Fusion reactors 'economically viable' say experts

fusion-reactorFrom Durham University:

Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, and policy makers should start planning to build them as a replacement for conventional nuclear power stations, according to new research.

Researchers at Durham University and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, have re-examined the economics of fusion, taking account of recent advances in superconductor technology for the first time. Their analysis of building, running and decommissioning a fusion power station shows the financial feasibility of fusion energy in comparison to traditional fission nuclear power.

The research, published in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, builds on earlier findings that a fusion power plant could generate electricity at a similar price to a fission plant and identifies new advantages in using the new superconductor technology.

Professor Damian Hampshire, of the Centre for Material Physics at Durham University, who led the study, said: “Obviously we have had to make assumptions, but what we can say is that our predictions suggest that fusion won’t be vastly more expensive than fission.”

Such findings support the possibility that, within a generation or two, fusion reactors could offer an almost unlimited supply of energy without contributing to global warming or producing hazardous products on a significant scale.

Fusion reactors generate electricity by heating plasma to around 100 million degrees centigrade so that hydrogen atoms fuse together, releasing energy. This differs from fission reactors which work by splitting atoms at much lower temperatures.

The advantage of fusion reactors over current fission reactors is that they create almost no radioactive waste. Fusion reactors are safer as there is no high level radioactive material to potentially leak into the environment which means disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima are impossible because plasma simply fizzles out if it escapes.

Fusion energy is also politically safer because a reactor would not produce weapons-grade products that proliferate nuclear arms. It is fuelled by deuterium, or heavy water, which is extracted from seawater, and tritium, which is created within the reactor, so there is no problem with security of supply either.

A test fusion reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is about 10 years away from operation in the South of France. Its aim is to prove the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

Professor Hampshire said he hoped that the analysis would help persuade policy-makers and the private sector to invest more heavily in fusion energy.

“Fission, fusion or fossil fuels are the only practical options for reliable large-scale base-load energy sources. Calculating the cost of a fusion reactor is complex, given the variations in the cost of raw materials and exchange rates. However, this work is a big step in the right direction” he said.

“We have known about the possibility of fusion reactors for many years but many people did not believe that they would ever be built because of the technological challenges that have had to be overcome and the uncertain costs.”

“While there are still some technological challenges to overcome we have produced a strong argument, supported by the best available data, that fusion power stations could soon be economically viable. We hope this kick-starts investment to overcome the remaining technological challenges and speeds up the planning process for the possibility of a fusion-powered world.”

The report, which was commissioned by Research Council UK’s Energy Programme focuses on recent advances in high temperature superconductors. These materials could be used to construct the powerful magnets that keep the hot plasma in position inside the containing vessel, known as a tokamak, at the heart of a fusion reactor.

This advancing technology means that the superconducting magnets could be built in sections rather than in one piece. This would mean that maintenance, which is expensive in a radioactive environment, would be much cheaper because individual sections of the magnet could be withdrawn for repair or replacement, rather than the whole device.

While the analysis considers the cost of building, running and decommissioning a fusion power plant, it does not take into account the costs of disposing of radioactive waste that is associated with a fission plant. For a fusion plant, the only radioactive waste would be the tokamak, when decommissioned, which would have become mildly radioactive during its lifetime.

###

Advertisements

256 thoughts on “Fusion reactors 'economically viable' say experts

  1. Could become economically feasible in a couple of decades? Think I’ve heard that before. I put that right up there with new battery technology will make solar and wind power worthwhile. Fossil fuels will be with us for many, many decades to come.

      • Longer than that. I recall hearing the promise of fusion reactors in the 1950s; that was about sixty years ago. Nope. Nothing yet. I’m betting not in my lifetime.

      • Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades

        Yeah, and AGW “could ” cause the world to get ” as much as ” 6 deg. C warmer …..
        It has been suggested that a small compact fusion reactor could help pigs to fly.

      • I believe the correct phrase is “Fusion: the energy of the future, and it always will be”. That being said, I would truly like to see it work someday.

      • I really don’t understand, when a fusion related article appears, why so many are so dead set against it.
        We know fusion works and has enormous potential as an energy source.
        The fact that it is not working as a practical source right now is no reason to dismiss it out of hand. If a way can be devised to control the process then … power source.
        I find the comments on any fusion related ‘article’ to be somewhat akin to what one might have expected (were the net around back then) when individuals, dreaming of flight, back in 1900 said ‘ah … Internal Combustion Engine… just what I needed”. Nay sayers would be babbling on about how man had been dreaming about flight for thousands of years and how we have had it all before.
        Fusion ‘works’ with absolutely no doubt. The problem, as with flight back in 1900, is that the technology to make to make it feasible as an energy source is only just becoming available. So, sure, we have been talking about it for decades. We dreamed of flight for thousands of years before the technology became available – What’s yer point?

        • Very well stated comment. The issue has been lack of proper funding. See my website on fusion at: http://www.fusion4freedom.us and find the article of mine “Who Killed Fusion” and explore the science sections and news sections on fusion. We must get it done. There is no other realistic energy solution for a world projected to have 9 billion people by 2060. And we must address all energy sectors including transportation, industrial, commercial agricultural, and electricity Fusion ultimately can be used to produce synthetic liquid and gaseous fuels for aviation and can be used to “burn up” 75+ years of fission actinide decay chain waste.

      • @3×2
        You’re probably on the youngish side I’m guessing. Those of us who’ve been around a while have been hearing that fusion was “just around the corner” for an awful long time. It’s the boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome, really. Personally, I’d love for it to be true, but I’ve been to this rodeo too many times to think this is “IT”.

    • I am against fusion reactors as it will be impossible to have world “progressivism” if fusion works.

      • Even if fusion reactors work really well, that doesn’t mean progressives won’t try to ban them. Fossil fuels work great, but they’re still working hard to get them banned.

      • And it could be that the hot plasma in the tokamak container could emanate secret wavelengths causing the world’s carbon dioxide molecules to increase and multiply. CO2 molecules comprise four tenths of 1% of known greenhouse gases, so the gravity of the threat is apparent. I have heard through back channels that Al Gore has his team of physicists reviewing the various fusion projects, and their findings are alarming. Yet none of the prestigious science journals, not even Nature, will publish Mr. Gore’s papers (Al thinks they have been bought off by cheap energy capitalists). Michael Moore won’t even return his phone calls. Word is Al is taking the hundreds of millions he got when he sold his cable channel to Qatar and producing a new movie on his own called An Incanescent Truth.

      • Greenpeace is against nuclear fusion power.

        Greenpeace – 28 June, 2005
        Nuclear fusion reactor project in France: an expensive and senseless nuclear stupidity
        Greenpeace – 24 October, 2014
        Lockheed Martin’s compact nuclear reactor? Yet more fusion fantasy!

        It’s a great pity about the painfully slow progress on fusion power. Had it been viable in say 1975 the global warming movement would have been stopped dead in its tracks.
        For those who remind us that nuclear fusion has always been only 20 years away remember this: How many years from Leonardo’s fantasy flying machines to the Wright brothers flights? Almost 500 years. [NOTE: I make no claims about who invented powered flight or planes.]
        http://m.eet.com/media/1176656/davincinflyinghelicopter_010313.jpg

    • The performance of the fusion reactors has improved continually over the past six decades, with multiple orders of magnitude increases in plasma temperature, density and confinement time. We are currently within a factor of 100 or less from a positive energy balance fusion experiment, so I think we will see success here within the coming decade. However, getting from a sustained fusion facility to a commercially viable fusion based power generator will take longer, barring some breakthrough.

      • Wow. I am impressed, something has gotten better over the last 60 years, that beats most things, and certainly me. I’ve gone a bit downhill in the last decade or so, but still I need a lot more to be impressed by technological advances over 60 years. Before I am really impressed show me something like the advances in the airplane from 1903 to 1963.

      • within a factor of 100 ? so that means they have to improve by a factor of 100 to be viable … good lord … THEY ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE … no wonder no private investor wants to get involved … stick with thorium reactors boys … just as safe and IT WORKS RIGHT NOW … fricking rent seeking morons …

      • Seems I have heard dat tune a few times before. Always going to be great, always PR releases, but never any evidence of practicality even at a micro level.

      • Only a factor of 100, wow. So we got to that in 60yrs we will get to break even energy after we have burned all the co² FF powering up experimental fusion reactors, who, like the massive gravity of the sun, cannot contain the plasmas generated.

