be that too. I'll actually be surprised if ITER doesn't reach break-even.

Article/feature by the nominee boss of the ITER project, Kaname Ikeda, FWIW:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6158040. stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:20 good funding years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937542)

Yup, and that's measured as pure energy going out. I never see a mention of how that's supposed to generate electricity.

Re: Green Light (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16936784)

Funny, I seem to remember fusion researchers from Livermore in the 70s say that commercial power was 20 years away...
Well, it was hard for them to proceed with all of your SMUG emissions.

My submission (additional links) (3, Informative)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936804)

I submitted this later than brian0918, I'm pretty sure, so I'm not grousing about my rejection. This is what I submitted (with additional links I'd included).

The Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk] and several [sciam.com] other [reuters.co.uk] news outlets [guardian.co.uk] are reporting on the international deal to build the world's most advanced nuclear fusion reactor that was signed in today. Representatives of the EU, the US, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and China signed the ITER [wikipedia.org] (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) agreement in Paris, finalising the project which aims to develop nuclear fusion as a viable energy source to fossil fuels. According to the ITER consortium, fusion power offers the potential of "environmentally benign, widely applicable and essentially inexhaustible" electricity, properties that they believe will be needed as world energy demands increase while simultaneously greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced,justifying the expensive research project.

I don't normally say things like this, but (5, Insightful)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936822)


Environmental activists, who generally oppose nuclear power, have argued that the project is too costly and would divert attention from current efforts to fight global warming.


Shut up you fucking hippies, get a haircut.

Seriously, this -is- an effort to fight global warming, and if you weren't so dogmatically opposed to anything involving OMG ATOMS!! you'd see that.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936888)

Mod parent up please. That's dead-on.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937110)

Grandparent is indeed right, and his harshness isn't too out of place, either.

I can accept that Greenpeace/similar don't agree with me on more fission being good for the environment. However, speaking out against fusion research just makes me angry. If (and probably when) they get it to work, it'll make fission look inefficient EVEN IF one ignores the nuclear waste issues.

Environmentalists often do good work. They need to marginalize their extremists, like most constructive organizations though.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16936954)

It's not that they are scared of atoms, it's just they want you to fund their programs that have the word green in them, and give them a nice cut of the money!

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937274)

Ok, let's rename the project to "green fusion power" and let everyone know it's hydrogen energy we are speaking about! :-)

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937412)

Ok, let's rename the project to "green fusion power" and let everyone know it's hydrogen energy we are speaking about! :-)

Semi-Organic Atom Compression

"Get SOACed today!"

;-)

Seriously I have the greatest respect for environmentalists but some of them take it too far.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1, Insightful)

snarkh (118018) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937016)


$12bln is certainly a lot of money for a research project with very uncertain payoff.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (3, Insightful)

WombatDeath (681651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937124)

Except that if it works and gives us an alternative source of power generation it will have proven to be a trivially small amount of money. In my view it's money well spent, with the risk/reward balance way over in the project's favour.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (2, Interesting)

snarkh (118018) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937350)

No, it is not a trivial amount of money. Even if it works it will need to work in a commercially feasible way, which at this point seems not just uncertain, but improbable. There is a lot of alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy, tidal waves, geothermal, etc. An investment of that scale would benefit any of them tremendously.

Huge amounts of money have already been sunk in making fusion work over the last 40 years with negligible results. The scientists keep promising and keep getting funded, even though payoff is always 30 years in the future. Such investments would benefit many other areas of science.

Consider also that $12bln is more than twice
the budget of NSF (National Science Foundation), which is the primary funding body for all non-medical science in the US!

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (3, Insightful)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937490)

Firstly, it's 12bn over 10 years. Secondly, it's combined funding from the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea. So yeah, spread out over 10 years and half the worlds population it IS a trivial amount.

Secondly, yes it's high risk. But unlike solar it's not research that is likely to be undertaken by industry.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (2, Informative)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937570)

Also, we need to consider something that no fusion proponent will say.

In reality, after running the reactor for 20-40 years, you have a radioactive shell. You also get a small amount of radioactivity leakage in the nearby environment.

