Energy Availability Is Almost Infinite

By Steven Goddard

http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-20050304-UnitedStatesDepartmentOfEnergy-XX-33-thermonuclear-hydrogen-bomb-Operation-Castle-ROMEO-Event-Bikini-Atoll-Marshall-Islands-19540327-large.jpg
A favorite excuse to push the AGW agenda is that “energy is limited, so we have to preserve it for future generations.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  As that clever fellow Albert Einstein figured out ( E = Mc² ) – energy is available right here on earth in vast supplies beyond our comprehension.  In fact, a primary concern of mankind over the last 65 years has been to figure out how to keep mankind from releasing some of this energy too quickly, in a catastrophic fashion.

Einstein’s equation tells us that one kilogram of matter can be converted into 90,000,000,000,000,000 (ninety million billion) joules of energy.  That is roughly equivalent to saying that one liter of water contains as much potential energy as 10 million gallons of gasoline.  Those who saw the movie “Angels and Demons” are familiar with the concept of combining matter and anti-matter to achieve a highly efficient matter to energy conversion.  Mankind probably won’t have access to that sort of technology for some time into the future, but we already have hundreds of fission reactors generating a significant percentage of the world’s energy.
Scientists and engineers are also actively pursuing control of thermonuclear fusion, which powers the sun, stars and hydrogen bombs – and offers nearly unlimited energy potential using readily available fuel.  All of our current energy sources (coal, oil, wind, gas, nuclear, solar, etc.) are ultimately by-products of fusion.  Controlled fusion uses as fuel primarily the hydrogen isotope deuterium, which is abundant in seawater.
In the south of France, there is a large international fusion effort underway named ITER (Latin for “the way.”)  The project was originally agreed to by Francois Mitterrand, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in 1985, and was officially launched in October 2007.
Click to enlarge the image...
It is now being built in the south of France as part of an international collaboration between France, the US, Russia, the UK, the EU, India, China, Korea and Japan.  In 2010, the first concrete will be poured.
The deuterium will be heated to 150 million degrees centigrade, forming plasma (decomposed hydrogen atoms) which will be contained by electrical and magnetic fields inside the Tokomak pictured above.  (Note the size on the person at the bottom right in the picture above.)  The plasma particles combine in a fusion reaction to form helium, and release vast amounts of energy in the process – which is captured as heat and used to generate electricity.
From Wikipedia : (D = Deuterium  T = Tritium  n = neutron)

The easiest (according to the Lawson criterion) and most immediately promising nuclear reaction to be used for fusion power is:

D + T → 4He + n

Deuterium is a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen and as such is universally available. The large mass ratio of the hydrogen isotopes makes the separation rather easy compared to the difficult uranium enrichment process. Tritium is also an isotope of hydrogen, but it occurs naturally in only negligible amounts due to its radioactive half-life of 12.32 years. Consequently, the deuterium-tritium fuel cycle requires the breeding of tritium from lithium using one of the following reactions:

n + 6Li → T + 4He
n +
7Li → T + 4He + n

Below is the timeline for ITER over the next decade.
Click to enlarge the image...
It is anticipated that some fusion energy will be in the power grid in as little as 30 years, and be the primary source of electrical energy in perhaps 80 years.

By the last quarter of this century, if ITER and DEMO are successful, our world will enter the Age of Fusion – an age when mankind covers a significant part of its energy needs with an inexhaustible, environmentally benign, and universally available resource.

- Hopefully the construction of ITER is not being powered by  frequently motionless windmills.
Whitelee Wind Farm, Scotland. Europe's Largest onshore windfarm.
Some AGW types want us to think small, when in fact the key to meeting future needs is to think large.  You can’t feed 10 billion people by fantasizing about the “good old days” – which never actually existed.
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140 thoughts on “Energy Availability Is Almost Infinite

  1. Yes, we need to think big, but there are great merits in thinking small as well. The problem lies not with ‘thinking small’, but with those who think that ‘small’ is the whole answer.

    For example in the biomass-to-liquid (b-t-l) field the need for large tonnages and the transport distance therefore required is (one) problem. Smaller b-t-l plants are not economic, nor as efficient, but if they were to become viable they would have huge merits for regions like my own which relies almost solely on import of energy and all the issues that brings, most notably cost and security of supply.

  2. “Hopefully the construction of ITER is not being powered by frequently frequently motionless windmills.”

    Most unlikely ITER is located next to the premises of Cadarache, France’s principal nuclear research facility.

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak

    Worth a read to see how things have developed, looks like the process will be successfull in generating power within 20- 40 years in the 2000 mw range if ITER is succcessful & the DEMO machines proceed. ITER a french machine hopes to produce 500 mw of power for only 400 seconds, DEMO is supposed to be a larger scale and continuous, but its going to be decades before DEMO is built & running.

    The following timetable was presented at the IAEA Fusion Energy Conference in 2004 by Prof. Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith.[2] These dates are conceptual and as such are subject to change.

    Conceptual design is to be complete by 2017
    Engineering design is to be complete by 2024
    The first ‘Construction Phase’ is to last from 2024 to 2033
    The first phase of operation is to last from 2033 to 2038
    The plant is then to be expanded/updated
    The second phase of operation is to last from 2040 onwards

  4. Another good post, Steve.

    Maybe it’s time for some reflection.

    What we are are seeing here in the global-warming / climate change / thingy meme is several trends converging:

    + Cultural vertigo: life in developed countries is just so lovely that many people feel somehow guilty about enjoying an unprecedented standard of living.

    + Lefty trouble-makers: disappointed after the fall of the Berlin Wall and unsure where to go next so they hijack the conservation / nature movement.

    + Conservation / nature and animal lovers like the old WWF: hijacked by the new religion.

    I guess the answer is to give the lefties some new cause to jump aboard and help the conservation peeps to get back to what they were good at like saving particular species that really were having a hard time like the natterjack toad etc.

    I went for a walk in the hills last week with a local “Green” activist and she couldn’t name any of the trees or shrubs or small plants. My wife chuckled every time I asked – she knew I was winding her up. A black robin appeared and she was startled and puzzled. It really did seem like she had never been this close to nature before. We were all entranced – even tho’ I have seen this bird hundreds of times. Walking round you disturb small insects and the bird eats these – and follows you to get more.

  5. Have you looked into the boron reactor someone was proposing, it looks like a much cheaper and more sane concept, even though there is some major hurdles to work out but instead of turning heat energy into electrons using steam turbines the concept is to capture the energy released by the boron in an electromagnetic field.

    It’s a lot safer, could be completed sooner than the one in france and you can put other things in the reactor other than boron such as nuclear waste and have it turn into electrical energy and then a harmless lump of material afterwards rather than wasting 95% of the uranium potential by burying it for thousands of years.

  6. >> large international fusion effort underway named ITER (Latin for “the way.”)

    An interesting name that follows in the wake of Dan Brown’s new film ‘Angels and Daemons’ – illustrating the struggle between science and religion.

    For those of you who are still perplexed, ‘The Way’ was the original name for the Church of Jesus and James (not the Church of Saul, which became Christianity).

    .

  7. Fusion in 30 years? 80 years? I will either be an old man or dead.

    We have fission today. Holding out this carrot of possible controlled fusion in the distant future in my belief just stall what could be today.

  8. There is, of course, that now rather old aphorism that thermonuclear fusion is the energy supply of the future – and likely to stay that way.

    But SG’s article is essentially right – sub-standard “renewables” such as wind power will never, ever meet mankind’s energy needs though they stand, in the short term, to make an awful lot of (our) money for some and give quasi-religious gratification to others.

  9. ITER will be a fusion power station in that it will create an excess of power for periods of 20 minutes, IIRC. However it is unimaginable that it would be economically competitive with fission power for many decades. Also I believe fission reactors have less radioactive emissions because tritium, being hydrogen, is difficult to contain. One can only conclude that fusion is out of the picture as a major part of power generation for centuries, until concentrated ores of uranium and thorium are exhausted.

    NASA should develop a fusion-powered space engine though, to build a space ship around it and blast all round the solar system exploring stuff. Chemical powered human space flight is pointless.

  10. Fusion produces about 3.8 times as much energy per kilogram as fission. For uranium fission using breeder technology, if you use existing estimates of uranium and a simple extraction process from seawater then crank the numbers, we have enough uranium to supply our energy needs for a bit over 5 billion years. Then consider using thorium (about six times more plentiful than uranium) and you have a good idea how silly the AGW folks really are. For example, no one even prospects for thorium because it’s just too cheap and has no market. Fusion just makes the number even bigger.

    Energy is used for everything, from cleaning up the environment, cleaning water, processing sewage, making fertilizer, growing food and surfing this site. The real issue should be how cheaply we can produce energy. You can conserve energy if that makes sense to you economically but with so much potential energy should be, well, dirt cheap.

  11. ha ha ha !
    It’s François Mitterrand or Jacques Chirac, you have to choose your french president !
    By the way, it was François Mitterrand in 1985 who launched the project with his foreign collegues.
    I hope we are buildind the future of mankind in south of France…

  12. The roughly $2Trillion that the administration accountants say Cap&Trade will “bring in” over the next 8 years (vs the original estimate in the 0.6Trillion range) would pay for nearly all the fission power plants the USA would ever need — and have some left over for parallel rapid development of fusion.

    However, the administration only plans to spend 0.15Trillion of that 2Trillion on “green energy” (I.e. climate research and ‘windmills’). The rest will go into the “general fund” to finance other initiatives.

    What I am saying is that via Cap&Trade enough money will be coming into the system to pay for all the clean energy dreams outright. Yet, they choose not to do so. Why not?

  13. In principle, there is infinite energy. What matters, however, is what we can deliver to the tank of your car in the near to medium future.

    In the oil business, a version of the peak oil narrative has become mainstream in just the last few months. You can see James Hamilton and Daniel Yergin, two of the leading industry commentators, testimony to Congress here: http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2009/05/link_to_jec_vid.html#comments

    What you’ll see is, in fact, a call for increased investment in a variety of energy sources, including oil, gas, nuclear and renewables. It is not anti-oil or coal at all, but rather concerned about our ability to deliver needed quantities at acceptable cost in a timely fashion.

    At that is the central issue.

  14. If you want chapter and verse on this, JC says he is The Way in Joh 14:6, – while Acts 24:14 explains that ‘The Way’ was a sect.

    You will note that the King James Bible translates the Greek hairisis as ‘heresy’ rather than ‘sect’, but the latter is a better translation (as most other Bibles attest). And it is amusing to note that the ‘Sect of Jesus’ (The Way) has become ‘a heresy’ in the King James version. Talk about rejecting the original teachings.

    Note also in the INTER logo for fusion research, that the title is superimposed upon the rising disk of the Sun. There was a great deal of the old solar cults immersed the original Church of Jesus and James, which is why JC was said to be born on Dec 25 – the birth date of Sol Invictus. This is why JC was called the ‘light of the world’ Joh 9:5.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_invictus

    The ancient struggle between the Gnostic** (scientific) religion of Jesus and James (The Way), and the anti-science religion of Saul (Christianity) still simmers on – and not simply in films like Angels and Daemons.

    ** gnosis can be directly translated as ‘science’.

    .

  15. Jack Hughes (04:03:39) :

    Another good post, Steve.

    Maybe it’s time for some reflection.

    What we are are seeing here in the global-warming / climate change / thingy meme is several trends converging:

    + Cultural vertigo: life in developed countries is just so lovely that many people feel somehow guilty about enjoying an unprecedented standard of living.