      • Within a factor of 100 is close when initially we were off by a factor of a billion or more.
        Fusion performance, measured as a combined temperature and confinement time at a useful density has improved considerably faster than the Moore’s Law pace of improvement in semiconductors.
        This progress is happening even though we are not pursuing fusion very aggressively currently, probably because there is still plenty of cheap oil and gas.

      • We can sustain the reaction. Just not as sustained as might be useful right now (for the nay sayers out there that think fusion is just some wet dream) …

      • “3×2
        October 3, 2015 at 11:51 am”
        The Tsar was a 3 stage thermo-nuclear device however, only two of the stages were deployed and detonated, The fear being too much fall out if the 3rd stage was detonated, so was excluded. The estimated yield was ~56Mt TNT, more than all the conventional bombs dropped in WW2. As I understand it, in any thermo-nuclear device, the second stage is fusion.

    • I first heard “within a few decades” when I was a kid watching those news reels in the 60s. Then I saw updates in magazines in the 1970s and again in the 1980s and usenet during the 90s and it has been a constant stream of “breakthroughs” on the web ever since.
      Not that I’m hoping against it but like many I think the molten salt (LFTR) design of fission will be what fusion always promised to be but never made it to.

      • “where are all the flying cars?” as a genuine old fogey, I looked in awe at a giant curtain over a movie screen ( long ago- 1955 ) embellished with rockets flying tourists to the moons of jupiter, etc. right out of buck rogers. oh well.

      • Last I checked, we were still having some materials engineering problems in LFTR. The salt eats most of the current materials so bad that all the plumbing has to be replaced every two years or so. That means it isn’t viable commercially until the corrosion problems are overcome.

    • They keep on talking about Tokomaks as if they actually work. It would be nice to show that they do, before talking about the economics.
      There would be no way to render them uneconomical, if they actually worked.
      It is NOT economics that stands in the way of ANY alternative energy.
      Most of those schemes simply don’t produce any net energy availability. It is the technology that doesn’t exist, not the economics.
      g

      • Tokomaks do actually work. They have had fusion reactions in them that produce measurable energy output. Just not enough to balance the energy input to run them. That’s what all the research is about.

    • It actually says a few, not a couple. Few means at least three, I am pretty sure.
      So, this is a non-story. Idle musings.

    • People always overestimate the effects of new technology at short term, and underestimate them at longer term. That is, people are first surprised by how long it took before the stuff became available, but then they are surprised how profoundly it has changed the world.
      I believe fusion will come, and takes decades still, but it comes probably by 2050 and is in wide use by 2100.

    • The difference between fusion and batteries, is that we know that if we can surmount the containment problem, fusion will work. The problem is we don’t even have a potential storage technology that will work.

    • In “Back to the Future II” I believe that the DeLorean used a compact Mr Fusion unit to travel forward to 2015. Marty should be arriving any minute now and, when he does, I’ll get a look at that tech.

    • Sure, its all tickeyboo if you first assume the availability of the necessary adamantium / vibranium / unobtanium alloys within those decades…

      • The Administranium atoms suck up all the energy produced, so energy balance is very hard to achieve.

      • I’d rather have a brain than a heart. Hearts can be very misleading–that’s what Liberals/Progressives claim for their superiority.

    • You can make fusion energy economically viable overnight with the stroke of a pen.
      You simply impose a tax on oil. Like $1M per barrel, and give the money to fusion reactor builders.
      Economic problem solved.
      So let’s get with it.
      That’s how the economists would do it.
      But economists can’t solve any of the scientific (basic Physics) and Engineering problems.
      It takes scientists and engineers to do that, unless it is already known to be impossible.
      Still waiting to see how Earnshaw’s Theorem comes into play in this.
      g

    • That site is about as reliable as SkepticalScience. Keep your eyes on Brillouin. If anybody in the Lenr space has a chance, it is them. And increasing credible third party data is coming in., from SRI. 5x unity. There is little doubt LENR exists as a function of the weak force. (Classic fusion is the strong force.) but there is great doubt as to whether it can be engineered into useful energy production. See my long subsection on this in the recognition chapter of The Arts of Truth. With references. Dated YE 2012.

      • The reports on Brillouin do give me a glimmer that maybe somebody at that company understands it a bit better than anyone else or is just plain luckiest person EVER. According to the testers at SRI they are the only ones who can control that massive heat spike into something useful like a square wave. Turn it up, down and keep it going. They might be right or right for the wrong reasons but they are way ahead.

      • I read some of their documents. They switch from an atom size to a K-shell size to a nucleus size with a surprising ease. I would like to see a positive proof that a reaction they outline actually happens – be it neutrons, X-rays, whatever. Until then I am a skeptic.

      • That site is about as reliable as SkepticalScience.

        Funny way of saying that lenr is as reliable as homeopathy in making money.

      • Woodford Equity has recently invested $49 million (in addition the Darden’s $10 million) in Industrial Heat. They claim this was after 2.5 years of “rigorous due diligence.” I believe this mean they must have seen an E-Cat working and climbed all over the commercial 1 MW plant that has now been running about seven months.

    • I agree. I’ve been Rossi’s blog for years now, and he seems to be the closest to commercialization. He has had a 1MW plant operating in NC for a client for 6 months now. This story reminds me so much of the Write Brothers. They were flying for 5 years before they could get their hometown newspaper to make the effort to walk over and see what was up. Whats up with that?

      • Are you saying that somebody has a functioning Nuclear Fusion Reactor, that actually produces electricity (or even steam) continuously from a production sized fusion fuel source, in a contained controlled environment.
        For the purposes of this question, I accept 1 MW (net, net output) as a “production size”.
        Presumably such a thing can be scaled up.
        So far, the only fusion reactor I’m even aware of is the National Ignition Facility’s whack-a-mole machine, that can scrunch a pea sized fuel pellet maybe once a week or something useless like that, and I don’t think the fusion energy output is even detectable compared to the total legacy energy going into that building.
        So where can we see a picture of this garage sized weak force machine. I thought the weak force was contained within the nucleus ??

      • If this guy is really pumping out a 1/4 MW thermal for 6 months, has US patents in place; then it’s time for him to stop all of the cloak and dagger BS and let some real independent Scientists and Engineers have an unfettered look at the machine.

        • If “this guy” refers to Andrei Rossi and his U.S. patent application, please note a patent is a granted commercial franchise based on novelty and lack of prior disclosure. A patent in no way implies something works. And I would respectfully suggest that 1/4 MW may be more in the magnitude of 1/4 mW. One needs to due their due diligence on Rossi before coming to any conclusion but frankly the physics and chemistry is not there and the claims are highly suspect.

  2. They have been economically viable in a few decades for as many decades I have been around, and I was born when President Truman was in office.
    I would prefer to see Thorium come on line sooner in any event.

      • liquid flouride + cooling water. Keep me far far away from that catastrophe waiting to happen.

      • liquid fluoride and water ?? add a couple of egg whites and you can get my grandfather’s wall paper paste; which can be solidified to make pasta.
        That’s why they call it pasta isn’t it ?? And also why I don’t eat any geometry, or color, or shape of pasta.
        g

      • It isn’t liquid flouride. It’s molten salts containing flouride such as FLiBe. They are non-reactive in water.
        OMG, Beryllium!!!! (sigh)

      • Peter Sable: There is no possible chemical reaction between the liquid fluoride salts and water. The fluorides in a liquid fluoride reactor are salts of elements such as Lithium, Beryllium, and Zirconium. They will not react chemically as they elements are in a more tightly bound state than hydrogen and oxygen in water.

    • Obligatory reminder that the USA has run a Thorium fuel in the past, done molten salt already, and present CANDU reactors will eat your choice of U or Th or MOX mixed oxides or various waste “spent” LWR fuel. It doesn’t need a long lead time or “development”. Just cut a P.O. to the Canadians for one of the best reactors in the world. (As a Yank that pains me to admit… they play better hockey too, darn it… 🙂

  3. I’m not at all concerned about the financial viability of fusion reactors. They are a cinch to pay off in spades.
    What I am concerned about is their actual ability, (not yet demonstrated), to make any net energy available to the power grid.
    That would be nice to have as well as a financial success story.
    g

  4. So what. If the transportation sector isn’t electrified it won’t mean squat. And you better believe it won’t be cheap! It took over 100 years for the current fossil fueled power generation technology to get to its current state and its still a work in progress.

    • Does not have to be. “Fossil” fuels can be made from the basic elements, just takes lots of power. I even understand “fossil” like fuels can be extracted from sea water, certainly coal (CTL). So there will never be a natural shortage of liquid hydro-carbons on this rock.