It's miniscule compared to fission of course, but it does exist. The reactor and components need to be decommissioned and disposed of (which, were we smart, would involve putting them in the Marianas trench and folding them back into the earth's mantle to be reprocessed.

However, the cost of disposal over the entire lifetime of disposal must always be included in any comparisons of costs of fission and fusion projects. We normally treat these as externalities, but they should be dealt with as intrinsic costs, just as we add scubbing costs for emissions treatment for coal plants.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16938026)

Yes, though this is waste that will be non radioactive in about 150 years, that is not a very big time. Think of fission that give waste that has to be stored away for periods of over 10000 years.

Other reactions will produce less radioactive waste than the D-T reactions in the ITER reactor (the other reactions are more difficult to achieve, therefor the D-T reaction in ITER).

Summary: Fusion is clean!!! This is a great day for mankind, etc, etc...

get some perspective. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937732)


$12bln is certainly a lot of money for a research project with very uncertain payoff.

12 billion dollars is really nothing, especially spread out among different nations. Consider that the US spent an estimated 135 billion 2006 US dollars to go to the moon. What did we get out of it, some moon rocks and publicity? Sure we got to study the origins of the moon, some technology, etc. But those payoffs were just as uncertain, if not more.

I'm just saying put the costs into perspective. The Iraq war has currently cost the US government 344 billion dollars, and we're not out yet. Are you seriously trying to argue that 12 billion spread out among different countries is "a lot of money"?

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (4, Insightful)

cliffmeece (653677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937052)

A lot of environmentalist types are open but skeptical about nuclear power. I'm sure they will remain doubtful but can be convinced with the proper arguments. That argument however, is probably not 'shut up hippie'.

It's funny, actually. Slashdot, supposed home to left wing techno hippies, has far more preemptive 'the hippies won't allow it' posts than actual hippies-complaining-about-nuclear-energy posts.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937366)

Sorry, I'm a little bitter. I have found a lot of 'environmental advocates' to be just as dogmatic as any religious zealot. Facts that don't buttress their position simply do not matter for many of them. If you're a reasonable environmentalist who can acknowledge that people need to eat and consume energy for non-essential items and drive cars sometimes and have the occasional child, then that post was not directed at you.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937212)

Oh come on. They need something to whine about.

And obviously, if you do not do it their way, it is wrong.

Most of them don't really care about anything - they merely care about media publicity.

The ones that do care are busy making a difference, the ones that don't are busy raising a hue and cry over stupid issues.

Sad, that.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

BigDogCH (760290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937302)

I am sure some environmental activists are against it, you can't expect any idea to get 100% support. OPEC is probably not a big fan of the project either. In either case, I am sure that many activists are supporting the project. It just sucks when articles make statements like this, giving environmental activists a bad name. It is similar to when some plant lover decides that testing drugs on algae is hurting them. Just because some people claim to be against a project, and claim to be protesting in the name of the environment, doesn't mean that all environmental activists are stupid idiots who contradict themselves, always protesting stupid things, are really smart, with short attention spans, and never eat their pudding skin.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (0)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937434)

as a pro nuclear long haired hippie i want to say fuck you and your stupid stereotypes, skinhead.

Re:I don't normally say things like this, but (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937544)

I apologize to you and your three pro-nike hippie friends, then.

Seconded (3, Insightful)

xaonon (891615) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937476)

To quote Niven/Pournelle, "the air's already full of crap from fossil fuel plants and we're running out of fossil fuels, and damned fools keep delaying the nuclear plants that might get us out of that particular box."

Nuclear waste may be nasty stuff, but at least it stays in one place where you can keep an eye on it, rather than being thrown up into the atmosphere at large. And the byproducts of fusion are generally a lot less problematic than those of fission - from what I understand, mostly radioactivated metals from the reactor itself, not spent fuel.

Which will arrive first? (2, Funny)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936824)

1. Commercial fusion power.
2. True AI
3. Duke Nukem Forever

???