    + Lefty trouble-makers: disappointed after the fall of the Berlin Wall and unsure where to go next so they hijack the conservation / nature movement.

    + Conservation / nature and animal lovers like the old WWF: hijacked by the new religion.

    I guess the answer is to give the lefties some new cause to jump aboard and help the conservation peeps to get back to what they were good at like saving particular species that really were having a hard time like the natterjack toad etc.

    I went for a walk in the hills last week with a local “Green” activist and she couldn’t name any of the trees or shrubs or small plants. My wife chuckled every time I asked – she knew I was winding her up. A black robin appeared and she was startled and puzzled. It really did seem like she had never been this close to nature before. We were all entranced – even tho’ I have seen this bird hundreds of times. Walking round you disturb small insects and the bird eats these – and follows you to get more.

    You can add this category to the list (it might include your “green” friend)…

    +Scientific/Technological Illiteracy: Many people totally lack the basic scientific education to even understand energy issues. This effectively renders them Luddites.

    In June 2008, my wife and I went to Sedona, Arizona for a week. We’re both geoscientists (in the evil oil industry)…So almost all of our vacations have a geological focus. Well, we signed up for a hot-air balloon ride. There were six passengers and the pilot in the gondola. None of the other four passengers had the slightest clue as to how a hot-air balloon worked. One of the other passengers, a banker from Massachusetts, kept referring to the propane-generated flame as “helium”. So, of the seven passengers and pilot…Only the two geoscientists and the pilot knew how the balloon worked. Funny thing…Politics also came up. The only non-Obama supporters were the two geoscientists from Texas. The pilot didn’t want McCain to win because they would have to close the airspace around Sedona every time he flew in…;)

    Wind and solar are great…But they are also very limited in their usefulness – particularly solar, unless we deploy orbital solar arrays that could microwave energy back to Earth. If we sited the wind turbines and the microwave receivers together, we could cook all of the birds that were killed by the turbines.

    Leaving the CO2 good/bad debate aside…The only path to carbon-free energy travels through nuclear power. And it has to start with the technology that works now: fission.

    Great post, Steve!

  16. “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
    – Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

    “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
    – Prof Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

  17. Lindsay H (04:01:59) :


    The following timetable was presented at the IAEA Fusion Energy Conference in 2004 by Prof. Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith.[2] These dates are conceptual and as such are subject to change.

    Conceptual design is to be complete by 2017
    Engineering design is to be complete by 2024
    The first ‘Construction Phase’ is to last from 2024 to 2033
    The first phase of operation is to last from 2033 to 2038
    The plant is then to be expanded/updated
    The second phase of operation is to last from 2040 onwards

    The above timetable contradicts the official ITER time diagram, which is shown above btw with the correct link.

    Maybe you are misremembering? Could you be remembering the DEMO?

    http://www.iter.org/proj/Pages/ITERAndBeyond.aspx

    And certainly it is not a french machine only. ITER is a world collaboration, and France won the location choice by offering the site close to the nuclear reactor and more central than Japan and with easier access to port than Spain ( the other contestants).

  18. Electricity requirements for the ITER plant and facilities will range from 110 MW to up to 620 MW for peak periods of 30 seconds during plasma operation. Power will be provided through the 400 kV circuit that already supplies the nearby CEA Cadarache site – a one-kilometre extension will be enough to link the ITER plant into the network.

    Achievements like these have led fusion science to an exciting threshold: the long sought-after plasma energy breakeven point. Breakeven describes the moment when plasmas in a fusion device release as least as much energy as is required to produce them. Plasma energy breakeven has never been achieved: the current record for energy release is held by JET, which succeeded in generating 70% of input power. Scientists have now designed the next-step device – ITER – which will produce more power than it consumes: for 50 MW of input power, 500 MW of output power will be produced.

    —————-
    If it’s safe, If it’s controllable it will be good. If it ever happens – it has been a long time coming. But will it arrive in time?

  19. Think big indeed, billions of small sunshades in orbit around Earth, i just saw it again on Discovery. Nice idea but completely out of reality and not even for the fact that we don’t need such a sunshade. As they stated, if they are going to use rockets than they would have to launch a rocket every 20 minutes for at least 6.5 years to get that sunshade up.

    The best rockets we have score a 97% succes rate (wich was nicely demonstrated in the program, the test rocket that only was supposed to simulate a launch failed because the seccond stage ignited two secconds late, that was just one of the 1300 things that could go wrong during a launch), guess how many launches will fail during the construction of that sunshade?

    ±5200 failed launches at minimum for those 6.5 years if we take 97% as granted. All those rockets with their toxic fuels and so on, al that schrapnell and debris in orbit (and that does not include those launches who are succesfull, because even those tend to leave debris behind).

    Call me sceptic but i see more in fourth generation nuclear powerplants and eventually fusion-power (wich always seems to be 50 years away).

  20. Until the call for windmills and solar came along,man had not gone backwards,good to see some trying to go forward.Man will find a way,he always has,there may come a day that man can harness energy from space,who knows?The possibilities are endless.It must suck to be a scientist,knowing that there is still so much to discover.

  21. The news clips this morning showed the increased holiday traffic this year to last. The people and business’s seemed quite happy that America is getting out and driving again. Not everyone is happy. Hansen, the lead IPCC scientist, would describe this traffic as the Automobiles of DEATH. (google coal trains of death, he is deadly serious!).

    Right now in Congress there is the Cap/Trade bill whose sole purpose is to take us common folk so that driving for fun becomes uneconomical. Once again our political leaders, urged on by the strong lobbyists of special interest groups, are creating an additional tax which will increase the cost of every bit of real energy we consume. Of course they won’t be taxing energy which is already expensive, the renewable energies. (often energy NOTS!)

  22. A rather content-free of article about ultra dense deuterium is at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511181356.htm . Their claim is that they have produced deuterium with a density of, umm “Imagine a material so heavy that a cube with sides of length 10 cm weights 130 tonnes, a material whose density is significantly greater than the material in the core of the Sun,” i.e. 130 x 10^6g/10^3 cm^3, or 130,000 gm/cm^3.

    (No, don’t ask me why a web site with the word “science” in the URL doesn’t expect readers to know what density is.)

    They can only make microscopic amounts, they don’t say how, but are looking at it as feed stock for laser inertial confinement fusion.

    I wonder if muon catalysis can compress it further (muons are a lot like electrons only heavier).

  23. “A favorite excuse to push the AGW agenda is that “energy is limited, so we have to preserve it for future generations.””

    First of all, what is the “AGW agenda”? And second, I have never heard anyone say anything of this kind. Who do you have in mind?

  24. bill (04:53:28) :

    If it’s safe, If it’s controllable it will be good. If it ever happens – it has been a long time coming. But will it arrive in time?

    It is safer than your car engine, and if it were not for the stringiness of the governments involved it would have been here already.

    IMO there are two things wrong with ITER.
    1)The aforementioned stinginess. You cannot make omelet without breaking eggs

    2)The organization’s framework that comes because of 1).

    Instead choosing a world team of the best scientists and fund them to hire and oversee the best engineers and scientists, parsimony has created an organization with much less than necessary personnel for such an ambitious project, the rest being supplied by the laboratories and universities of the involved countries on a volunteer basis. This means that not the best people are at the crucial and non crucial jobs. Thus things take longer by a factor of pi, as we used to say.
    ITER could have already been ready with better funding.

    CERN was successfully launched back in the 1950s on the excellence principle: the directors were financed by a fixed amount from each country and results were expected. Laboratories and universities contributed by doing experiments, not by building the machine as is happening at ITER and even now at CERN, on the ubiquitous parsimony principle. A false economy on such projects. I have not read this anywhere, but I am sure that the recent ( last autumn) accident and consequent delay in the LHC construction at CERN was due to this Parsimony Principle.

  25. Not only is unlimited energy available via nuclear reaction, the earth is literally awash in hydrocarbons that can be converted into suitable liquid fuels.

    One company woking on a successful conversion processes has estimated that the amount of hydrocarbons in US sewage sludge, if converted into liquid fuels, could totally eliminate oil imports.

    On the quantity of methane hydrates, the USGS states: “The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth.”

    (google “usgs methane hydrate”, look for USGS Fact Sheet)

  26. There is fission fuel enough for at least hundreds of thousands of years with fast breeding and reprocessing, as my papers at this site show.

    http://www.energypulse.net/centers/author.cfm?at_id=283

    http://www.energycentral.com/reference/whitepapers/102136/The-Nuclear-Reactor-Closed-Cycle

    http://www.energycentral.com/reference/whitepapers/102137/Nuclear-Reactor-Overview-and-Nuclear-Cycles

    It may take much longer than we think to get to commercial fusion power.

  27. The “green” of our planet has a black root, aka; fossil fuel. Homo Sap is only one of many enablers in the conversion process. The life span of our species does not mesh well with the cycle span of the conversion process.
    We humans do not create anything but, merely manipulate that which exists. It is heartening to know that we (humans) are finally attempting to manipulate that which is truly of survival value.
    Thank you Steven Goddard for the good news.

  28. Oh boy – the old Fusion thing coming to our rescue! I have wished before that this blog could stay within the realms of climate science – where it is absolutely brilliant, and steer away from energy policy and political commentary – where it most commentators are downright naive and reactionary.

    In 1978 I set up a small independent research group in Oxford – and we focussed out efforts mostly on the huge environmental problems created by nuclear waste from the fission programmes around the world – Britain, the US, the USSR and France were the chief culprits with all manner of problems – with a great deal of secrecy. We were also mindful of our responsibility as critics to provide some non-nuclear solutions. We were joined by a doctorate mathematician (Balliol, Oxford) who left the Fusion programme at Culham to focus on alternatives. Fusion is not clean. It is hugely expensive, requires the same level of elite social control and centralised grids and is irrelevant as a power source for 2/3rd of humanity. Our expert – Dr Gordon Thompson eventually was poached by Princeton, and there-after he set up the independent Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS). I recall his reason for leaving Culham and the Fusion programme – he said it had become a cult, a solar-worshipping religious and technological sect capable of gaining huge funds and support but would never be able to deliver anything relevant to the mass of humanity. That was 30 years ago, and little has changed.

    Please, oh please, all you commentators with technical fixes, reflect on the elements of beauty, grace, community and spirit that really mark out humanity as special – and then on what sustainability really means – because if we don’t sustain those elements of our humanity, what is survival really worth. Life in the ‘developed’ world is not beautiful nor sustainable for at least one-third of its members, and two-thirds of the ‘developing world’ will never benefit from the current ‘development’ model and simply see their own community and beauty destroyed in the process.

    The answers are not simply technical. And much of the technology proposed perpetuates elitist survivalism.

    I currently have few allies among the environmentalists I have worked with for over three decades – because they have bought into the ‘global warming’ bollocks – but they did so because, at first, they genuinely believed humanity was imperilled. Later, a kind of corporate-creep took over, and they lost their critical faculties and have been taken over by zealots who – as one commentator rightly observed, have little real contact with the living world and its incredible diversity – nor do they represent communities and the aspirations of those who have little material wealth.

    But is does not serve anyone’s cause to belittle, to name call, to impugn integrity, and do indulge in naive descriptions of social sectors such as ‘lefties’ and green ‘nazis’ any more than when the AGW lobby denigrates ‘deniers’ and ‘sceptics’.

  29. Fusion research has produced one clear success, they have found a constant.

    In Excel:

    today() + constant = Date of Commercial Fusion

    Where constant = 30y.

    Leastways when I completed my NE BS and MS degrees 17y ago it was 30y away.