  5. Yes, research on fusion reactors goes way, way back. I had a friend who was an expert in this field who was working on this challenge way back in the late 1970’s. Theoretical work, of course, nothing concrete back then.

  6. Here we go again, sadly it sounds a lot like the warmists crying for more funding. This is now only a few decades away has been voiced for what now? about 5 decades? But to be honest I do hope it happens sooner.

  7. Can’t help but think that by now we should either have made or broke this canard. Maybe if we had invested a significant % of the vast sums used demonising plant food we would by now have an answer?

  8. I head the same claim 20 years ago. It’s true that fusion reactors will be “economically viable,” just as soon as we figure out how to maintain the reaction and transfer the heat into steam to drive turbines. These are the same major problems we faced 20 years ago.

    • A French Nobel in physics said, ‘Fusion is a very pretty idea. We just put the Sun in a box. The only problem is, we do not know how to make the box.’
      Essay Going Nuclear gives the reference.

      • Par Georges CHARPAK, Prix Nobel de physique , Jacques Treiner, Professeur émérite à l’université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris et Sébastien Balibar, Directeur de recherche au CNRS, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris
        Ce que nous craignions est donc en train de se produire : le coût prévisionnel de construction d’Iter venant de passer de 5 à 15 milliards d’euros, il est question d’en faire subir les conséquences aux budgets de financement de la recherche scientifique européenne. C’est exactement la catastrophe que nous redoutions. Il est grand temps d’y renoncer.
        (…)
        Pour contrôler cette production d’énergie, trois difficultés majeures doivent être surmontées: maintenir le plasma à l’intérieur de l’enceinte (il est instable), produire le tritium en quantités industrielles et inventer des matériaux pour enfermer ce plasma sous ultravide dans une enceinte de quelques milliers de mètres cubes. C’est seulement à partir de 2019 qu’Iter doit commencer à étudier la première de ces difficultés. Or il nous semble que la plus redoutable en est la troisième: violemment irradiés par les neutrons très énergétiques (14 MeV) émis par la fusion du plasma, les matériaux de l’enceinte perdent leur tenue mécanique. On a beau nous dire qu’on pourra imaginer des matériaux qui résisteront à l’irradiation parce qu’ils seront à la fois étanches et poreux, nous sommes pour le moins sceptiques : étanches et poreux, n’est-ce pas contradictoire ? Personne, à ce jour, n’a réussi à prouver le contraire.

        Source : http://www.liberation.fr/sciences/2010/08/10/nucleaire-arretons-iter-ce-reacteur-hors-de-prix-et-inutilisable_671121
        My approx. translation:
        The cost of Iter went from 5 to 15 billion euros. Other research funding might suffer. This is the catastrophe we were expecting. We need to stop that.
        (…)
        Three major difficulties exist: keep plasma stable, produce large amounts of tritium, invent materials capable of keeping the plasma in a vacuum, in a box of thousands of cubic meters. Only after 2019 Iter will start studying these issues. We believe the hardest challenge is the third one: irradiated by very energetic neutrons (14 MeV) produced by fusion, the container walls will lose their strength. We have been told that we could imagine a material both porous and impervious, isn’t it a contradiction? Nobody has demonstrated that it isn’t.

      • Which French Nobel?
        Here is an extract from an interview of Pierre Gilles de Gennes:

        Avez-vous d’autres réticences vis-à-vis du réacteur expérimental Iter ?
        Oui. L’une repose sur le fait qu’avant de construire un réacteur chimique de 5 tonnes, on doit avoir entièrement compris le fonctionnement d’un réacteur de 500 litres et avoir évalué tous les risques qu’il recèle. Or ce n’est absolument pas comme cela que l’on procède avec le réacteur expérimental Iter. Pourtant, on n’est pas capable d’expliquer totalement l’instabilité des plasmas ni les fuites thermiques des systèmes actuels. On se lance donc dans quelque chose qui, du point de vue d’un ingénieur en génie chimique, est une hérésie. Et puis, j’aurais une dernière objection. Connaissant assez bien les métaux supraconducteurs, je sais qu’ils sont extraordinairement fragiles. Alors, croire que des bobinages supraconducteurs servant à confiner le plasma, soumis à des flux de neutrons rapides comparables à une bombe H, auront la capacité de résister pendant toute la durée de vie d’un tel réacteur (dix à vingt ans), me paraît fou. Le projet Iter a été soutenu par Bruxelles pour des raisons d’image politique, et je trouve que c’est une faute.

        Source http://www.lesechos.fr/12/01/2006/LesEchos/19582-047-ECH_recherche—le-cri-d-alarme-d-un-prix-nobel.htm
        Main points:
        – We need to understand small scale experiments before building larger experiments.
        – We can’t completely explain plasma instability.
        – Superconductor are very fragile.
        – High speed neutrons generated are comparable to H-bomb.

      • Well he should have his Nobel taken away.
        A Physics Nobel should know that the sun works by gravity, which sucks; and at about 860,000 miles in diameter, they are too damned big to put in a box on earth. Besides they are dangerous, and won’t pass OSHA standards.
        But he’s correct of course that we do not know how to make a box which blows instead of sucks, which is all we have to work with, and you need something outside the box to push on that so it doesn’t splode.
        Was it Isaac Newton who said that each force has an equal and opposite reaction ??
        So you need an infinity of boxes to contain each other. That’s why Fusion will always be the energy of the future.
        Earnshaw’s theorem says there is no such box. (well based on the coulomb force which is the only other long range force besides gravity (which sucks).)

      • >>the sun works by gravity, which sucks.
        Sounds like they need to make an artificial gravitational sucky machine. But not too powerful – we don’t want to all end up inside it….
        R

  9. It would be nice if someone actually built a working model of a fusion reactor first before discussing their economic feasibility.
    I remember the late Carl Sagan (with whom I have a complicated relationship) was very worried towards the end of his life that those who craft public policy were too ignorant of basic scientific principles to direct the flow of the funds and projects that our technologically advanced society requires, in a direction beneficial to the public. Now, 20 years after his death, it seems like his worst fears have been exceeded. Not only are the politicians completely ignorant of real science, but the scientists, too, have grown ignorant of real science and are now themselves charlatan-politicians.
    These are dark days for both knowledge and public order.

    • My family knew him since he began studying with my dad. He used to babysit me! I loved him a lot.

      • That’s pretty cool. I never met him personally, but he made a big difference in my life through his books. Cosmos helped to bring me out of deep depression I was in when I was a boy of 12. I eventually came to disagree with him on religious and philosophical matters, but he I’m very grateful for everything he taught me.

    • He’s a great one to talk about directing the flow of funds to publicly beneficial directions.
      How much money did he waste in the search for intelligent life in the universe, outside a thin shell, maybe 25 km thick about mean sea level on planet earth. It’s not too apparent there is any inside that shell either.
      So far we don’t have even one binary digit of scientific data about ANY extra terrestrial life, whether intelligent or not.
      g

      • Depends on how you define waste, sure they haven’t found signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, they have found some interesting things and the boinc framework allows many different projects to harness wasted cpu cycles on computers, tablets and smartphones all over the world. Using wasted CPU cycles on existing computers is certainly a lot more economical than getting these projects their own supercomputers.

    • Did Mr. Sagan ever express, in a document, where his OR your verbalization of the fear of direction of funds might be used as a citation ?

    • Those things are possible, so there is no money to be sucked up by getting a grant and pretending to “study” it.

    • ‘Cause they exist already. It’s easier to write about imaginary stuff. Nobody can check your work.

      • India has massive thorium deposits so is also working on thorium fuel cycles.
        BTW, monzanite sand with lots of Th in it is common from the Carolinas down to Florida. Go to the beach and you are walking on the stuff to various degrees. Loads of it elsewhere too. California has a lot, but you are forbidden to use it… like most things here it seems…
        We don’t really know how much Th exists as it is not worth looking for any. At least 3x U, of which we have thousands of years cheap on land alone.

    • Partly because uranium is dirt cheap. Fuel costs for reactors are minimal, so getting a cheaper, more abundant fuel such as thorium does not improve the economics.
      Molten salt reactors are an engineering challenge, because the fuel has to be reprocessed continually to remove reaction poisons such as protactinium, which is potentially quite messy technically as well as a proliferation risk. We have run molten salt reactors for years, but only small ones and never one that generated electric power, so these challenges remain open.