Re:Which will arrive first? (1)

LikeTheSearchEngine (995759) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937874)

1. Commercial fusion power. 2. True AI 3. Duke Nukem Forever ???

In any of those cases, you're missing something.

3.Profit!!

Well, maybe not for Duke.

I Blame A&E (1)

Dog Chapman (942321) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936856)

My ratings are falling and I am certain that the Mexican government, A&E and the Queen have something to do with it.
Leland - kick the Queens ass please.

just like (1)

dlt074 (548126) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936886)

"in the 70s say that commercial power was 20 years away..."

just like when everything bad(tm) that could happen to the planet was going to happen by the year 2000. "by the year 2000 the oceans will be empty of all fish!" that sort of thing. 2000 got here and low and behold none of the bad things(tm) happened. now everything is pushed off another 20 years or so. when in doubt put it 20 years in the future.

Re:just like (2, Informative)

petabyte (238821) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937074)

Uh, the reason "none of the bad things(tm) happened" is that people made a substantial effort to prevent the environmental disasters. There has been a massive amount of environmental work done since 1970s at least in the US. Recycling, new environmental laws, etc, prevented the fish from dying and the water from being toxic. (Now whether you think it has been too much or too little is another topic and anything said there is probably flamebait :)).

Or to put it in a context for this site, the Y2K bug. We flipped from 19xx to 20xx without much of a problem because a lot of testing and code corrections were done before January 1 hit. You can't write that off either.

Re:just like (2, Informative)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937196)

"by the year 2000 the oceans will be empty of all fish!" that sort of thing. 2000 got here and low and behold none of the bad things(tm) happened.

[Some scientists] estimate that large predatory fish biomass today is only about 10% of pre-industrial levels. source [nature.com]

2002, 10% left - that's close enough for me

"dwindling fossil fuel reserves" (1, Insightful)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#16936986)

Yeah. Right.

Please google "shale oil reserves".

Re:"dwindling fossil fuel reserves" (1)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937102)

How much are you willing to pay for your gas? Shale oil is MUCH more expensive to extract and process into gasoline than regular crude.

just $12.8 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937024)

If it is just $12.8 billion? Why doesn't the US just build one on its own if it is that cheap? Keeping this funded by one nation would avoid all the hassles of international disagreements. It would seem that the Fusion is the most promising path to being able to sustain our civilization with its energy needs. So the cause would be worthy of more than one simultaneous effort. For the cost of sustaining the Iraqi occupation for one year, the US alone could have 8 ITER like projects. Maybe tokamak style reactors aren't the most efficient, but if you had say 100 smaller projects going simultaneously then different approaches could be explored simultaneously with the likelihood of success much greater.

Dr. Bill Watenberg (sp?) (1)

leather_helmet (887398) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937038)

He hosts a science radio show in the bay area and I recall him talking about this technology on one of his broadcasts
He mentioned that it was researched @ Lawrence Livermore (as mentioned in the post) and that it showed promise

As per Dr. Bill, as is the norm, he blamed the 'eco-wackos' for not allowing this technology to become commercialized

Re:Dr. Bill Watenberg (sp?) (1)

bfmorgan (839462) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937352)

Its wasn't 'eco-wackos' that killed the fusion research at LLNL. Its was Pres. Reagan and big oil that killed it in the eighties. It was sold for scrap. I watched it being built and then torn down. It was a beautiful machine.

Re:Dr. Bill Watenberg (sp?) (1)

leather_helmet (887398) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937436)

Interesting - My only real reference to that project was from Dr.Bill's show - As he usually has a 'conservative' bias, that might be the reason he blamed the 'eco-wackos' instead of Pres. Reagan..? (pure speculation on my part of course)

20 years (1)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937142)

Funny, I seem to remember fusion researchers from Livermore in the 70s say that commercial power was 20 years away...

It was, for the longest time. This century, it will be 35 years away for the rest of the century.

10 years to decide something so obvious. (1)

onion2k (203094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937172)

$12.8billion is nothing in the scale of the economies of the countries involved, and much less the combined economies of all parties. That sum represents about 0.5% of the US federal budget for 2006. Why on Earth has it taken so long? Ten years ago it should have been a matter of "How much? $100m a year for fifteen years? Who do I make the check out to?". We'd practically have the thing working by now.