  30. The idea of fusion as a reliable, infinite energy source is grand, but it is just a dream. The reality is that two difficulties must be overcome: first, a magnetic bottle cannot be continuously fed raw material, nor have products removed; second, materials of construction disintegrate or melt at fusion temperatures.

    “There seem to be insurmountable difficulties in finding materials of construction that will not melt or evaporate at the very high temperatures obtained in a fusion reaction. Magnetic pinch bottles were used [in the 1980's], and perhaps still are, to squeeze plasma until it begins the fusion process. Even if that fusion process is someday sustainable (they were thrilled at achieving fusion temperature for a fraction of a second), melt-down is a very real problem.

    There were two fundamental problems to overcome, the first being how to sustain the fusion reaction, the second how to keep the thing from melting. Sustaining the fusion reaction required a magnetic bottle with an inlet for fresh fuel, and an outlet for the reaction products. The nature of a magnetic bottle does not allow for inlets or outlets, at least at that time. There may have been advances since then, I do not know.

    Then, finding a way to do something useful with the heat without melting the reactor is a bit of a problem. The materials science professors and researchers were having quite a bit of difficulty with that one. It had something to do with the energy of inter-atomic bonding, under which everything they tried disintegrated at those temperatures.

    It is a very good thing that the sun is so very far away from Earth.

    Therefore, unless some amazing breakthroughs in magnetic bottles and heat-resistant materials have occurred, or will occur, fusion is off the list of energy providers.” — Roger E. Sowell, May 18, 2009

    So, does anyone have answers to those fundamental problems? Have materials scientists invented Indestructium? How does one add material and take away products from a magnetic bottle while fusion occurs?

  31. In addition to hot fusion, cold fusion refuses to go away. (People are trying to call it LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, since researchers generally don’t chill the experiments.) In a rather disappointing article from Science News, http://sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/41220/title/Cold_Panacea , the many commenters make up for it and include people actively involved with current research, and some have been involved since Pons & Fleischmann days.

    If that article require login, the major links in it are to http://lenr-canr.org/ and http://newenergytimes.com/

    If hot fusion continues to promise commercialization in the next 30 years (they’ve been saying that for 40 years now), cold fusion certainly deserves as much attention!

    BTW, the most bizarre suggestion in the LENR arena is one that suggests muons from cosmic rays may help trigger fusion reactions. So perhaps cold fusion works best during a cooling climate. :-)

  32. Note to moderators – I just posted something on cold fusion, but don’t see it in the “pending” state. If that means the spam filter gobbled it, please rescue it for me, thanks. (It was a short post with three URLs, spam fodder, if I understand correctly.)

  33. Steven Kopits (04:35:31) :

    I read the Econobrowser regularly. Dr Hamilton is what they call an “old-school” professor and the reading on Econobrowser is highly intelligent and interesting – no hype, no bull and no agenda (at least from James). James always places caveats around any assumptions or projections. Finding ‘old-school’ professors is hard these days. Econobrowser is to Economics what WUWT is to climate science. Lots of science and theory but dished out with a healthy dose of humility – that is with out the pretense or certainty of having resolved all the answers to everything.

  34. anna v (06:07:56) :

    Some good points, but I have a personal quibble.

    The metaphor “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” was published in the New York Times newspaper (byline: Walter Duranty) in the 1930s. It was used to justify the killing of an estimated 10 million people as necessary for the creation of a Socialist Utopia in the Fatherland of the Proletariat (i.e. the Soviet Union.).

    It carries negative connotations, especially to Ukrainians.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

    http://newsbusters.org/node/2886/print

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack

  35. Does that mean in the future we will starve countless plant species out of much needed CO2 driving them to extinction?
    The unprecedented drop in CO2, maintained in the past by burning fossil fuels, in the atmosphere will bring on the next ice age much sooner than expected.
    The negative feedback of the cooling oceans absorbing any remaining CO2 will turn earth into an ice ball much like Jupiter’s moon Europa.

  36. Scarcity is the mother’s milk of panic.If there is no want there is no panic.Freedom scares the daylights out of Bureaucrats. I heard a critic of the new “Star Trek” film say it
    was -“too abashedly pro-development.” and,”too optimistic”.
    I say: “Engage!” or, simply ,from another era:”Light the candle!”…

  37. Abitbol (04:28:00) :

    I hope we are buildind the future of mankind in south of France…
    ————–
    A wine powered reactor, yeah!!! I always new the future was based on wine.
    ————–
    I drove past the place last Christmas, nice complex.

  38. Windmills beginning to fall by the spears of WUWT Don Antonio Quixote!

    There is another portable source of energy:This patented generator is a solid-state generator which uses the nuclear resonant ferromagnetic effect in a cylindrical rod of iron(56). This effect has been named by the inventors the “isotopic mutation effect”.

    http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/mmcgen.htm

  39. Another technique for generating energy via nuclear fusion is Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE). LIFE uses powerful lasers to compress the fusion fuel, composed of isotopes of hydrogen to produce fusion. LIFE is not only about fusion, it’s a hybrid reactor combining fission and fusion. The neutrons given off during the fusion process are used to drive sub-critical nuclear fission of low grade fission material lining the interior wall of the reactor. Nearly all of the fission fuel is burned up in a LIFE reactor. There is tremendous amount of fuel stored as spent nuclear waste at conventional fission reactor through-out the world.

    Read more here:

    https://lasers.llnl.gov/missions/energy_for_the_future/life/

  40. Stephen Parrish

    “Leastways when I completed my NE BS and MS degrees 17y ago it was 30y away.”

    Think there’s been some backsliding here . . . .

    When I completed my BS in Physics 42 years ago, it was 25y away.

  41. anna v (04:49:14) : and with easier access to port than Spain

    Well, I like Spanish Port more than French, but there is something to be said for easier access, Hic! 8-)

  42. Forgive me for again being a skeptic(!), but, since this is a government-run project, it’s likely the timeline projections and cost will both at least double before this becomes reality, if it does.

  43. Speaking of that same constant, I met a phsycist some -constant- years ago who was working on the mathematical equations for the magnetic field to hold the plasma. The problem, as he stated it, was that at fusion temps, the magnetic fields would break down, and the reaction was ended as the plasma fell from fusion temperature (i.e. – containment was lost).
    Did ITER solve this yet?

  44. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke

    Unfortunately for most people this includes all present technology.

  45. Stephen Parrish (07:07:51) : Where constant = 30y.

    Leastways when I completed my NE BS and MS degrees 17y ago it was 30y away.

    Well, at least they have improved the precision if not the accuracy (a common trend these days)… In the mid ’70s (about 40 years ago) it was 30-50 years away …

    While I have great hope for fusion “Hope is not a strategy”. Some issues:

    1) It’s always 30 years and a few hundred $Billion of R&D away.
    2) Those pesky “n” particles. How can it be lacking in radiation and ‘clean’ with all those energetic neutrons whacking the vessel walls?
    3) How to get the net energy out of the plasma in enough excess to overcome the losses in the REST of the system to make net e- in the wires?
    4) Lithium is not exactly an abundant resource. Not particularly unavailable, but you start burning it as fuel and, well, the price is going to go up. Way up. A lot. (It comes from old dry desert lake beds in places like Chile and Nevada.) This will change your profit projections. A lot. I know of all of two producers: FMC and SQM (I own SQM) They are trying to figure out how to deal with the e-car demand for batteries…

    So count me with the folks who expect us to be using fission for the next 100+ years to actually make electricity.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-fusion. It ought to be funded full tilt so that as Anna V. put it they could employ “the best engineers and scientists” (I’d even go so far as asserting they ought to do that and fund some of the less center stage folks with slightly more odd ideas too… )

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/mr-fusion/

    It’s just that being much closer to the end of my life than the beginning and having had the fusion carrot “just 30 years away” for all of the time that the fusion concept has existed – well, lets just say this particular donkey is not interested in trying to reach that carrot on a stick quite so much any more … Some other mule gets to it, well, then I’ll mosey over and share lunch… Until then, this fission hay pile is just fine…

  46. [Apologies if this is a repost. Well, it is, apologies if you see it twice.]

    In addition to hot fusion, cold fusion refuses to go away. (People are trying to call it LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, since researchers generally don’t chill the experiments.) In a rather disappointing article from Science News, http://sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/41220/title/Cold_Panacea , the many commenters make up for it and include people actively involved with current research, and some have been involved since Pons & Fleischmann days.

    If that article requires login, the major links in it are to lenr-canr.org and newenergytimes.com . [I left out the http to thwart the spam filter, sorry.]

    If hot fusion continues to promise commercialization in the next 30 years (they’ve been saying that for 40 years now), cold fusion certainly deserves as much attention!

    BTW, the most bizarre suggestion in the LENR arena is one that suggests muons from cosmic rays may help trigger fusion reactions. So perhaps cold fusion works best during a cooling climate. :-)

  47. Predictions of when we will have viable nuclear fusion is more of a fiction than predictions of what global temperatures will be 10 years from now.

    At least climate modelling is based on current reality and not on hypothetical scientific and technological advances. Any solution to our current energy and climate crises that does not include nuclear fission is a polyanna’s fantasy.

  48. It is true that govenrment (s as there are many of them) funding is inefficient, as I have said above. Governments though build airplane carriers, and the price of one such would cover the cost of ITER. So it is a matter of political will and foresight. Because of cheap oil no priority was given to fusion research and factors of pi abound in planning and delivery.

  49. rbateman (10:07:45) :

    Speaking of that same constant, I met a phsycist some -constant- years ago who was working on the mathematical equations for the magnetic field to hold the plasma. The problem, as he stated it, was that at fusion temps, the magnetic fields would break down, and the reaction was ended as the plasma fell from fusion temperature (i.e. – containment was lost).
    Did ITER solve this yet?

    Yes. Tokamaks work, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak .

    It is a matter of size to be able to break even, get more energy out than the energy needed for the magnets.

  50. JET at Culham, built in the 1980’s was the predessor of ITER showed it was possible to contain and maintain the reaction back in the 1980’s but NOT whether it was possible to actually generate useful power. JET, like ITER, was a joint venture but it was only designed to establish whether controlled and sustained fusion could be got.

    I should add that i go back to DRAGON which didn’t work and fusion like efficient solar cells and much else was a long way in the future then and still is. And as has been pointed out here there is no shortage of fossil fuel or Uranium: the only equation that counts is the price of extracting it, distributing it and and turning it into power where that power is wanted at a price people are willing to pay.

    Or as a current TV advertisment here says ‘Shimples’

    Kindest Regards

  51. Jon Jewett (08:16:31) : The metaphor “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” was published in the New York Times newspaper (byline: Walter Duranty) in the 1930s. It was used to justify the killing of an estimated 10 million people as necessary for the creation of a Socialist Utopia in the Fatherland of the Proletariat (i.e. the Soviet Union.).

    While I understand the sentiment, you can not allow an SOB to steal a perfectly good bit of language or culture from you via an atrocity. That just hands power to the SOB. The problem is that one may then have some SOB decide to commit an atrocity in the name of “science” and make science evil. Or have a “truth commission:” and make “truth” evil.

    That it the fundamental flaw at the heart of all “sensitivity training”. It gives power to the evil folks to then steal, corrupt, and own the language and culture. (Vis the Nazi corruption of a perfectly good moral sun sign such that now folks froth at the mouth when looking at 500 year old monuments and texts with a swastika in it – being culturally illiterate beyond 70 years…)

    So please, find a way to help the injured past their injury, but do not ever let the evil SOB set the terms of the language by unchallenged appropriation. Otherwise I’ll have to set The Ministry Of Truth on you with a truth commission…

    (I, for example, have a particular issue with the word “professor”. It was used to bring me pain by evil brainless children. Would it be right to forbid all of you to use the word since I’m “sensitive”? Or would it be better for me to “get over it”?… I chose the latter and now have a college level teaching credential. *I* own my language, and nobody else.)