      • It’s the transuranics. When you start with an isotope of 232 its pretty damn hard to get to 239. But when you start mostly with 238 it’s pretty damn easy. And that is the nasty stuff. And Protactinium 231 is only produced in the thorium cycle in the fast spectrum and LFTRs run in the slow thermal spectrum.

      • The fuel doesn’t have to be continually reprocessed with a 1 salt or 1.5 salt design. There are pros and cons amongst 1, 1.5, and 2 salt designs, though. Protactinium is only an issue if you breed/convert 232Th. But you can also burn just Uranium or Uranium/Plutonium in an MSR.
        You will have to replace the graphite core after a reasonable amount of time (5-20 years, depending). And you have to have a means of purging or containing both noble metals (plate them out) and Xe poisoning (sparging).

      • Yes indeed. It’s funny when desperate antinuclear people (*) try to make two points to demonstrate that nuclear fission is uneconomical and unworkable in practice :
        – financial meltdown” of nuclear companies (f.ex. in France: Areva, who is (**) in the plant building and mining and waste treatment business)
        – lack of fissile resources on the long or middle term (mining for fissile resources would become uneconomical)
        And they think both points go in the same direction or even reinforce each other (spoiler: they don’t).
        Areva’s financial problems is used as proof that nuclear is uneconomical. What happened is that Areva lost a lot of money with a mine that is on standby until uranium prices go up (***). Would price go up, Areva could exploit the mine and it wouldn’t be a loss.
        (*) people who previously tried to use the scare of accidents (according to some, everybody in Japan is dead now), the scare of controlled releases, and the scare of nuclear waste, without success
        (**) or was? I am not sure how what will remain of Areva after the breakup.
        (***) an unclear affair with possible corruption in it
        Areva suffered a lot when Japan stopped its nuclear fleet as a provider of Japan reactors (including MOX for Fukushima Daiichi).
        – Would nuclear restart everywhere in the world, Areva (or whatever replaces Areva) would become profitable (mining, used fuel, plant building).
        – Assuming nuclear doesn’t restart anywhere, there is no imaginable fissile resource shortage issue.
        So both “economic” points (one present, real, one middle/long term, hypothetic) refute each other! You can argue one or the other, but trying to argue both shows a severe lack of critical thinking or simply of reflection.
        Also, enviros seems to think markets are wrong and short-sighted except when they “see the light” and invest in enviros-friendly tech: investment in solar is proof that solar is the way to go, the Areva share going from 33 € (January 2011) to 7 € now is proof nuclear is dead. People selling Areva at less than 7 € are enlightened: they know nuclear fission is a dead end! The market works! Yeah! It’s magic! The invisible hand (#) at work!
        The anti-market anti-free trade left (who caricature the “invisible hand of the market” as a fairytale story, or as a sort of god) becomes very pro-market when market goes in the “right” direction (I wonder how they handle their ideas in their head, maybe it’s compartmentised).
        Do markets act on short term or long term signals? The anti-market ideologues need to explain which one it is (the answer can involve “it depends” and a long list of special cases, making as many distinction as they want – but they need to answer). If markets with professional experts like the energy market reacts only to short term signals when it comes to fossil carbon, as they say (##), then it must be the case in the fissile resources market, right? Or do resource markets have different behavior and mode of thinking (short term vs. middle term vs. long term) and change over time? Why?
        Every time a greeny use a market based (price based) argument, he is assuming some rationality in the market, he is assuming the markets work, for some definition of “work”. That assumption cannot be used to refute economic arguments about “externalities” (which must involve a third party who was not part of a deal (###)), but it can be used when the same person later says that markets are irrational and the “invisible hand” is like Santa Claus for “free-market believers”.
        (#) the one they claim doesn’t exist and is a stupid belief
        (##) which is why companies are investing billions on oil exploration, lol
        (###) yet in some cases they pretend that nuclear workers are enduring externalities (harmful radiations), which is idiotic

      • Waiting for fuel prices to go up for your favorite get rich project is a fool’s game.
        It’s the ones who find a cheaper fuel who rake in the big bucks. If Areva can’t make a go of it unless energy prices skyrocket , Obama style, then they don’t really have a viable solution.

      • If fissile materials price will not skyrocket, ever then it follows that fissile materials availability issues won’t be a reason to not build fission plants (other reasons might be debated, but not this one), ever. And Areva could build some of these plants (if they prove they are able to finish building one).
        All I am saying is that one “fission sucks” argument refutes the other. Using Areva financial problems as a argument mean you are better on low uranium price. Or you say that long term energy decision should be based on short term price trends. Or that the argument of long term availability of uranium was a bad argument.
        The antinuclear crowds need to choose a tune, or at least admit members of the crowd hold opposite viewpoints. Or admit they don’t even know what their viewpoint is.
        Or maybe they just believe they can have it both ways?
        Well, Joseph Bové can use violence to destroy GM field trials in France (even those by INRIA, the national agriculture research institution) and then claim that if we allow “GMOs” in food, Monsanto seeds will dominate Europe, so I guess THEY can have it both ways. (If you are wondering, Joseph Bové – aka José Bové – isn’t in jail, but in the European Parliament.)
        Some technology critics think they can use any argument, without looking at what’s in it. The argument “Areva loses money” has low uranium price in it. The “nuclear energy isn’t competitive in the US” has low energy price in it, and low price has frakking in it. The “Germany goes renewable but keeps the lights on” has coal, imported gas, and nuclear energy in it.
        Some people think food should be labelled based on the fact that a living thing used to be a GMO when it was growing (now that it’s dead, it’s no longer an organism so it can’t be a GMO). Some even believe that living things who got part of their energy from stuff that used to be a GMO should be labelled.
        Do they believe that arguments should be labelled?

      • The anti-nuclear argument has never really been about any logical argument. The anti’s just grasp at any passing straw that might reinforce their emotional conclusion and throw it against the wall to see what sticks. At the same time, they use lawfare to actually drive the cost of producing a plant up to the point that the economic argument becomes true. It is about a billion dollars to build a nuclear plant and 10+ billion to the courts to fight the resulting lawfare and regulatory hurdles.

    • Good point, I remember a lecturer at Imperial saying that if a fusion reactor could work the neutrons it produced should be used to create fissile material. This would be the most economic way to use it.

  10. I think those panels some people have on their roofs make use of the the only known way to get any usable power from fusion.

    • There’s no assurance that even those, get any net power, by the time you consider all the legacy energy it take to make those panels.
      That does not doom them, if they provide solar power in remote locations off the grid.

  11. could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades.
    I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

    • It is feasible that I COULD bet the farm on it …. My only significant constraints are that I don’t have a farm, and I don’t have enuf money to acquire said farm.
      I’m one up on the guys in the article ’cause farms really do exist.

  12. Switch this thread to cold fusion (LENR), and there will be much more evidence of success. Hot fusion is just repeat slogans. GK

  13. I am waiting for the next big thing. …Proton fusion, ie fusion of quarks…quark bombs and all that. It is just around the corner.

  14. “Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades…”
    ————————–
    We’ve been hearing this claim for decades.

  15. “Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades….” A few decades? That’s what academia was telling us in the 1960’s when I studied fusion. It’s now been half a century and we’re still talking a “few” decades. I believe we may need a tighter definition of a “few”. I’m pretty sure an academic’s definition of a “few” decades is “sometime after I’m safely retired from milking this particular cash-cow”.

  16. There is great doubt that ITER will ever succeed. This paper does not address the three key ITER issues.
    Molton salt fission reactors are a more practical possibility, and they do not need to run on the fertile thorium cycle. A fertile uranium cycle is actually more immediately practical, and also rids us of conventional spent fuel waste. Of whichnthere is already sitting around a 200 year supply. Essay Going Nuclear in my newest ebook has lots of details and footnotes for those seriously interested in reading up on this topic.

    • Given enough time and money i am fairly certain ITER will be a success. The problem is the program uses the scientists’ definition of success, not the engineers’. Scientific success will be achieved when they get break even power generation and have the thing run for an hour or so while being operated, monitored and watched by hundreds if not thousands of PhDs.
      To be an engineering success it has to operate 24-7-356 for several years with better than 90% availability, has to generate electricity at a profit, has to exceed break even by something like 10:1 to take into account the thermal efficiency of the turbine, electric generation plant which will be poor by conventional standards because fusion generated steam is likely to be much cooler than even PWR nuclear steam, has to be small enough to be slipped into national and regional grids and not have the grid go down when the thing needs to be serviced, (plasma instabilities get easier to control as the fusion reactor gets bigger so some scientists are talking about 10 and 20 gWE reactors) it has to breed sufficient tritium to fuel itself without leaking absurdly small quantities of tritium to the environment- see Yankee power station, has to run with a small staff of technicians and engineers with nary a regiment of plasma physicist PhDs in sight, has to release huge amounts of waste heat into the environment without being shut down by the local environmentalist as in California where it is impossible to use sea water for power plant cooling, etc, etc, etc.
      I think ITER needs to be thought of as a big science project weakly associated if associated at all with actual future power generation needs.