The war in Iraq is costing 6Billion $$$ a MONTH (2, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937478)

Isn't that just...sad. We could have fusion by now. Or alteast several dozen gigantic fusion experiments.

Re:The war in Iraq is costing 6Billion $$$ a MONTH (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937756)

Yeah, we could pull out of Iraq right now and build Fusion reactors to supply us energy for our plasma rifles when we have to go in and nuetralize the entire country later when the "unfavorables" take over.

Re:10 years to decide something so obvious. (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937678)

It's not so obvious when you consider that the project isn't a guaranteed success, and even if it is successful returns on it will take decades.

But most of the time was spent negotiating how and where that money will be spent. The money doesn't just evaporate; it ends up providing jobs to somebody's economy. ITER will be built in France, and so many construction jobs will go to the French. The rest of the countries aren't going to just dump a billion dollars per year into the French (or any other) economy without some sort of quid pro quo. They spent forever negotiating that.

It would be nice if everybody could put all that aside for a project which is, as you point out, not that expensive on the cosmic scale of things.

It's not just that it's trivial on the total budgetary scale. That's a red herring; all of that money is allocated for some purpose that is ostensibly needed. (Much of it is redistributive, and merely passes through the government's hands on its way to health or educational purposes, and much of the rest is military, which the US can't reduce during what it thinks of as a war.) But it is trivial compared to the global economic conflicts caused by (or supported by) the distribution of oil. Sadly, those conflicts will grow more even more expensive until this project makes them moot, if it's successful, and that's decades away.

Re:10 years to decide something so obvious. (1)

gaim (938370) | more than 7 years ago | (#16938040)

Fusion to date has shown no positive evidence that it will produce more energy than it uses when the reaction occurs in an earth like environment. Another frightening thought is what if Fusion is possible? A hydrogen bomb is a fusion weapon using a fission trigger. Eliminate the fission trigger you get an eco-friendly hydrogen bomb! More happy rants to come... Gaim

Everyone around N. Korea is nuclear... (0, Troll)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937198)

What message are we sending to Kim Jong Il here? We have China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States all cooperating to build a giant nuclear device, and then to tell the one country in that area that isn't involved, North Korea, to abstain from any nuclear operations or face sanctions or worse...

Re:Everyone around N. Korea is nuclear... (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937510)

Don't be stupid... nuclear fusion and nuclear bomb are COMPLETELY different technologies. Just because they both have the word "nuclear" in them doesn't mean they're the same thing... an assumption too many people make.

Re:Everyone around N. Korea is nuclear... (1)

Viper Daimao (911947) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937974)

What message are we sending to Kim Jong Il here?
Maybe to stop starving your own citizens and let them be free?

Electrostatic confinement (5, Informative)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937288)

I worked at D3D 'way back in the 1980s, when people thought breakeven would be achieved before the turn of the millennium. If as much effort were put into electrostatic confinement (the Farnsworth fusor we keep hearing so much about) that might have actually happened. The advantage of the Farnsworth fusor is that it uses a confinement field with a divergence term!

The magnetic field has no divergence (there are no magnetic monopoles) so it is extremely difficult to confine anything -- you can only slow down the leakage. That comes with some problems -- for example, it's very hard to get anything into or out of a magnetic bottle (as in a Tokamak) unless it is electrically neutral. Accelerating and heating the plasma are hard because the energy sources you can use (manipulation of the magnetic field itself, either at radiofrequency (RF heating) or near DC (betatron heating), themselves destabilize the confinement.

D3D used the innovation of firing neutral atoms in through the magnetic bottle, which provides material and heat into the plasma (the atoms generally ionize once they get in -- and then they're trapped like the rest of the plasma). The problem there is that we have no technology to accelerate neutral particles -- so they had these little tiny particle accelerators that fired their beams through GIANT TANKS of reactant that was intended to neutralize the input beams on-the-fly. Some small percentage of the particles got neutralized, and the rest bounced off the outside of the magnetic bottle into a beam dump. Seeing the size of the equipment made me realize that tokamak fusion is probably a dead end for power generation -- if it can be made to work at all (in the sense of achieving, say, 10x heat gain), the ancillary equipment is HUGE and it's not at all clear that economies of scale are enough to make it worthwhile.