  52. I loved the part about “releasing it slowly”. Isaac Asimov humorously said that “supernova are industrial accidents”. We must move forward into realistic solutions to the energy question, while at the same time being sure to be on firm ground when we do. Does anyone in North America realize how much of France’s power comes from nuclear? Seems pretty safe to me.

  53. Any solution to our current energy and climate crises that does not include nuclear fission is a polyanna’s fantasy.

    The current energy and climate crises is a Malthusian fantasy.

  54. Nuclear fusion/fission are not the answer to our energy needs. Nature has had 4.5 billion years to figure it out and nature uses the sun as it’s energy source. The sun is our nuclear reactor. All we have to do is harness the energy it gives us.

    Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from? While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because our atmosphere can’t hold it.

    Solar is the way to go.

  55. Jon Jewett (08:16:31) :

    Some good points, but I have a personal quibble.

    The metaphor “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” was published in the New York Times newspaper (byline: Walter Duranty) in the 1930s. It was used to justify the killing of an estimated 10 million people as necessary for the creation of a Socialist Utopia in the Fatherland of the Proletariat (i.e. the Soviet Union.).

    It carries negative connotations, especially to Ukrainians.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

    http://newsbusters.org/node/2886/print

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack

    Well, I am sorry about this. It is the first time I hear of it. I thought it was something like “it takes two to tango” or some such, an older saying.

    Actually it is listed as a french proverb in http://french.about.com/library/express/blex_proverb.htm

    On ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser des oeufs.

    I will keep it in mind on such international fora.

  56. MartinGAtkins (11:03:47) :
    “The current energy and climate crises is a Malthusian fantasy.”

    Agreed! I meant to put “crises” in quotes.

  57. Fusion will be nice, but until then we have plenty of fission fuel. And if we run low, we can get more from an asteroid.

  58. No need to get worked up. There is one sure fire way to know if this is really a viable alternative, and so far I do not see the tell tale evidence. I have not read one statement of one environmentalist against the concept. Therefore, it is not a viable alternative.

  59. Hi Tony,

    Could you also cover the Hyperion micro-fission & Z-Machine / Z Pinch fusion technologies? I see these as just as viable as the ITER effort.

    Specific to nuclear fusion I sense that the Plasma X-ray implosion / Z-Pinch inertial confinement method appears superior to ITER because it natively creates more energy. Well above break even and in the billions of degrees Kelvin, well above the 1.5M degrK of the sun’s core. The super-heating in z implosions are conjectured to be the same phenomenon as what causes the extra energy observed in the sun’s corona (hotter than the sun’s surface).

    The Z-Machine has already gone well past break even (well, at least on a phenomenological level) and faces mostly engineering obstacles that I suspect would be found in any laser-driven inertial confinement machine. ITER, however, has yet to be turned on & get past break-even. With such unbelievable heat possible almost purely clean fusions of He, Li & Be may also be feasible.

    Unfortunately the discovery of feasible z-pinch fusion means that development of new electrically-driven z-pinch fusion weapons might be possible.

  60. Geonite (11:29:04):

    Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from? While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because our atmosphere can’t hold it.

    Although tritium is expensive because it must be created, hydrogen is so abundant as a waste product in some manufacturing processes that in Germany it’s given away free to hot air balloon enthusiasts. And deuterium can be purchased on line as deuterium oxide: click

  61. Actually, one of the AGW arguments is that fossil fuels are limited, no energy. So this post is actually a very long strawman.

  62. “Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from? While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because our atmosphere can’t hold it.”

    That excerpt above from the solar panel enthusiast qualifies as quote of the week (for being so utterly ridiculous of course)

  63. The sun is our nuclear reactor. All we have to do is harness the energy it gives us.

    The Earth already did that, with the help of photosynthesis.
    The big problem is the agenda that wants to take it away for themselves.
    If we make fusion power at this point in time, they will surely make weapons out of it.
    The desire to zap is irresistable as long as the human race sports selected rulers seized with madness.
    The biggest favor science ever did was when the German scientists told Hitler that the A-bomb would not work.

  64. “Life in the ‘developed’ world is not beautiful nor sustainable for at least one-third of its members, and two-thirds of the ‘developing world’ will never benefit from the current ‘development’ model and simply see their own community and beauty destroyed in the process.”

    This is what socialists told the Chinese and Indians for most of the 20th century. Oh how wrong they were. The development model you refer to goes back thousands and thousands of years. Free trade is a paleolithic, natural system of exchange between creative sentient beings. Every time a theocracy or socialism has attempted to suppress this natural exchange they have caused famine, poverty, mass murder and chaos.

    The problem with limousine liberal activists like the one I quoted is that they are under some guilt-complex illusion that free trade is the creation of evil white Republican Protestants. That’s why we have a leftwing media acting as a lapdog for a [snip] American president. He’s supposed to be the ethnic minority saviour (a Yoda figure) who will teach the white man the errors of his ways and return mankind to an eco-friendly prehistoric socialist utopia.

    I see that as racist towards whites and blacks (they’re human, not Yoda), and also ignorant of what the world is like without development.

  65. Ric Werme (10:19:42) : In addition to hot fusion, cold fusion refuses to go away
    I have wondered that when resins are used to demineralize water, one takes the anions OH- and the other the cations H+, so if recirculated many times through the anionic column water deproportionates, then having more H+ than OH-, so H+ can fuse, this fusion would increase temperature.

  66. Aron:The problem with limousine liberal activists like the one I quoted is that they are under some guilt-complex illusion that free trade is the creation of evil white Republican Protestants. That’s why we have a leftwing media acting as a lapdog for a [snip] American president. He’s supposed to be the ethnic minority saviour (a Yoda figure) who will teach the white man the errors of his ways and return mankind to an eco-friendly prehistoric socialist utopia.
    Trouble is that these “Caviars” (we call them so in my country, because, while eating caviar, they believe themselves to be the saviours of the poor) who being always well fed bureaucrats of governments or in all UN agencies are trying to impose on us (not only the USA) those wrong theories, which fell down at the same time the Berlin wall fell down in 1989.
    Many in the world have already tried the absolute destruction of peoples and economies it entails.
    I think that the best way of avoiding their success it is not to oppose with arguments those irrational theories but by exposing the stupidity of those who back them, by mocking at them, the less instructed will laugh at them too, and they, like scaired ostrichs, will inmediately hide their heads under the sand. They are not sane people, they are morons, and very feeble ones; they increase in strength when taken seriously.

  67. Adolfo Giurfa (08:50:43) : “Windmills beginning to fall by the spears of WUWT Don Antonio Quixote!

    “There is another portable source of energy:This patented generator is a solid-state generator which uses the nuclear resonant ferromagnetic effect in a cylindrical rod of iron(56). This effect has been named by the inventors the “isotopic mutation effect”.
    http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/mmcgen.htm

    Quoting from the link: [CUE THEREMIN]

    “The inventors claim that if we introduce 105 eV to the iron (isotope 56), its change to the iron isotope 54. The energy generated by this nuclear reaction inside the iron rod will produce an energy gain of 20,000 eV. The energy required for generating the isotopic mutation is produced by a nuclear magnetic resonance effect. The parametric excitation is obtained by the coil #2 acting as the pump.”

    [FADE THEREMIN] Just more woo-woo science.

  68. The notion that fusion is going to be “clean” doesn’t hold water, heavy or otherwise.

    The reaction –
    D + T → 4He + n
    generates a heavy neutron flux that heats up some medium of choice to produce power, presumably eventually through a conventional steam turbine.

    I’m no expert here, but that neutron flux is also going to whack the atoms in the surrounding structures and make the whole machine radioactive, much as the reactor vessel and plumbing in a fission power plant becomes radioactive. Same for the tritium production process.

    That means we’ll have the same decommissioning situation we now have with nuclear plants. Actually we won’t, because a thousand years from now, when the seas have finally risen ten feet, practical fusion will doubtless be “just around the corner.”

  69. And by the way, thanks for that inspirational photo at the top of the post.
    :-)
    Mike
    former B-52 driver

  70. Scientists have been working on fusion reactors for at least 25 years without success. For the Tokomak reactor as you point out; “The deuterium will be heated to 150 million degrees centigrade” That’s a pretty good trick.

    Now consider another possibility. There already is a fusion reactor that’s been operating 24/7 for 5 billion years or so. It produces far more power than the human race is likely to every need, and it is so environmentally friendly that even the most psychotic environmentalist would not dream of shuting it down. Of course its called the sun. Solar electric technology is already a reality. The only problem is collecting it in an economical manner. If someone could develop inexpensive and efficient solar cells which could be installed on our rooftops instead of shingles that would go a long way toward bringing this about. Of course we would also need improved battery technology to make it work 24 hours a day. But those obstacles seem less daunting than those facing the Tokomak.

  71. “Roger Sowell (07:37:11) :
    ….
    Then, finding a way to do something useful with the heat without melting the reactor is a bit of a problem. The materials science professors and researchers were having quite a bit of difficulty with that one. It had something to do with the energy of inter-atomic bonding, under which everything they tried disintegrated at those temperatures.

    It is a very good thing that the sun is so very far away from Earth.

    Therefore, unless some amazing breakthroughs in magnetic bottles and heat-resistant materials have occurred, or will occur, fusion is off the list of energy providers.” — Roger E. Sowell, May 18, 2009

    So, does anyone have answers to those fundamental problems? Have materials scientists invented Indestructium? How does one add material and take away products from a magnetic bottle while fusion occurs?”

    I have never worked directly with fission or fusion but have some experience with high temperature systems the key is not really the temperature of the reaction but the energy flux, both as heat radiation and particles. You need to remove the heat from the reactor walls (which are shielded from direct contact by the magnetic fields) fast enough to keep them from vaporizing or melting. This is the energy that eventually goes to spin the turbines. You also need a material that will not be destroyed by the particulate radiation. The impacting particles tend to distort the crystalline nature of materials and interfere with properties like high thermal conductivity that are required to get the heat out. I do not know what solution was arrived at for ITER but I assume they have one they like.

  72. The only “scientific” constant I see is the relation ship between fossil fuels and fusion.
    The 30 year constant.
    Fossil fuels are always going to run out in 30 years
    Fusion will be available in 30 years

  73. Cosmos (10:22:16) :

    Good video of Robert Bussard talking to the people at Google abot fusion.

    Thanks for that link. I agree with Bussard, that there are fewer
    and fewer people who think outside the box. I worked at
    Hughes Aircraft Company for years and they had a program
    called ATEP (advanced technical education program). This
    program allowed people, during their lunch hour or after work,
    to take company classes taught by some of the premiere scientists
    and engineers in their field. It allowed for cross discipline
    education and training, which lead to big leaps in technology
    and innovation. It also fostered an atmosphere of communication
    between the old guard and the up and coming. As a young
    engineer, it was great to be able to approach a senior scientist
    with a question or suggestion and not have your ego smashed
    by arrogance. It turned the work place into a productive and
    positive environment. His type of research transcends the AGW
    debate because success will render it moot and the prospect
    of unlimited clean power will be transformational and positive.
    Again, thanks for the link.