      • plasma instabilities get easier to control as the fusion reactor gets bigger

        And there’s a very basic part of the problem. It would be better to work with plasma instabilities rather than work against them. But not many are trying that approach.
        Engineers, scientists – always try to be in control. Sometimes you need to let go…
        Peter

      • What good is running for an hour or so ??
        A practical (electric) energy plant, has a large input supply of some other form of energy (a “fuel”) such as a coal train, or a natural gas pipeline, or a large source of gravitational potential energy, like a high altitude lake, etc
        And it has to have a continuous removal of any effluent created by the consuming of that input energy source, and the ” reactor ” has to be able to either run for a very long time (years) on a load of fuel inside it, or else have a means of continuously inputting fuel, and extracting effluent, without disrupting the output energy reaction, and a means of continuously extracting in some form, that output energy to use elsewhere.
        Seems like a fusion reactor if such exists, basically makes available heat. Don’t know of a direct conversion of fusion to electricity.
        Isn’t it wonderful, that besides hydroelectric or PV solar panels, virtually every other bulk energy process makes that energy available to us in the form of ” HEAT ” (noun) which is the garbage of the energy spectrum.
        We are then faced with the Carnot efficiency as a limit of our ability to convert a fraction of that waste garbage effluent heat to either electricity or mechanical motion of some useful sort.
        There is no energy lower on the totem pole than heat, and we even waste a sizeable chunk of that after we have used it.
        At least in the good old days of steam boats, they had creative things like triple expansion steam engines to successively lower the energy content of the final effluent, which was hot water that was rerouted back to the boiler.
        I got to play around with a triple expansion steam engine on a famous tug boat in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor a couple of years ago; had a very select private party on it for me, and a couple of my high school chums, one of whom rented the tug boat for the evening out in the harbor. The William C. Daldy is the name.
        The skipper even did a couple of 360s out in the middle of the main channel, in the middle of the night; just for kicks.
        I guess a turbo engine in a car is just a double expansion engine.
        g

        • “that besides hydroelectric or PV solar panels”
          you forgot wind energy.
          Also, heat can be used for heating and cooling. All you need is to build the reactor near consumers. Many industries need a lot of heat and cold.

      • And NO, I didn’t forget wind energy. And I didn’t mention it because it too is a HEAT engine. In fact it is a huge gas turbine engine with the sun producing the heat that creates the wind, and it takes many square miles of intake duct and exhaust dut around the turbine blade to efficiently extract energy from that wind. got any idea what the Carnot efficiency of a wind turbine is. What do you think is the Temperature drop in the air flowing through a wind turbine blade. Yes it is mostly KE extraction.
        So nyet on wind energy.
        Just because I don’t mention everything, you should not assume that I forget anything.
        g

  17. I loved this line: “won’t be vastly more expensive than fission.” Let’s hope not. The proposed Hinkley Point fission plant in the UK is estimated to cost £24 billion. While it would be big – 3.2 GW – the same amount of money would build 20 gas-fired plants producing 40 GW total – more than 12 times as much electricity, according to an article in the 13 Aug 15 Daily Mail.

    • Navy Bob, the cost of building gas plants may be low, but what you should be looking at is the total cost (construction, operation, fuel and decommissioning) over the life a power plant. Gas is cheap now but will it still be cheap in 20 years? Whereas, the cost of fuel for a fission reactor is negligible.
      I’m not saying that nuclear electricity is cheaper, just that by only addressing construction cost, you create a false impression of how expensive nukes are. And I agree that the cost of decommissioning a nuclear reactor is still the big unknown. And how to do it is also largely unknown. It’s easier to refit them and prolong their life, or put them on care and maintenance for the indefinite future.
      That said, nuclear power is definitely cheaper than renewable power, for now at least. Unless you count hydro, which used to be called renewable. Let’s not go there, I just get upset

      • Decommissioning costs are not unknown. Many tens of reactors of varying sizes have been successfully decommissioned.

      • Long-term contracts for liquefied natural gas are common, often stretching 20 years or more, according to a 30 Dec 09 article in the Wall St. Journal. The article says US gas producers are trying to sell long-term pipeline-delivered contracts, but customers aren’t buying because they think prices will drop further. “‘The days of double-digit gas prices in the U.S. are over,’ said Chesapeake Chairman and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon.” The article is old, but conditions are the same if not better today for gas customers. I’m no foe of nukes by any means, but gas-burning electric utility plants beat just about everything when it comes to price, operational flexibility, modularity and ease and speed of construction. Of course, coal is even cheaper in many places, but it’s in the crosshairs of tyrannical governments throughout the western world, so it’s a tough sell.
        http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704134104574624491513755228

    • I suspect that this has occurred because UK Energy Ministers invariably do not know what energy IS.
      They do not seem to know what money IS either.
      In that sense, they lack the required expertise.
      I heard one talking once. He mostly used phrases such as “diverse energy mix” and “preferred narrative”.
      It was quite clear that he had no understanding of what he was talking about.

  18. There is an interesting variation of a fusion reactor which is already potentially economically viable. The fusion reaction generates a prodigious blizzard of neutrons. This blizzard of neutrons could be used to burn low grade fissionables.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion-fission_hybrid
    That way you don’t have to create a fusion reaction which can produce energy on its own – the fusion reactor is there just to activate the fissionable material.

    • All those neutrons make it a proliferation risk, though. Not that I’m particularly worried about that, but some people are.
      A thorium molten salt reactor has only a very slight excess of neutrons, so if you try to breed a bomb you will probably end up shutting down the reactor.

    • Deuterium and Tritium fusion gives off one neutron. This is the only fusion that is being carried out because it is easier to get these two isotopes of Hydrogen to fuse. The fusion into Helium uses up only four of the five neutrons in the two isotopes and a neutron is released at near light speed.
      Neutron radiation is very dangerous to tissue and very damaging to materials. You need to have a material that can absorb neutrons without the resulting isotope being radioactive afterward. The simplest material would be normal Hydrogen which just has a proton and no neutron but there maybe other materials. Normally Lithium is also used since when it absorbs a neutron, it fissiles into tritium and helium. But then how much Lithium is needed to contain the neutrons. Tritium then decays fairly quickly into Deuterium thought the re-release of the neutron if it is not consumed rather quickly in another fusion reaction.
      I think it is very, very misleading to say Fusion does not create radioactive material. Today’s fusion research is highly radioactive.

      • DT reaction yields 4 neutrons and a combined 17.6MeV. The neutrons represent roughly 4 MeV of this; neutrons are not radioactive by themselves. The radioactivity issue comes into play when the neutrons bombard other materials such as that of the containment vessel which become slightly radioactive but with low levels and a half life of 12 years. This is mitigated by using a Lithium bath which also is used to breed the tritium which does not occur in nature in useful quantities. Later fusion reactions may be aneutronic such as the proposed P 11 Boron but that is much harder to do and produces less than 1/4 the amount of energy MeV than DT. For more information see: http://www.fusion4freedom.us or contact me directly at tt@usclcorp.com or +1-916-482-2020. Regards, Tom Tamarkin

      • There is a typo in my above reply. The deuterium tritium (DT) reaction produces 1 neutron, not 4. The 4 should have stated approximate energy in MeV. Apologies. The DT reaction may be expressed in its simplest form as follows: D + T > He + n + 17.59 MeV.

  19. I suppose fusion sounds good. The waste products are mostly Helium-3 and -4, which are non-radioactive. Ultimately, fusion could deplete the oceans’ supply of water (i.e. hydrogen), but that would be far, far, far into the future, and besides it would satisfy the greenies as this depletion would lower sea levels, saving the world’s coastlines from inundation. So Algore would surely approve.