The Farnsworth-Hirsch type fusors have the advantage that you can fire in charged particles -- they rattle around and lose some of their kinetic energy, and after that they're trapped in a normal potential well. Like muon-catalyzed fusion machines, the Farnsworth fusor is in a race to get the energy out of a fusible nucleus before it leaks away -- but fresh hydrogen or deuterium ions are much, much cheaper than muons, and it seems to have a better chance of working.

(Remember muon-catalyzed fusion? Muons act like electrons, only more massive -- so atoms that have an electron replaced with a muon get smaller [it's a quantum thing], bringing the nuclei closer together and boosting the fusion rate. You can get a pretty high fusion rate (a few fusions per muon per microsecond) at close to room temperature in pretty tame materials. The problem is that muons only last about two microseconds before decaying into energy, neutrinos, and electrons -- so you have to make several hundred fusions per microsecond, to make the energy worth the effort of making a muon in the first place. Nobody was able to make it pay off.)

Re:Electrostatic confinement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937380)

Huh?

Re:Electrostatic confinement (2, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937790)

And the disadvantage of Farnsworth-Hirsch type fusors is that it's not possible to use them as an energy source.

[harvard.edu]
Two main categories of nonequilibrium plasmas are considered: (1) systems in which the electrons and/or fuel ions possess a significantly non-Maxwellian velocity distribution, and (2) systems in which at least two particle species, such as electrons and ions or two different species of fuel ions, are at radically different mean energies. These types of plasmas would be of particular interest for overcoming bremsstrahlung radiation losses from advanced aneutronic fuels (e.g. ^3He-^3He, p-^{11}B, and p- ^6Li) or for reducing the number of D-D side reactions in D-^3He plasmas. Analytical Fokker-Planck calculations are used to determine accurately the minimum recirculating power that must be extracted from undesirable regions of the plasma's phase space and reinjected into the proper regions of the phase space in order to counteract the effects of collisional scattering events and keep the plasma out of equilibrium. In virtually all cases, this minimum recirculating power is substantially larger than the fusion power, so barring the discovery of methods for recirculating the power at exceedingly high efficiencies, reactors employing plasmas not in thermodynamic equilibrium will not be able to produce net power.

Actually it was 50 years in the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937392)

So basically people want to halt this research because it was DELAYED?

So what if they said it was "20 years away" 50 years ago. Maybe it was a mistaken estimate. It doesnt mean the damn thing is IMPOSSIBLE. People want to focus on negatives, especially if something's negatives are minor they want to amplify it .. maybe since they themselves can't and never have contributed anything good. Maybe the estimate is off by 100 years. So what?? The potential benefits are enormous.

Cheap energy means cheaper products. Cheaper cars (cost of iron ore to iron price will be reduced and the cost of running the machinery that creates the cars). Cheaper food via mechanized harvesting or hydroponics. Heck, people may only have to work 20 hours a week to be able to afford everything they need for living.

Nature already figured out fusion (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937500)

As the decades pass, new students pick up fusion, and old students give up on it, it's starting to feel like the way nature achieves fusion is the only way it can be done. The only way to get energy from fusion is to have a blob of gas so massive it's gravity compresses the hot gas enough to fuse it.

Re:Nature already figured out fusion (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16938034)

Are you saying that we don't get energy out of the H bomb? Or do you state that it's inherently fram from breakeven? I mean, you could envision just creating enormous amounts of steam or something, by successive detonations. It wouldn't be practical, but I don't think thermodynamics will bite you.

Why not rush it? (5, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937608)

Why is fusion receiving such a tiny (relatively speaking) amount of funding? Why is the Western world not rushing the project. At a risk of sounding cliched, it seems to me that if the 300-500 billion thus far spent on the Iraq war had gone into fusion research, we could have 10-20 different experimental approaches (essentially, trying all the major possible reactor designs) and commercial reactors in a few years.