  74. You need to remove the heat from the reactor walls (which are shielded from direct contact by the magnetic fields) fast enough to keep them from vaporizing or melting. This is the energy that eventually goes to spin the turbines. You also need a material that will not be destroyed by the particulate radiation. The impacting particles tend to distort the crystalline nature of materials and interfere with properties like high thermal conductivity that are required to get the heat out. I do not know what solution was arrived at for ITER but I assume they have one they like.

    My concern as well – Not specifically the induced radiation of the reactor walls and magnetic coils and vacuum vessels (gonna love those pressure/access/maintenance hatches!) but the transfer of the energy OUT of the fusing mass through all of the containments (magnetic “walls”, vacuum barriers around the magnetic fields, steam/water barriers around the heat transfer medium(s), electrical/magnetic coils and containers (and their insulation and copper/silver/conductors) and the penetrations for the fuel and the coils and the piping.

    Induced radiation is modestly low level, and is created inside steel (stainless = chromium, iron & carbon & nickel,?) strucutres that will stay in one place.

    But I have never seen any specific, credible engineering discussion of how the thermal (heat) energy that is being created in a vacuum inside magnetic fields gets OUT through all the barriers into something that can be heated up, pipid elsewhere, cooled off, pumped back into the “magic containment-that-is-not-a-containment bottle” bottle.

    Neutrons carry some energy, but the new tritium and Li in the ionized plasma itself must be cooled off, removed, and replaced with new fuel.

    Chu’s “pellets and lasers” ? Not going to work any better than a current fusion bomb for producing power.

  75. >>Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from?
    >>While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the
    >>universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because
    >>our atmosphere can’t hold it.

    Is this a wind-up, or are there really people out there that are this scientifically illiterate?? Mind you, this is the level of intelligence we expect from the average Green.

  76. Why would hot air balloonists want hydrogen? The last time this was tried was back in the early 1800’s with dismal results. Fire beneath plus hydrogen in balloon tends to produce very high thermal output for a short while. Very spectacular but the balloon does not remain aloft very long.

    No for hot air balloons propane or butane is best.

    Otherwise if you can afford it by all means fill your balloon with hydrogen, this might be less dangerous in these non smoking days but I remember rushing around trying to get spectators to put out their cigarettes. A long time ago.

    Kindest Regards

  77. If the funding of global warming science had been instead fed into fusion some 20 years ago would we be having this discussion?

    No matter how big the hole I am sure with enough minds and money we can engineer our wayout of anything – and if global warming turns out to be a problem than we can terraform the moon or start a fresh on mars.

  78. ITER and Laser inertial will be great for plasma physicists. They seem unlikely to produce practical electrical generators ever.

    For a small fraction of the cost of these the alternative fusion schemes could be investigated and either found to be fundamentally flawed or worthy for further investigation. Our technological society is in danger of failing because of “groupthink” not just as regards climate change.

    I’m still hoping Richard Nebel and his team can make the Bussard polywell work. No show stoppers so far after a fair bit of intensive experimentation.

    If not, then advanced fission designs can power our civilization and we ought to get on with it before the Luddites destroy us.

  79. a jones (16:55:13) :

    Why would hot air balloonists want hydrogen?

    There are German hydrogen balloon clubs, which get free hydrogen from companies that consider it a waste product: click

  80. ralph ellis (04:05:35)
    ralph ellis (04:37:11) :

    If you want to post anti-Christian nonsense and have an enthusiastic reception, you may wish to try doing so at the “science blog” Phyrangula. I suggest that moderators delete the two posts referenced above.

  81. Geonite (11:29:04) : Nuclear fusion/fission are not the answer to our energy needs. Nature has had 4.5 billion years to figure it out and nature uses the sun as it’s energy source. The sun is our nuclear reactor.

    I’m sure I’ll just be one of 10,000 to point this out… Using the Sun is using fusion.

    Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from? While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because our atmosphere can’t hold it.

    Don’t know how to break this to you, but 2 out of every (roughly) 3 atoms in the ocean is a hydrogen atom. You know H 2 then O make water…

    And that ignores the large quantity of hydrogen in things like hydrated minerals…

    I think someone needs a bit more time in the science class and a bit less time in the sun…

  82. anna v (11:42:39) :
    Well, I am sorry about this. It is the first time I hear of it. I thought it was something like “it takes two to tango” or some such, an older saying.

    I’m over a half century old and a native speaker of English. NEVER have I heard anyone take offense at the notion of breaking eggs to make omelettes; so please to not think there is any particular sensitivity to the phrase among most English speakers. It is a common phrase used without worry by folks far and wide.

    I believe it is in fact quite old. I would guess that it dates from thousands of years BC, but probably more as “Ugg not can make egg-goo if not Ugg squash eggs much!” 8-)

    Please, Anna, see my prior comment on the issue and feel at ease using language as you see fit and without hypersensitivity to everyones pet peeve…

  83. Roger Sowell (07:37:11) :
    There seem to be insurmountable difficulties in finding materials of construction that will not melt or evaporate at the very high temperatures obtained in a fusion reaction.

    Robert A Cook PE (16:30:52) :
    You need to remove the heat from the reactor walls (which are shielded from direct contact by the magnetic fields) fast enough to keep them from vaporizing or melting.
    . . . But I have never seen any specific, credible engineering discussion of how the thermal (heat) energy . . gets OUT through all the barriers into something that can be heated up, . . . Neutrons carry some energy . . .

    The plasma in the torus has less than a gram of matter in it. If it touched the walls it would instantly cool. High temp, but not much heat.

    All the energy transfer from the reactions is carried outward by the neutrons, which are unaffected by the magnetic field. They dump the generated energy outside the vacuum tank in absorption blankets that heat up, and also shield the rest of the equipment from radiation damage.

  84. Flanagan (13:38:39) : Actually, one of the AGW arguments is that fossil fuels are limited, no energy. So this post is actually a very long strawman.

    This makes no sense what so ever, no matter how I try to parse it. AGW is orthogonal to fossil fuel inventory, only use. “no energy” is unrelated to the predicate. “Strawman” comes out of left field. Flanagan, have you been in to the holiday punch a bit early? (Or have I 8-)

  85. Geonite (11:29:04) :
    Where would the hydrogen for the fusion come from? While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it is incredibly scarce here on earth because our atmosphere can’t hold it.

    Folks, I ask you – Is not this worthy of “Quote of the Week” honors?

    Geonite and I have probably 30 or 40 lbs of hydrogen between us. We could power the earth for centuries.

    However, we shouldn’t make fun of the uninformed who venture onto this site. Goodness knows I’ve flubbed a few here myself, but the problem is that all really bright Alarmists are bright enough to avoid places like WUWT, where their strongest arguments will be taken apart, degree by degree.

  86. The sun does a lot of fusion but it does it mostly by being very big. I recall that its power production, per cubic meter, is only around 5 watts.

    If we ever get fusion reactors to work, they will have to produce far more than that. But on the other hand, they won’t have to be able to run without any new fuel for billions of years.

  87. Some day in the future people might enjoy all the benefits of fusion power, or they won’t. I’m 35 and feel that it is a very safe bet that it will not happen in my life time, so all this talk of fusion power seems more like future fantastic than a way to address the needs of us folks now living.

    Fission has proven itself, and for all practical terms it is an infinite supply of energy. Fusion might be 40 years away, or it might be 400 years away, but it does not matter at all today because it will not become a practical reality within any of our lifetimes.

    Shame we are squandering so much of our energy on these foolish wind farms and other such nonsense.

  88. rbateman (13:53:36) :

    If we make fusion power at this point in time, they will surely make weapons out of it.

    Your “point in time” is 57 years late.

  89. There are good reasons why we might not want Iran enriching Uranium or generating Plutonium under the guise of “nuclear power.” There is no particularly good reason to want to stop them from extracting Deuterium from seawater however.

    In 1908 there weren’t a lot of people who foresaw the Boeing 747 going commercial 60 years later. Most people knew that it was impossible for humans to fly.

    In 1943, the Chairman of IBM said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/siliconvalley/events/acm97/gb/tsld010.htm

  90. There is a rather interesting discussion going on at Talk Polywell including Physicists and Engineers and the conclusion is that ITER has almost zero chance of being a viable energy source. In fact many doubt that it can ever work.

    In fact I’m inclined to say that ITER is intellectually as big a fraud as AGW. Thank the Maker that at $20 bn it is relatively low cost.

    This is a good place to start but there is lots more. Esp. check out what Physicist Art Carlson has to say.

    http://www.talk-polywell.org/bb/viewtopic.php?p=20223#20223

  91. The main problem of fusion reactors are immense engineering problem. The enormous amount of energy that would be generated in a fusion reactor when a big size commercial reactor is built then the problem of taking out that heat pose a huge task. But once this engineering problem is tackled then not only the future energy crisis will vanish but gigantic spaceships also could be built for exploration of deep space for colonozation. For a glimpse into the world of future a visit to the website will be helpful. It shows the shape of future civilization in a megacity in the year 2080 with advanced futuristic technologies. http://www.eloquentbooks.com/MegalopolisOne2080AD.html

  92. You can’t make a fusion bomb without enriched Uranium (Little Boy) or Plutonium (Fat Man.)

    Thermonuclear weapons require a fission bomb at their core, to achieve the energy required to initiate a thermonuclear explosion. Thus the danger lies in the abundance of fissionable material associated with nuclear reactors, and in particular breeder reactors.

  93. Steven Goddard:

    Thermonuclear weapons require a fission bomb at their core, to achieve the energy required to initiate a thermonuclear explosion.

    Actually what fusion bombs require is an x-ray implosion. The Z-machine shares a similar x-ray plasma implosion technique as hydrogen bombs, using a hohlraum. http://everything2.com/title/hydrogen%2520bomb

    Good news, bad news: Good news that billion-degree x-ray plasmas have been produced in the lab nearly achieving break-even. Bad news: Z-pinch hydrogen bombs may be possible leading to thermonuclear proliferation.

  94. U.S. thermonuclear weapons derive their explosive energy from the combined power of nuclear fission and fusion. An initial fission reaction generates the high temperatures needed to trigger a secondary—and much more powerful—fusion reaction (hence the term “thermonuclear”).

    http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/catalyst/thermonuclear-weapons.html

    Invented by Edward Teller. One of the most powerful forms of nuclear weapon. Uses a series of booster reactions. Chemical explosives compress uranium-235 or plutonium into a critical mass. The critical mass undergoes a fission reaction, liberating a great deal of energy (the original atomic bomb stopped at this point). The heat and energy from the fission reaction then causes tritium to undergo a fusion reaction, which liberates even more energy than fission of plutonium or uranium. Most modern thermonuclear weapons are hydrogen bombs, sometimes with the addition of an isotope of Cobalt to enhance the length of time the fallout lingers.

    http://everything2.com/title/Edward%2520Teller

  95. Attn Smokey

    My point entirely. When ballooning you do not mix hot air and hydrogen. One or the other is fine but trying to mix the two is a very, very bad idea. Trust me on this.

    But oddly this emphasises a point about fuel.

    The problem with hydrogen ballooning today is not so much the cost of the gas but of transporting it to your balloon because the only practical method is to move it in cylinders.

    True the volume needed is tiny compared to a hot air balloon, a few thousand cubic feet, and the gas is cheap, especially in Germany, but unless you are filling your balloon at the works the cost of moving the gas is considerable.

    I did some gas ballooning in my youth and compared to hot air ballooning it is a very skilful art and although the flight itself is best described as ethereal: the landing is less so.

    No nasty noisy burners you see: but then no simple control by turning the burner on when in difficulty.