  20. Total change of subject…I’ve been trying to figure out the matter of C02 IR-radiation absorption and emittance. If I understand blackbody radiation correctly, if we take two bodies, one emitting certain frequencies of energy, so let’s say one emits IR in unlimited amounts, at specified frequencies, and we put it close to it a blackbody that is initially at 0 K, the latter body’s temp can’t rise above a certain level, because it will reach a saturation point of photon absorption, and simply radiate its own photons of the same frequency, wavelength and wavenumber as the originally emitting source, in the same flus as it is receiving them.
    What are the temperatures that the initially receiving black body could reach, absorbing radiation of C02’s absorptive and emissive frequencies/wavelengths/wave numbers?

    • It would go to infinite temperature because you specified that you have unlimited amounts of IR, i.e. infinite energy radiating away, and a fraction of that infinity impinging on your BB would be, well, infinite.

    • Well to answer your question : NO ! you do not understand black body radiation correctly, or even incorrectly. Nor do you understand any other kind of EM radiation.

  21. Over the course of the last four years we have built the premier fusion energy website for non-practicing fusion and plasma physicists. We provide fusion project news updated daily. We have over fifty fusion videos and a complete section covering both the mainline magnetic tokomak approaches, laser driven inertial confinement, and the very promising Magnetized Target Inertial Fusion approaches. We have a comprehensive section on private sector fusion companies and international projects. Suffice it to say there is much more going on in the field than ITER. The paper “Who Killed Fusion” and the derivative eight article series has been promoted by the fusion communities in the U.S., Europe, China. South Korea and Russia, and I say that having traveled in person to all the major labs worldwide doing fusion work. Please see http://www.fusion4freedom.us or http://www.fuelrfuture.com and feel free to address any questions on the history, politics, and science of fusion to me directly at tt@usclcorp.com or +1-916-482-2020 and I will answer. Regards, Tom Tamarkin, Sacramento, California

    • “In 2014 the United States consumed 98.3 Quads of raw energy to produce 38.9 Quads of energy used by consumers and industry.” If you do want nobody to understand you, you are doing just fine.

      • I believe it is very clear. Quads were converted to Joules. And a simple analogy was provided based on billion barrels of oil. And then the Lawrence Livermore National Labs Energy production and use flow chart was inserted which shows energy sources on the left. Energy sectors in the center and the accumulated rejected thermal energy on the right. This is at: http://fusion4freedom.us/category/issues/fusion-solution/ See complete paragraph 1 & 2 below.
        In 2013 the United States consumed 97.4 Quads of raw energy to produce 38.4 Quads of energy used by consumers and industry. The remaining 60% was lost as heat or thermal rejected energy. That is 1.028 X 1020 Joules or 9.74 X 1017 BTU of expended raw energy. To put that in perspective this equates to the amount of energy produced by 16.793 billion barrels of crude oil burned in one year. Today most of this energy consumed in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels.
        Hydrocarbon fuels have an exceedingly high energy flux density meaning a small unit volume produces a large amount of energy. Nuclear is the only energy source of higher energy flux density than hydrocarbons but today’s nuclear fission processes may only be used for a few more decades because of nuclear waste issues coupled with public perception & policy. The energy flux density of solar, wind, geo-thermal, tidal, and the like is thousands of times lower per unit volume of collection apparatus than hydrocarbon fuels.

        • A quad is a unit of energy equal to 10^15 (a short-scale quadrillion) BTU, or 1.055 × 10^18 joules (1.055 exajoules or EJ) in SI units. The unit is used by the U.S. Department of Energy in discussing world and national energy budgets.

  22. There is a Canadian enterprise, General Fusion, that is taking a little different approach to making use of fusion. The company’s magnetized target fusion system uses a 3 metre diameter metal sphere. Molten lead-lithium is pumped into the sphere in such a way as to rotate the molten matter to form a smooth cylindrical vertical vortex in the center. This vortex is used to confine and compress the plasma. On each pulse, magnetically-confined plasma is injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of pistons impact and drive an compression pressure wave into the centre of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions. The molten lead-lithium absorbs the resulting heat and is circulated through a heat exchanger to produce steam for electrical generation. A portion of the steam energy is used to power the pistons.
    See http://www.generalfusion.com
    For scientific papers, click on “Media” on top bar, then click on “Scientific Papers”.

  23. Fusion has a lot of potential, but as has already been pointed out, it’s been just around the corner for a long time. We should not count on it being ready for commercial power production any time soon. Thorium reactors, however, are ready for commercial power production. The thorium fuel cycle is clean, simple and lends itself to inherently safe reactor designs. It should be pursued as an interim technology to allow more time for fusion to be developed.

  24. Not really a matter of creditability of which expert you listen too. We all know that the physics works. Can we make the engineering work? Maybe. It would be nice to know from all the highly classified labs whether in an honest assessment they think it might work! All this crap of “well they haven’t done it yet” is ignorant crap if you haven’t been working in those labs on those projects.

  25. “Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades,”
    Sure they could.

  26. When Dr. George Miley’s graduate student Brian Dezjuric built an “Inertial Electro Static Confinement” fusion device in 1997, it produced 10 billion high energy (fusion) neutrons per second. If one takes the volume of the Princeton Tokomak and compares to the volume of the fusion region in the IEC it was automatically 60 to 100 times more capable than the Princeton Tokomak ($2 Billion and counting..and never break even, neither is the IEC..) When Drs. Miley and Dezjuric (Brian got his Phd based somewhat on his work on the IEC device over two years..) decided to submit a paper to “Science”, they were treated to receiving a rejection (BASED ON ONE REVIEWER’S WORK) that included a copy of a 1972 paper by the “Oak Ridge Boys”…showing that Farnsworth’s Fusor (the IEC is a variant thereof) NEVER produced fusion reactions, and his “neutron flux” (Farnsworth’s) was merely a noise artifact showing up in the BF6 detectors when the discharge plasma was turned on in the device.
    When Dr. Miley contacted the reviewer (violating protocals, Dr. Miley is old enough and secure enough to NOT CARE) and inquired where the 10^10 neutrons per second, which also were measured by activation of Cd samples… hard to fake.., came from said reviewer said he was TOO BUSY TO TALK and hung up on Dr. Miley. (Who promptly submitted the same paper to a few REAL ENGINEERING JOURNALS and was quickly published. Dr. Miley’s work was the trigger for a lot of smaller engineering school’s nuclear engineering departments to do as here: http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/ep-research-priorities-fusion-science-and-technology.html Now when you start working with methods that have a cost effectiveness of about a MILLION TO ONE compared to Tokomaks or Stellerators, etc. (I.e., the BIG MONEY WASTERS) suddenly you are “persona non Grata” in the “big buck” fusion world. AND they won’t invite you to play in any Reindeer games! (Sorry, I mean to any conference’s with REAL …translating MONEY GRUBBING AND WASTING conferences, conclaves or journals.) I say a POX on all these blood suckers, and may someone in a GARAGE make the first successful FUSION device, and make the BLOOD SUCKERS all “footnotes” in history.

  27. The problem with this argument is that it is made against what soon will be the inferior type of nuclear fission reactor, rather than the new molten salt reactors, which are vastly superior, cheaper , inherently safe (as safe any fusion reactor) , able to load follow, and able to burn up our nucleare wastes a huge plus which not only mostly rids the world of the problems of disposing of nuclear wasres, but provides free fuel as well. Fuel for these reactors is esentialy inexhaustible and will forever be dirt cheap, as it can be extracted from the oceans. Fusion reactors may be close to matching typical fission reactors, but they won’t be anywhere close to matching molten salt reactors, which look to cost roughly half of a typical reactor to build and much cheaper to operate and fuel. Obviously the argument in favor of fusion conveniently overlooks this new, superior power technology.