Not to mention the obvious superiority of spending billions educating the horde of scientists and engineers and computer programmers and managers and other technical workers that would need to be trained for a big project like this. Instead, we spend that money training young men and women how to fight and perform military tasks. The thousands of technical workers that would be produced from an all-out effort for fusion would be extremely useful in achieving the next level of technological breakthroughs.

War damaged soldiers come home, often with permanent injuries, and may never reach their potential. I am in the Army National guard, and I've seen it happen time and time again. Surprisingly few people take advantage of their GI Bill to actually finish a degree.

Oh, and the middle east would be irrelevant. Without money from oil, they would be unable to buy advanced weapons or commit international terrorism, and would basically be another degenerate culture like most of Africa. Sure, they'd kill each other : but we would be able to safely stand back and occasionally drop in food to the refuge camps.

Re:Why not rush it? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937866)

"Oh, and the middle east would be irrelevant. Without money from oil, they would be unable to buy advanced weapons or commit international terrorism, and would basically be another degenerate culture like most of Africa. Sure, they'd kill each other : but we would be able to safely stand back and occasionally drop in food to the refuge camps."

No, what would happen is that countries who can't afford to develop or buy fusion reactors would simply buy more oil, which would then be cheaper on account of the developed world using fusion. The Middle East would be getting their money from China, India, and Africa instead of Europe and America.

You ever played Civ before? (2, Funny)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937956)

Why is the Western world not rushing the project.


Dude, you can't rush wonders... even if you could, it's a large project and would probably cost the lives of 4 citizens....

RE: Green Light For ITER Fusion Project (1)

FaustIN (1030298) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937692)

Final negotiation on the joint implementation agreement of ITER concluded on 6th December 2005:

"With this achievement, the Delegations are pleased to declare that their work is finished, opening the way towards concluding the negotiations at political level." http://www.iter.org/N_12_Joint_Press_Release.htm [iter.org]

The news title should read: "Political Green Light..."
or else is old news...

And why is this submitted to Hardware? Is it because it was so HARD getting to this point?

Unproven technology? Fusion tech already works! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937800)

"...although nuclear fusion remains an unproven technology..."
Fusion technology works and has been used already to sell electricity to grids during experiments over a couple weeks at a time.
The problem is keeping the fusion process going so that a profit can be made from selling the electricity.
Unlike the Spiderman 2 movie, when the slightest problem occurs fusion stops cold turkey.
The purpose of ITER is to make fusion commercially viable.

Old new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16937804)

I use fusion for years already to run my home... I invented it myself!

ITER doesn't even address a major problem. (5, Interesting)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16937982)

ITER gets a lot of press, but there's an equally large obstacle to commercial fusion that it doesn't even address: the materials issues.

A commercial fusion plant is going to produce a tremendous neutron flux, orders of magnitude greater than that seen in modern fission plants. So many neutrons will be produced that every single atom in the reactor vessel is can be expected to be struck and displaced several hundred times over a 30-year life cycle, and you're actually going to get a small number of nuclear reactions that will produce minute hydrogen and helium bubbles at lattice boundaries. There are no known suitable materials that can handle that kind of neutron exposure without swelling, cracking, degrading, becoming extremely brittle, and so forth. This would be Bad.

ITER isn't going to generate the kinds of neutron flux you'd need to even explore those issues. ITER's going to generate about 3 displacements per atom, not 300. There is another facility, IFMIF, intended to research this by generating similar neutron fluxes to what you'd see in a real fusion reactor, but it's only at the design stages right now, and won't come on line for long after ITER does.

Getting the fusion right is only part of the problem, and it's possibly the easier part. It's an engineering problem. But the materials issue might not be solvable, because the right materials might just not exist.

Folks, there are huge amounts of uranium and thorium around, and we do not have time to wait until we figure out fusion to stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere. By the time we even come close to exhausting our sources of fissile fuel, we should have learned how to construct large-scale orbital structures, and once we can do that we won't even *need* fusion. It's entirely possible that commercial fusion will never happen.
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