    Again natural gas, methane, which is lighter than air and can be used in balloons, is potentially a vast and cheap resource but the problem is moving it from there to here as it were. Coal is easy to move, oil needs a little more care but gas is a problem. Pumping it by pipeline over long distances is very expensive in capital plant, but the running cost of the pumps is irrelevant since you have free gas to burn as it were.

    Liquefying methane is even more capital intensive and it is notable that after the industry got its fingers badly burnt in the 1980’s by US cost controls that a few years ago it refused to invest the some two hundred billion dollars needed for LNG this time around. True there are a few LNG tankers and terminals but much of this limited capacity lies idle.

    For example in the UK there is a complete terminal capable of handling about 10% of the country’s needs and built with private capital: but it has never turned a wheel. If you want to know how the politicians screwed this one up please ask: I can tell you but it would take a very long post.

    Synthesising methane into easily transported liquid hydrocarbons is also a practical technology which is available now and can produce clean fuels with no sulphur etc. Just as important it means no nasty new refineries in the USA. And adapting the ships to carry these more volatile fuels is easy.

    BUT it costs. Roughly the industry won’t invest in this technology unless it an see a guaranteed price of about 60 dollars a barrel. At that price the USA could buy all the clean synthetic oil and petrol (gasoline) it needs and will need for the next hundred years or two: and get it all from stable friendly supplying countries.

    Of course the infrastructure would cost about a trillion dollars but that doesn’t have to be paid up all at once: it is an investment over a decade or two.

    How much is President Obama asking for?

    Kindest Regards

  96. Mike McMillan (14:57:15) :

    The notion that fusion is going to be “clean” doesn’t hold water, heavy or otherwise.

    The notion comes about from the fact that it can never become a runaway accident and there are no used rods to dispose safely. The whole machine, robots and all, will become extremely radioactive and will have to be abandoned, not decommissioned at the end of its cycle. This will be a small price to pay, some acres not to be visited for a long time.

    M. Simon (20:18:04) :

    In fact I’m inclined to say that ITER is intellectually as big a fraud as AGW. Thank the Maker that at $20 bn it is relatively low cost.

    Wrong. ITER is the result of a long series of studies with Tokamaks , with the largest at JET showing that sustainable fusion controlled by the magnetic fields works according to the equations. ITER is the study of the engineering problems in size and materials.

    ITER is as the car engine that turns a Molotof bomb into useful energy used in our cars.

    This does not mean that other research need not be carried out, as this Polywell. It is maybe the turbine solution to the cylinder solution . They probably are also thirty years away from usefulness, considering that they will also have the same/similar materials problems.

    I am suspicious that the navy supports this Polywell. It might have weapons capability, or maybe they are thinking of submarines.

    I will repeat that if any large country had really wanted fusion power , they could have funded it by themselves and we would have had it already.

  97. rbateman (13:53:36) :

    The biggest favor science ever did was when the German scientists told Hitler that the A-bomb would not work.
    Operation Alsos and Epsilon would suggest otherwise.

  98. leebert (20:57:46) :
    Steven Goddard: Thermonuclear weapons require a fission bomb at their core, to achieve the energy required to initiate a thermonuclear explosion.

    Actually what fusion bombs require is an x-ray implosion. The Z-machine shares a similar x-ray plasma implosion technique as hydrogen bombs, using a hohlraum. http://everything2.com/title/hydrogen%2520bomb
    Good news, bad news: Good news that billion-degree x-ray plasmas have been produced in the lab nearly achieving break-even. Bad news: Z-pinch hydrogen bombs may be possible leading to thermonuclear proliferation.

    Actually, Steve is right.

    Mike
    former B-52 driver and Nuke Weapons School grad.

  99. I’ve lurked here for about six months and posted on a very few threads when I thought I might have something to add. Other than that, I take a lot of information to work for the lunchroom discussions. I’ve really enjoyed all of the discussion that takes place here. There appear to be a few here who know how the whole fusion/fission thing works to release energy (aside from the basic E=MC^2). However, there are a few posts on this thread that show a lack of understanding about how nuclear reactions work (fusion and fission). For example:

    Adolfo Giurfa (14:09:22) :
    What I forgot to tell is that this process could make possible fission of elements of not so high atomic weight, by increasing probability of collision.

    Increasing the density of a fissile material will increase the probability of a collision for a given neutron flux and, therefore, increase the amount of fuel that can be burned before atom density precludes a sustainable reaction; however, the design of a fuel element or rod is much more complex than just increasing the fuel density. That is way beyond the scope of this thread.

    What would be useful, IMHO, to those unfamiliar with nuclear processes is a little easier to explain. When we talk about the energy released from fusion, it comes from the mass defect of the reaction. Specifically, the product of the reaction has less mass less than the reactants (I know, this is the duh part of my post). For Deuterium to helium, the reactants (2xH-2) have a mass of 4.0282036 AMU and the product (He-4) has a mass of 4.0026032 AMU for a total defect of 0.0256004 AMU which is released as energy. The equation works much the same way for fission as far as mass defect. This mass defect can be expressed as binding energy per nucleon and can be shown on a graph.

    From DOE-HDBK-1019/1-93 Figure 20 Page 93:

    “Figure 20 illustrates that as the atomic mass number increases, the binding energy per nucleon decreases for A > 60. The BE/A curve reaches a maximum value of 8.79 MeV at A = 56 and decreases to about 7.6 MeV for A = 238. The general shape of the BE/A curve can be explained using the general properties of nuclear forces. The nucleus is held together by very short-range attractive forces that exist between nucleons. On the other hand, the nucleus is being forced apart by long range repulsive electrostatic (coulomb) forces that exist between all the protons in the nucleus.”

    This graph has a very steep rise for the light elements and a slow decrease for the heavier elements.

    To put it more simply, if I fuse small atoms and the product has atomic mass of 56 AMU or less, energy will be released. Conversely, if I fission a large atom and the fission products have masses of approximately 56 AMU or more, energy will be released. The same is true for radioactive decay-the resulting atom has a higher BE/A. For fission, the reaction can be caused by a low energy (thermal) neutron for a few isotopes (primarily U-235 for commercial use) or a high energy (fast) neutron for some others (primarily Pu-239 for commercial use). Since a neutron doesn’t have to overcome the electrostatic charge of the nucleus, this reaction can occur at low temperature (actually low kinetic energy). For fusion, the atoms must have enough kinetic energy to overcome the electrostatic charge of the nucleus and must, therefore, be at high temperature.

    From http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/nucbin.html:

    “Nuclear binding energy = Δmc2″

    and

    “The binding energy curve is obtained by dividing the total nuclear binding energy by the number of nucleons. The fact that there is a peak in the binding energy curve in the region of stability near iron means that either the breakup of heavier nuclei (fission) or the combining of lighter nuclei (fusion) will yield nuclei which are more tightly bound (less mass per nucleon).”

    and

    “Iron-56 is abundant in stellar processes, and with a binding energy per nucleon of 8.8 MeV, it is the third most tightly bound of the nuclides. Its average binding energy per nucleon is exceeded only by 58Fe and 62Ni, the nickel isotope being the most tightly bound of the nuclides.”

    That brings us back to this:

    “The inventors claim that if we introduce 105 eV to the iron (isotope 56), its change to the iron isotope 54. The energy generated by this nuclear reaction inside the iron rod will produce an energy gain of 20,000 eV. The energy required for generating the isotopic mutation is produced by a nuclear magnetic resonance effect. The parametric excitation is obtained by the coil #2 acting as the pump.”

    I have to assume that this process is supposed to release two neutrons. The mass defect for this reaction (Fe-56 to Fe-54 + 2 N-1) is + 0.0220025 AMU. Since 931400 KeV is equivalent to 1 AMU, it would require approximately 20493 KeV to cause this reaction. This agrees with Fe-56 being the third most tightly bound isotope. I think the authors switched a sign somewhere or they have discovered some physics of which I am unaware.

    The masses for all of the calculations came from http://atom.kaeri.re.kr. I left my chart of the nuclides on my desk at work, I didn’t think I would need it this weekend. ;-}

    Hope I didn’t offend anyone with this post and, hopefully, at least one person will find it informative.

    SSSailor (06:29:44) :

    What boat(s) have you been on? Just the Chicago SSN-721 myself.

    Andy

  100. I have always been skeptical of the motives of anyone who claims we need to stop using fossil fuels but is unwilling to replace them in electric generation with nuclear powered generators.

    I can only come up with two possible reasons for a person to oppose nuclear power if they fear CO2 caused warming. 1. They don’t care about warming they simply oppose modern society or 2. They lack the ability to make rational decisions.

    One question though Steven isn’t there a fissionable Thorium isotope?

  101. There is, of course, that now rather old aphorism that thermonuclear fusion is the energy supply of the future – and likely to stay that way.

    But SG’s article is essentially right – sub-standard “renewables” such as wind power will never, ever meet mankind’s energy needs though they stand, in the short term, to maketake by force an awful lot of (our) money for some and give quasi-religious gratification to others.

    FIFY

  102. polywell fusion IS clean because it fuses protons with B11, a clean aneutronic reaction that does direct electric power conversion, no need for neutron heating of water or other coolants. The magrid captures highly charged alphas escaping and converts the charge to electrical current.

  103. Ralph Ellis,

    It’s an interesting argument, except for the that the earliest unbattested reference to December 25 as a celebration of the birth of Jesus is 243 AD and the Sol Invictus was created by Aurelian in 274 AD. But hey, who wants to inject facts into criticisms of the church?

  104. Sorry, everyone, for the O/T, but if outright fallacies are going to be excepted as posts I feel the need to rebut them (in fact, isn’t this site all about rebutting fantasies?).

    Ralph Ellis, do you get all of your information regarding the Bible from Dan Brown? You might try actually reading the Bible if you want to criticize it.

    You state:
    [/i]If you want chapter and verse on this, JC says he is The Way in Joh 14:6, – while Acts 24:14 explains that ‘The Way’ was a sect.

    You will note that the King James Bible translates the Greek hairisis as ‘heresy’ rather than ’sect’, but the latter is a better translation (as most other Bibles attest). And it is amusing to note that the ‘Sect of Jesus’ (The Way) has become ‘a heresy’ in the King James version. Talk about rejecting the original teachings.[/i]

    Your intention here is obvious: that the modern “church”, which seems to be comprised of both Catholics and Protestants in your statements, is somehow NOT the original church (a la Dan Brown) and that this modern church branded the “original” church as heretics. You pull a verse fragment out of context out of the text, throw some gnostic/Brownian double-speak about word translation in, et voila, your conspiracy is proven. Now, take the text IN CONTEXT (and from the KJV, even though it’s not my favorite translation just to make the point complete). The scene is Paul’s trial in Jerusalem:

    [i]Acts 24:12-15
    12And they [Jewish Elders] neither found me in the temple [in Jerusalem] disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:

    13Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

    14But this I confess unto thee, that after the way [Paul states he follows The Way?] which they [Jewish Elders] call heresy [NOT Paul or the KJV or the "modern" church, but the Jewish Elders call it heresy], so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

    15And have hope toward God, which they themselves [Jewish Elders] also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. [/i]

    Please leave Dan Brown and Gnostic criticism of Christianity out of off-topic arguments and I’ll not have to waste everyone else’s time refuting it.

  105. Oh, and just to toss one more log on this almost infinite energy fire, we can treat all our present nuclear “waste” as fuel, should we wish to. This, IMHO, is the biggest reason NOT to entomb “waste” at Yucca Mountain. I’ve added the “bold”.