  28. I bring up this issue to understand science more. I did pretty well at Berkeley in Physics 7 series. Could have done a lot better if I hadn’t simultaneously been tackling molecular biology, organic chemistry and math, plus distribution requirements. I easily aced “biophysical chemistry”, I wanted to take P Chem for Chem and Chem-Eng majors, but I wanted to get into med school, which did not recognize that a B+ in the latter was way more impressive than an A in the former, in terms of work required and knowledge accrued. Nevertheless, I studied a rigorous P Chem text (that assigned for Chem/ Chem Eng students’ class).
    I graduated with High Honors, missing Highest Honors by 0.02 GPA, easily earning Highest Honors in Junior and Senior years,after a slow start coming from a farm-town high school. With a 5th year like Mr. Mann took , I would have sailed to Highest Honors at graduation, compared to Mr. Mann’s Honors (one-level-above-no-distinction). Actually, had I been “smarter” and gone for a PhD, II was on track, had I chosen to remain in it, to earn a PhD at age 24 (versus MM at age 32). I lived in the library stacks in senior year, and went to UCSF to dig up articles not held at Berkeley. I worked in the lab late and night and on weekends, when the grad students were at home. (FWIW, all med students work longer hours than PhD students. I had a friend who was working at Salk late at night, nobody else was there, but the two of us.)
    I’m not bragging. Was I smart enough to earn A’s without studying, except to cram night before exams? Not even close. You can’t do that at Berkeley. I was smart enough to learn to listen to and watch profs look their notes, and when they did, RECORD THAT. Then, immediately after lectures, or as soon as possible afterwards, “replay” in my mind what the profs said that I could not keep up in lecture to record, and write that down. Then, after the day was over, rewrite a fresh set of notes. Then each weekend, starting at week-one, peruse these finished notes.
    Then at midterms and finals, it was a matter of reviewing the notes, getting to bed by 10 PM, awakening after a good night’s sleep, and acing exams.
    In the interregnum, also going to office hours every week from week one, and clarifying my confusion. Which often was profs’ admitting, “I meant to explain that, I ran out of time.” “That’s a really good question.”
    Actually, I received a lot of “That’s a really good question,” answers from many profs.

    • yes ? there are a lot of unkown unknowns? Science is groping in the dark? Engineers must work with formulae that are utilitarian?

  29. Ultimately, this whole discussion is irrelevant. Yes, fusion is the future, but in the interim, why not simply use knowledge already within our grasp. ‘F’ the greenies and build conventional reactors using technology already at hand.
    Ordinarily, I’d not advocate following French ideas, but they seem to have solved their energy problem for themselves. Do I need references?
    The World has enough uranium supplies to fuel our current reactor technology for something like 400 years, and reprocessing the “waste” from those reactors (breeders) would extend that timeline out to 4000 years.
    That ought to be enough time for us (the human species) to solve the fusion problems. If it isn’t sufficient, then, perhaps, we should simply accept extinction as the result of unwarranted hubris, and accept that we are a failed species.
    This is a heartfelt plea for reasonable people to do what makes sense. L

    • We have about 10000 years of cheap U on land, about 3 times that Th, and a near infinite supply from sea water, all at costs cheap enough to be irrelevant to electricity prices.
      The 400 years is based on price competative now, with dirt cheap U sources, not on economical to recover and use at a slightly higher price.
      https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/
      Oh, and another reminder that the Canadian CANDU reactor can use your choice of U, Th, MOX U and Pu, and “spent” light water reactor fuels. USA doesn’t like it as the heavy water makes it easy to breed bomb stuff, but you can buy one today as a proven design and use what fuels you want for a very long time.

  30. The most likely fusion reactor design is probably LLPFusion … It’s based on a concept called Dense Plasma Focus is not a torroidal (Tokomak) design… this particular design by LPP has reached two of three conditions to achieve fusion “Lawson Criteria”). The team with very little cash and a lot of pluck will be quite close to getting the required densities for creating a fusion reactor.
    The configuration of the device is here
    http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/next-generation-fusion-power/
    Presentation at Oxford explains the economics and physics of such a device

    Such a device is quite compact and cheap. It is designed for direct generation of electric power without steam turbines and is aneutronic, so there’s no radioactive waste.

    • What’s wrong with Harrison Schmidt’s plan to mine the surface of the Moon for Helium-3, and use THAT for fusion fuel? At least, if it didn’t work, we’d have a lunar base with the capability to mine the surface for other stuff, which is a lot more than we have now!

      • Tritium decays into helium-3 fairly quickly. It’s much easier to produce helium-3 here than going to the moon for it.

        • Inmost proposed tokomak or even MTIF DT reactors, tritium is breed from a lithium bath which is used to absorb neutrons thereby protecting the diverter and containment vessel as well as facilitating thermal exchange to a steam turbine.

      • My point being, the lunar base would be more valuable in the long term than He3 which would need to be transported back to Earth even if it could be used as “fusion fuel”.

  31. I did not read “The Population Bomb” I did read “Limits to Growth” in 1972. I have read info that the “Club of Rome” met at David Rockefeller’s Swiss Compound. We know for a fact that non-scientist Maurice Strong was a leader in developing the UNFCCC, IPCC. Then the IPCC recruited scientists to establish global warming was caused by human burning of fossil fuels. And then establishing it needed to be stopped.
    James Hansen didn’t go to MIT, Harvard, Princeton or Caltech for his B.S. U Iowa, a third-rate science school. Then his department didn’t forward him to first-tier MIT, Harvard, Princeton or Caltech for PhD physics studies. No, Iowa, a third-rate institution retained him. Same for Michael Mann. Yale Physics, Zero Nobel Laureates, only 4 NAAS-Physics members, 2 now; that was too hard, so he dropped down to Geo. But even that was too hard, he did a “postdoc” at UMass without a PhD, headlined the bogus “hockey stick” at UMass, and THEN Yale conferred a PhD. “Oh you published in Nature, no part of which you did here. ” It should have been a UMass PhD. Because that’s where he finished his doctoral work.
    There are so many crap “scientists” latching on to funding to prove catastrophic anthropogenic warming. which boils down to “Let the UN Global Governance folks take over humanity’s fossil fuel reserves. If you don’t allow this, millions of people, including your grandchildren will die. If you listen to us, billions of people will die, because in our vision, a sustainable economy will have less than a billion people.”

  32. Most Important word, ‘could’.
    Example.
    Could NASA figure out how to travel faster than the speed of light, they would then be able to send Elon Musk and 1/3 of the USA thermonuclear warhead stockpile, with a sufficient igniter explosive to detonate Elon and Warheads by Mars-impact thus rendering Mars incapable of human colonization by any means for at least 10,000 years into the future.
    And who says the Viking Landers did not contaminate Mars! Ah Ha. The “water” i.e. brine streaks!
    Toodles

  33. I want a grant to study power generation from massive earthquakes. The grant must pay me a high salary to develop the mechanism for as long as it takes for several massive earthquakes to occur to test the design. Then I can claim success will happen in a few decades.

  34. When I was at University–a bit less than 50 years ago–I recall learning that the photosynthetic process consisted of, as I recall, 24 chemical reactions, all but two of which stepped down the energy to yield a quantity of energy small enough for the mitochondria in our cells to be able to handle productively. The result was ATP.
    I’ve always felt that all of our attempts to generate energy from nuclear reactions should follow the same path. Going straight to fusion using tritium, etc., has always seemed downright ludicrous. We can’t even deal with the materials to house this kind of energy production. Neither the science, nor the technologies to employ the as yet undeveloped science breakthroughs, are anywhere close.
    Unlike Uranium or Thorium–nuclear fission technologies which still have their problems–another theoretical approach uses heat generated from heavier metals like isotopes of Nickel, for example. This approach used to be called a “cold” nuclear reaction. Of course it is not “cold” except, perhaps, in comparison to sun-like fusion.
    One of these technologies has been used reliably for decades to generate neutrons for medical and laboratory usage. But approaches along this line have so far fallen short of a net energy output. In fact, there is quite a cottage industry attempting to develop the technologies needed to make this a viable energy source. The Navy was heavily involved for many years, along with many Universities and a surprising number of small private groups and individuals quietly exploring their own approaches. Bottom line, the science is just not there yet. (Once the science is, the technologies will likely be easy.) But I look for something like this to be available many decades (or centuries) before we’ll ever see viable energy production from nuclear fusion.

  35. Jerry Pournelle has always said that fusion power has been “about 20 years away” for about 30 years now, and it NEVER gets any closer.

  36. Lawson criterion… Physicists claimed to be within a decade of achieving it when I was studying physics at UM in the early 80’s. Over 30 years have gone by and it’s still “a decade away”. If a commercially viable fusion reactor exists 30 years from now, I’ll be very surprised. When, 100 to 200 years from now, a commercially viable fusion plant is built, I’d expect it to be a pulse type unit that operates as a power amplifier. Steady state fusion anywhere other than within a star is a pipe dream useful only for securing endless research grants from the gullible government.

    • Steady state fusion anywhere other than within a star is a pipe dream

      Finally someone who gets it. It’s like Tesla versus Edison. Edison lost. Steady state lost.