    From:

    http://www.eoearth.org/article/Small_nuclear_power_reactors

    HTRs can potentially use thorium-based fuels, such as highly enriched uranium (HEU) with thorium, uranium-233 with thorium, and plutonium with thorium. Most of the experience with thorium fuels has been in HTRs. General Atomics say that the MHR has a neutron spectrum is such and the TRISO fuel so stable that the reactor can be powered fully with separated transuranic wastes (neptunium, plutonium, americium and curium) from light water reactor used fuel. The fertile actinides enable reactivity control and very high burn-up can be achieved with it – over 500 GWd/t – the Deep Burn concept and hence DB-MHR design. Over 95% of the Pu-239 and 60% of other actinides are destroyed in a single pass.

    So all the hand wringing over nuclear “waste” and all the folks saying we are going to run out of Uranium since we only use some small part of it in a reactor load; are all missing the point. We do that because it’s easy and cheap. We don’t “waste” the large part of the energy left in a “spent” fuel bundle. We’re just saving it for future generations…

    BTW, given the decay rate of “hot isotopes” in “spent” fuel bundles: After a couple of hundred years the radioactivity level is roughly the same as the original ore from whence the fuel came. All the hand wringing over 25,000 and 50,000 year “waste” storage fails to mention that this numbers imply holding the fuel until it’s as radioactive as your swimming pool… not just letting it cook back to the natural level of a Uranium ore body.

    It’s a somewhat different perspective, isn’t it? If you don’t need to guard natural Uranium deposits, why do you need to guard a “waste” depository to lower levels of radioactivity than that? I’m very uncomfortable with “waste” that must be guarded for 25,000 years or life on earth ends. I’m much more comfortable with “waste” that needs guarding for 200 years or somebody making a house out of it might have a modestly increased risk of some cancers after a few decades… I have no problem at all with “waste” that needs burning up for fuel during the next reactor refueling in a couple of years.

  106. Wondering Aloud (22:56:00) : One question though Steven isn’t there a fissionable Thorium isotope?

    Thorium is fertile, not fissile. But that’s just fine for making energy. Add Thorium to fuel bundles and it breeds U233, which is fissile. That then burns as “fuel” and you get oodles of energy. IIRC, one of the first commercial power reactor was fueled with Thorium. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle#Reactors

    for an interesting bit of forgotten history… Oh, and both the USA and India have made nuclear bombs out of U233 derived from Thorium. In some ways it is better than U235 and can be treated more like Pu (i.e. implosion bombs with small cores, not so much wasted in the explosion, chemical separation from Th makes it relatively easy to extract). The biggest issue is the presence of U232 IIRC that is a hot isotope so you need fuel bundles that are not cooked long (again like Pu production reactors) and remote reprocessing or you end up cooking yourself with radiation…

    So yes, Thorium works well as reactor fuel and offers a kind of back door to small Pu like bombs based on U233 and with some of the same issues (but without the Pu specific issues). Oh, and the world has so much of it we haven’t even bothered to inventory it. There is a bunch in the Carolinas in river placer deposited sands that is not mined due to Brazil being cheaper:

    There are monzanite sand beaches in some parts of the world where you can go sit on tons of the stuff… Kerala coast India, for example. But I wouldn’t suggest it…

    I’d suggest using it up in power reactors “to clean up the planet”, but that would just get folks tossing rocks at me again… 8-)

  107. Geonite (11:29:04) :

    “Solar is the way to go.”

    Thanks Geonite. I don’t know where you live but where I live your proposed power source would be a death sentence.

  108. There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the workings of a thermonuclear device. Some folks are fixated on the term “temperature” without recognizing that “temperature” has meanings other than “degrees Centigrade”.

    It is important to remember that fusion requires an initial input of ENERGY.

    The Primary of a thermonuclear device does, indeed, generate a “high temperature”. However, we need to remember that “high temperature” = “high energy”, and that the highly-energetic photons in this particular case are X-Ray photons.

    In order to use the ENERGY supplied by the Primary, it is necessary to focus the X-Ray photons, so that maximum use can be made of them. Delivering the energy from the Primary to the Secondary was the major stumbling block in the original effort to design these devices.

    I studied weapons design 35 years ago.
    Didn’t get to drive a BUFF — wish I had!

  109. Too many contributors suggest that since the Sun has an independent internal fusion engine a fusion driven reactor can similarly harness such energy. That solar fusion theory is not proven beyond all doubt. As many should know, the solar surface is much colder than its atmosphere, a situation most easily explained by an external energy source rather than by some odd heat transfer mechanism to move internal heat to the atmosphere while keeping the intervening surface cold.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun#Atmosphere

    WUWT contributors sometimes note the work of Dr Theodor Landscheidt who suggested the solar sunspot cycles could be related to the motions of the major planets implying the Sun’s energy is directly affected by its environment.

    http://landscheidt.auditblogs.com/

    There are other internet sites that investigate our Electric Universe and alternate explanations for the mechanisms in our Sun.

    http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=x49g6gsf

    http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=aapprbh6

    http://www.electric-cosmos.org/sun.htm

    While we can certainly wish that a fusion reactor will provide more energy than mankind could ever hope for, it is quite possible that an approach (as described above) based on what is assumed to be the fusion mechanism within the sun might NOT be successful.

  110. Dave Michalets (13:13:40) :

    I have come across the Electric Sun/Universe theory from time to time, and find it interesting, not only because it proposes an explanation for the hot corona and the cool sunspots and surface, but because of the uncanny visual similarities between observed plasma phenomena in laboratories and those that play out on a galactic scale. But I have never seen a discussion between advocates of this theory and mainstream (speaking just of the Sun) solar scientists. That would probably be too far afield for this blog, but perhaps if one exists someone could point us to it.

    FWIW, the second link that Dave Michalets provides suggests there are climate-science implications for the Sun-Earth connection with the Electric Sun theory. . .

    /Mr Lynn

  111. As others have noted, the time horizon for the achievement of nuclear fusion as an energy source does not seem to be moving any closer as we move out in time. Be that as it may, one can still hope that some day it really will come to fruition. However, my prediction is that this would tend to occur faster if we live in a society where fossil fuels are essentially made more expensive in order to correct the market externalities associated with their use rather than in a world where a new energy source such as fusion has to compete against artificially cheap energy supplies from fossil fuels because we continue to allow the real environmental costs associated with these fossil fuels to be borne collectively instead of by the producer / consumer.

    Oh, and just to comment on the premise of “Angels and Demons”, to state that “mankind probably won’t have access to that sort of technology for some time into the future” seems like somewhat of an understatement to me. When I watched the movie, I was quite amused at the premise that such a combination of matter and anti-matter could serve as an energy source when we have to generate the anti-matter! To get net energy out of such a scheme would require repealing the laws of thermodynamics. (One could, however, at least in principle imagine generating and using anti-matter as an energy storage medium, in the same way that hydrogen is contemplated as being a convenient energy storage medium.)

  112. Joel Shore,

    The only thing keeping fusion from happening is a lack of commitment from government. Each new administration is convinced that everyone before them were idiots, and hits the reset button at the National Labs.

    Hansen says we have less than four years to save the planet, which makes it difficult to do any serious long-term planning. Panic and rational thought rarely work in concert.

  113. Allen63 (04:35:16) :

    “What I am saying is that via Cap&Trade enough money will be coming into the system to pay for all the clean energy dreams outright. Yet, they choose not to do so. Why not?”

    Energy is NOT the agenda. Conforming your lifestyle is.

  114. Thank you E. M. Smith

    If I ever knew that I had long forgotten. I just remembered that India had made a bomb using it and that there was a lot of it around.

    Nuclear fission is the cleanest safest and most practical way to go, so I suppose the US will continue to ignore it.

  115. Practical fusion power is like the AGW catastrophe – always 10 to 50 years away. Still, it’s very promising and needs continued support.

    But nuclear energy of any sort appears to be off the table for now. The Yucca Mountain repository for storing nuclear wastes is canceled and is in the process of being shut down. This is a clear signal that nuclear has no place in our ‘green’ future.

    Yet it seems to me if our goals are really to reduce greenhouse warming and reduce our dependency upon fossil fuels, then nuclear power should one of our primary sources of energy for the next several decades. The fact that support is being withdrawn from nuclear power tells me our stated goals are not really what is motivating our push away from fossil fuels.

  116. Ref the boron fuel cycle at wikipedia. Short version: no neutrons produced, no induced radioactivity, no radioactive waste issue. Downside: higher particle energies needed.

    anna v:”This does not mean that other research need not be carried out, as this Polywell. It is maybe the turbine solution to the cylinder solution . They probably are also thirty years away from usefulness, considering that they will also have the same/similar materials problems.”

    No, the Polywell doesn’t have materials problems, because it doesn’t try to achieve the necessary particle energies by heating the plasma. It contains the target ions electrostatically, and fires protons at them. In fact, all of the high energy fusion techniques try to contain the plasma away from the walls of the reaction vessel because that would cool down the plasma and erode the vessel walls.

    If Polywell pans out (and we should know in no more than two years), then it will be fairly easy to design and manufacture power reactors. The most expensive component will probably be the power converter that turns millions of volts into something more useful.

    anna v: “I am suspicious that the navy supports this Polywell. It might have weapons capability, or maybe they are thinking of submarines.”

    Yeah, the Navy envisions all electric surface vessels with rail guns; this will require tremendous amounts of electrical power. I would think their interest is blindingly obvious. Having a superior replacement for submarine reactors would be real nice, too.

    Wind power used to be used to propel navel vessels too, so if you’re looking for a power source that has absolutely no military applications, there isn’t any. Live with it.

  117. Unbelievable. Almost 130 comments and not a single post about Dr Julian Simon. This conventional scare (aas the overpopulation scare by the Ehrlichs and other pro-environementalist as J. ‘de-development’ Holdren for example) has long been refuted by current reality in general and the great work of Dr Julian Simon whose simple and intuitive ideas were supported by many Nobel Price’s economist winners (F. Hayek, M. Friedman to name a few). I suggest reading his 1996 book entitled ‘The Ultimate Resource II: People, Materials, and Environment’ (and available here). He resolved the resource and population scares better than non-problems. His humanist view still waits for a proper critique (that is, other than the usual eco-scares). His central point is that “supplies of natural resources are not finite in any serious way ; they are created by the intellect of man, an always renewable resource. Coal, oil and uranium were not resources at all until mixed well with human intellect” (Wall St. Journal, Ben Wattenberg).

    “There is no reason to believe that at any given moment in the future the available quantity of any natural resource or service at present prices will be much smaller than it is now, or non-existent.”Julian Simon in The Ultimate Resource

    Bye,
    TMTisFree

  118. So we can get 90 TerraJoules per gram; Whoopee!

    Well except we don’t have a way of converting much mass to energy. As Anna V points out, the mass change in fusion reactions is pitifully small. Yes if we had lots of anti-matter, we could just mix the two together and have a truly Cosmic Bomb; the ultimate blast.
    Cosmologists agonize over why it is that there is only a very small amount of anti-matter left in the universe; if they were created simultaneously why is it that the anti-matter disappeared.

    Well the answer to that is so simple I don’t know why somebody else didn’t think of it before I did. Why would you name the surviving material Anti-matter; rather than matter; it makes no sense. So that is why it is the anti-matter that is scarce.

    The problem with fusion energy is caused by “string theory” ! Strings have a problem that they can only pull; they can’t push. Electronic switches have the same problem; they can only pull; no pushing. If we had an electronic switch that pushed on command; we wouldn’t need any power supplies at all. You simply parallel a “pull” switch with a “push” switch and you get a zero with the pull switch on, and a one with the push switch on; and both on is prohibited.

    We have CMOS switches; but both the N-FET and the P-FET can only pull, down and up respectively; so now you need a sky hook to tie the P-FET to so it can pull up.

    So what does this have to do with fusion energy ? Well the best known “string” is gravity such as the gravitational string that ties the earth to the sun, so we don’t fly off into space.
    The sun holds itself together with string theory; gravitation tries to pull each particle or plasma ion to the center of mass; and the more mass you have, the stronger the string gets and the more gravitational pull. Eventually with enough mass the pull is strong enough to pull the nuclei close enough to react and form helium. Because the strings pull the same in all directions, that mass of plasma, for the most part stays nice and symmetircal, so everything collapses uniformly.

    So in a fission bomb, you have to use energy (a power supply) to drive the materials together into a greater than critical mass for the fission chain reaction to keep on going.

    The NIF over in Livermore, plans to do the same thing with lasers; 192 of them. But it’s a hopeless task; to take microgams of D and T that are frozen as ice on the inside of a perfectly spherical (nearly) Berryllium fuel capsule at a few Kelvins; then mash them symmetrically to heat the whole thing to 100s of millions of Kelvins to make it fuse.
    Well now you have to extract all of that heat out of there somehow; clean up all the mess with a cleaning crew, and put another fuel capsule down, and feeze it back down to a few K to do the whole thing all over again.

    Does anybody know who Rube Goldberg was ? Well he invented Laser Fusion.

    Now you you have a perfect spherical symmetry, so you get that perfect implosion, and still have a way to get fuel in and energy out.

    So magnetic confinement is the answer. Unlike the nanosecond laser blast, magnetic confinement will push in perfectly symmetrically; not for nano seconds; but for climate time scales like 30 years. We know that because the computers tell us that is so. Of course you still dont’ have any entrance and exit.

    It’s a good idea at this point to bone up on “Earnshaw’s Theorem”, all about stable positions in electric and magnetic static fields; and why there aren’t any.

    So mother nature has this very simple fusion reactor that uses plentiful string theory to hold itself together just by being damn big and massive; and when you get enough mass together you automatically get a fusion reactor; what could be simpler than that ?

    So we are going to ignore Earnshaw’s Theorem; and string theory, and we are going to make a bottle that pushes, instead of pulls.
    There’s one little word up there that is important; “static”. Earnshaw, doesn’t say you can’t have dynamic stability; as in the B-2 flying wing has dynamic stability so it can fly; so long as you keep supplying power (as in energy) to the computer that tries to keep up with the natural instability of the flying wing; and make manouvering corrections, to keep it flying.

    Too bad if one little transistor quits, and the computer crashes; you don’t need to fix the computer, because the B-2 crashes as well.

    Anyone want to take odds on the magnetic bottle not crashing; when the computer crashes.

    I plan to be somewhere else with all of my descendants; when they get ready to smoke test that practical pushing device that doesn’t rely on string theory to give us cheap clean plentiful fusion energy.

    George

  119. Dave Michalets (13:13:40) :

    While we can certainly wish that a fusion reactor will provide more energy than mankind could ever hope for, it is quite possible that an approach (as described above) based on what is assumed to be the fusion mechanism within the sun might NOT be successful.

    The fusion mechanism has been proven in the big earth laboratory. It is called the H Bomb, and it worked.

    It is an engineering problem to go from explosion to controlled reaction, similarly to the car engine, where instead of having a molotof bomb, you have pistons and motion.

  120. Wondering Aloud (07:00:57) : Thank you E. M. Smith

    You are most welcome.

    I just remembered that India had made a bomb using it and that there was a lot of it around.

    I suspect that the early US Th program was shelved and focus put on U rather than Th as a way to deflect rogue states away from the U233 back door. But now that India has gone and done it, the point is moot. Basically, you can cook some Th for a short time, chemically separate U233, use it to easily make small effective bombs, and bypass the whole enrichment boondoggle. Using a CANDU type reactor this would be near trivial (which is why the US tried very hard to drive it out of the market with big and expensive light water reactors).

    By ignoring Th, you were left with U enrichment and / or Pu production from U (that is complicated by the number of U isotopes – back to enrichment…) where Th has less isotopic complication. Really a neat intelligence coup, if you think about it. Even Pakistan went down the centrifuge path and Iran is following it.

    (And I would not be saying any of this were it not for the fact that the present “push” for Thorium based commercial power implies to me that the whole issue has been mooted by current events… i.e. Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, probably Iran Real Soon Now, etc. and India having made a bomb from Power Reactor Pu just to prove the point that they could…)

    Nuclear fission is the cleanest safest and most practical way to go, so I suppose the US will continue to ignore it.

    Yup. AND we’re going to ignore our vast coal reserves and oil shale too… No, we just MUST have a shortage and the only way to do that is to get all those giant quantities of energy supply “off limits” by hook or by crook…

    So Hansen and Gore are making carbon off limits. Established nuclear fears have put U and Th off limits. And what is promoted? The “Someday Real Soon Now” hydrogen economy and fusion… both conveniently a generation or two beyond reach.

    While I strongly believe the mantra “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”, there is a very well fitted pattern here that is not, IMHO, adequately explained by stupidity… What to make of it, though, is a place I’m not ready to visit. Yet.

  121. tmtisfree (09:31:05) : Unbelievable. Almost 130 comments and not a single post about Dr Julian Simon.

    Thank you! Love the read.

    From:

    http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/TCHAR11.txt

    The Long-Running Running Out of Oil Drama
    Just as with coal, running out of oil has long been a nightmare, as this brief history shows:
    1885, U.S. Geological Survey: “Little or no chance for oil in California.”

    1891, U. S. Geological Survey: Same prophecy by USGS for Kansas and Texas as in 1885
    for California.

    1914, U. S. Bureau of Mines: Total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels, perhaps 10 years supply.

    1939, Department of the Interior: Reserves to last only 13 years.

    1951, Department of the Oil and Gas Division: Reserves to last 13 years.

    The fact that the gloomy official prophesies of the past have regularly been proven false does not prove that every future gloomy forecast about oil will be wrong. And forecasts can be overoptimistic, too. But this history does show that expert forecasts often have been far too pessimistic. We therefore should not simply take such forecasts at face value, because of the bad record as well as because they are founded on an unsound method of proven reserves, as discussed in Chapter 2.

    THE LONG-RUN HISTORY OF ENERGY SUPPLIES

    The statistical history of energy supplies is a rise in plenty rather than in
    scarcity. As was discussed at length in chapter 1, the relevant measures are the production costs of energy as measured in time and money, and the price to the consumer.

    Suddenly finding that someone else has broken trail in front of you in deep snow can be incredibly refreshing… 8-)

  122. Anna V: The fusion mechanism has been proven in the big earth laboratory. It is called the H Bomb, and it worked.

    My comment was apparently not clear. I am not doubting that fusion is possible. A fission bomb can provide enough energy for many nuclei to combine to release the energy of the H-bomb.

    I am questioning whether the engineering problem for finding a new and efficient source of energy has been appropriately defined when basing the effort on the assumption that fusion happens at the core of the Sun and the mechansim can be practically managed. Early fusion reactors attempted to use the Z-pinch (a plasma mechanism often mentioned in the Electric Universe concept) but it was found to be too unstable. The earlier Tokamak test reactor was unable to get more energy out than put in.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak_Fusion_Test_Reactor

    Rather than spending billions of dollars on a huge fusion reactor I was quite impressed that some entrepreneurs have sought other alternatives for an innovative energy source, like:

    http://www.blacklightpower.com/applications.shtml

    I am just a bit pessimistic about this HUGE effort meeting its promises. The complexity of this reactor makes me wonder about its reliability. The Hadron Collider also did not start out well. Fission reactors have been proven to be capable of a great deal of power but the difficulty of the controlling/cooling the reactor and dealing with the nuclear waste make the technology unattractive. Bigger is not always better though ‘big projects’ go well with government funding.

  123. @Dave Michalets (19:13:49) :

    So is that blacklightpower hydrino stuff you referenced real? I’ve aggregated some links and asked that question here:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/are-hydrinos-for-real/

    And I have no idea if this stuff is real or bogus. More “settled science” or just a slick operator?

    The claim seems to be that hydrogen can be dropped to a fraction of quantum base state and you get energy out. I can’t tell if it has truthyness or bogosity…

  124. Dave Michalets (19:13:49) :

    How fusion happens or if it happens in the sun has nothing to do with the design of ITER.

    The scale up of the tokamak is necessary to break even and get enough energy out for use. It is not for fun of making larger machines.

    If ITER were better funded and managed progress would be faster and safer. I agree that government programs and experiments by consensus are cumbersome and accidents can happen as in the LHC. Which LHC accident was due, in my opinion, to the stinginess and outsourcing to labs of operations that should be supervised by CERN engineers.

  125. Re anna v and Dave Michalets above.

    It seems that Dave thinks that ITER is somehow a huge machine; which he thinks is a boondoggle.

    I don’t know beans about ITER, since I just haven’t kept up on fusion research, so this thread actually is my introduction to ITER.

    But we can put ITER in perspective by just considering the NIF facility in Livermore Ca; which isn’t more than about ten miles via crow from where I am sitting.
    The 192 laser beams that operate in NIF operate at an optical power level of 500TerraWatts, that exceeeds the entire electric power capacity of every powerplant in the USA, including all those portable Honda units that are popular in hurrican and flooding regions of the USA. Fortuately for the power grid; that laser blast only lasts for about 20-30 nanoseconds; and the final output energy from the nuclear fusion that may occur when they squish the pea sized Berrylium fuel capsule; may possibly make a cup of coffee; but that’s about all.

    In these systems, energy levels tend to go up as volume while losses tend to go up as surface area; so bigger is better; and as anna explains you have to scale existing tokamak designs to larger sizes to win at that game.

    Now the NIF coffee maker is only the size of a ten storey building; and the laser light travels about 305m or so, for each of the 192 beams, so it is a massive machine.

    But it is still miniscule compared to a wind farm, or a PEV solar farm, or even conventional power plants.

    I’m not as confident as Anna is that controlled fusion will ever work; but then she is the one who has worked in this high energy Physics field; so I take her inputs very seriously.

    The size of ITER doesn’t faze me a bit; except I still don’t see how they plan to extract energy from it. I gather that the exit mechanism is to let the neutrons escape (how are you going to stop them from escaping) and then somehow gather the kinetic energy of the neutrons into some thermal form.

    Which is actually quite ingenious since the neutrons aren’t subject to the magnetic bottle confinement. You still have to somehow get actual fuel in and waste products out.

    I don’t have a problem with a multinational program of this magnitude pursuing such a goal; despite the fact that I have very low confidence in its success; and I shudder to think what a pickle we will be in, if and when they succeed.

    As for Blacklight energy systems; I’ll just wait until I can buy one off the shelf down at Fry’s. Those guys wouldn’t even get a hearing on the Art Bell Dreamland radio program.

    George

  126. E.M.Smith and tmtisfree, thanks for the reminder about Dr. Julian Simon. “The Ultimate Resource II” is one of the most memorable books I’ve read. Reading it should be a prerequisite for voting. :-)

  127. Gary Hladik (18:31:17) : E.M.Smith and tmtisfree, thanks for the reminder about Dr. Julian Simon.

    You’re welcome, but really the thanks go all to tmtisfree… I just followed his pointer and enjoyed what I found there…

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