  37. Fission works. Fission is economical. Using breeder reactors there is sufficient fissionable material to supply the world’s energy needs for roughly a billion years.
    The current approaches to fusion appears to fail do to basic engineering problems and basic economic deficiencies. There is no indication that the current fusion approaches will ever be economically competitive, regardless of how much money is ‘invested’ in the boondoogle.

    boondoogle – work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.
    A boondoggle is a project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy or political motivations.
    The term arose from a 1935 New York Times report that more than $3 million had been spent on recreational activities for the jobless as part of the New Deal. Among these activities were crafts classes, where the production of “boon doggles,” described in the article as various utilitarian “gadgets” made with cloth or leather, were taught.

    http://cdn.nycitynewsservice.com/blogs.dir/422/files/2012/04/FusionsFalseDawn_Mar10.pdf

    Fusions False Dawn
    A separate materials facility demonstrated how to build a blanket that could generate tritium and convert neutrons to electricity, as well as stand up to the subatomic stresses of daily use in a fusion plant. And let’s assume that the estimated cost for a working fusion plant is only $10 billion. Will it be a useful option? Even for those who have spent their lives pursuing the dream of fusion energy, the question is a difficult one to answer. The problem is that fusion- based power plants—like ordinary fission
    plants—would be used to generate baseload power. That is, to recoup their high initial costs, they would need to always be on. “Whenever you have any system that is capital-intensive, you want to run it around the clock because you arenot paying for the fuel,” Baker says.
    Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to keep a plasma going for any appreciable length of time. So far reactors have been able to maintain a fusing plasma for less than a second. The goal of ITER is to maintain a burning plasma for tens of seconds. Going from that duration to around the- clock operation is yet another huge leap. “Fusion will need to hit 90 percent availability,” says Baker, a figure that includes the downtime required for regular maintenance. “This is by far the greatest uncertainty in projecting the economic reliability of fusion systems.”

    Of course, LIFE is not without its pitfalls. “You want to look at the big lie in each program,” says Edward C. Morse, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “The big lie in [laser-based] fusion is that we can make these target capsules for a nickel a piece.”
    The target capsules, the peppercorn-size balls of deuterium-tritium fuel, have to be exquisitely machined and precisely round to ensure that they compress evenly from all sides. Any bump on the pellet and the target won’t blow, which makes current iterations of the pellets prohibitively expensive.
    Although Livermore, which plans to make its pellets on site, does not release anticipated costs, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester also makes similar deuterium-tritium balls. “The reality now is that the annual budget to make targets that are used at Rochester is several million dollars, and they make about six capsules a year,” Morse says. “So you might say those are $1 million a piece.”
    And unlike in the current iteration of the NIF, which is capable of blasting one pellet every few hours, targets will cycle through the chamber with the speed of a Gatling gun. “This is a 600-rpm machine,” Moses says. “It’s like a million-horsepower car engine—except no carbon.” A LIFE plant working around the clock will consume almost 90,000 targets a day.

    • Well the real question is jut how much legacy energy does it take to manufacture one of those pea sized fuel pellets. Those pellets, like rabbit droppings are the real fuel, the DT just goes along for the ride.
      Charles H.Townes told the laser fusion community years ago, in a keynote speech, that they were all nuts if they thought laser implosion was a path to fusion energy.
      He did say it might have value in studying very high density plasmas.

    • So they are going to shoot BBs into a hundred million degree furnace, and blatch them with a laser before they melt or even distort.
      Baloney.

  38. Policy makers should start planning to build them? Where is this soviet russia? I think you mean investors and entrepreneurs should consider funding them if they can think of a profitable way of doing it. *grumble* university bred champagne socialists *grumble*

  39. Could climate modelers have learn the art of securing endless funding from the noteworthy success of fusion energy researchers?

  40. “Fusion reactors are safer as there is no high level radioactive material to potentially leak into the environment”
    Well that may be true for the external environment, but it’s a lot more complicated for the reactor what with all those gamma rays and neutrons whizzing around:
    Radiation Shielding for Fusion Reactors:
    http://web.ornl.gov/~webworks/cpr/pres/105029.pdf

    • Also the damage to the stainless steels and the need to change out “liners” is well known, presuming a power generating reactor. The NRC’s safety Journal, published a comparison of the “waste” from fission reactors and projected FUSION reactors. Similar masses are produced. BUT because of the long 1/2 lives of the Ni, Cu, Cr and Fe radioactive isotopes, after 150 or 200 years the TOTAL activity level of the “waste” for a fusion reactor is higher than that of the waste from a FISSION reactor. Bummer..

      • The referenced paper, Santoro, from ORNL is a 2000 paper. Much has changed over the last 15 years in tokomak design with respect to the size and placement of the Lithium blanket used to breed tritium as well as absorb the neutrons produced in a DT reaction. Furthermore much progress has been made in MTIF approaches which offer simplifier design than the tokomak and greater standoff again employing a lithium blanket. And, once we master a sustained net energy gain with DT we will progress to aneutronic reactions. Allow several decades for the science and technology to evolve.

  41. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    “The advantage of fusion reactors over current fission reactors is that they create almost no radioactive waste.” The statement is false.
    In the manner we can potentially build them today, the entire facility will be radioactive waste after months of operation.
    http://www.pppl.gov/Tokamak%20Fusion%20Test%20Reactor , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak_Fusion_Test_Reactor ,
    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S01/16/32S00/index.xml
    Battelle disposed of pretty much the entire facility as radioactive waste, most of it buried in the desert of the Hanford reservation in Washington state. TFTR ran for only a few seconds total of actual fusion power production. 14 MeV neutrons do awesome things to building materials. None of them good from an engineering standpoint.
    No, fusion is not near. ITER has been around for decades, and it will be decades more before they give up on it, defining the failure in such a way as to call it success. We will learn from it, and maybe the next thing will succeed. Young people will see. Many of us will not.
    Fusion is inevitable. We will do it. Until then we will use fossil fuels for decades and regular nuclear fission will become ascendant. There is much more to fusion as we understand it, so far, than engineers can economically overcome. We just cannot. We will, but not for scores more years. Incrementally, it could take a century, even more. We are likely, though, to have a genius-breakthrough, a game changer. It is unknown and unknowable. We might have to do it the hard way, and that will likely take longer than the lifespan of all living today.
    No, the governments do not need to prepare for it. Mostly, the governments just need to work at getting out of the way. That goes for everything.

  42. Plasma fusion is a contradiction of terms. This has been known for at least 60 years that I know of. The people that do plasma research are the same kind of people that research human caused climate change. Just a lot smarter.
    All of the so called plasma fusion reactors use heavy isotopes that spit out neutrons to yield energy just like fission reactors. Real fusion would work with Hydrogen and not yield a firestorm of hot neutrons.
    Humans will have a warp space drive before plasma fusion becomes a practical power source. Now, LENR is near at hand as a practical solution. Watch that in the next decade…pg

  43. “Obviously we have had to make assumptions…”
    “A test fusion reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is about 10 years away from operation in the South of France.”
    The above comments make it clear that their predictions are based on assumptions rather than observations, since they don’t have a test reactor to observe. I have to wonder if models were involved. Plugging assumptions into models seems to be the way science is done these days.

  44. we have enough coal and oil and gas to power the US for 500 years … we should focus on improving efficiency there and also build fission/thorium nukes to give us 1,000 years of power … everything else should be studied as cheaply as possible ,,,

    • You maybe right. But the Kremlin doesn’t want you to do that.
      And the Kremlin is very clever at controlling what everybody thinks and does.

  45. I can remember hearing about the promise of fusion reactors in the 1960’s if not a bit before. It was said then to be just decades away. That is over half a century ago. It was about the time of flying cars, which also, fortunately, have not materialized yet. I think that they should keep up the work on Thorium and molten salt (LFTR) design of fission reactors as they actually work. Actually working is a very big advantage, like coal and oil, over wind and sun.

  46. As they say:
    “Any technology 30 years away from now will be 30 years away from now forever.”

  47. I recently visited General Atomics, and got a couple of hour tour of the DIII-D facility. After a gap in my following of the progress of fusion technology, I was amazed at how much progress had been made. A great deal of it has been in the computer area, where real-time solutions to plasma confinement equations allow the system to tune the control magnets to keep plasma confined for extended periods. GA is not licensed to use tritium in its reactor, or it would already be at a gain sufficient for commercial power use. The ITER will get us there. It has been a long road, but I think we are probably closer than even the optimists assume.

  48. The problem with toks is that they produce too much energy for a given location. The power grid folks like to add power to the grid in about 100 MW to 1 GW increments. (1 GW for base load). Toks come in at around 15GW. What you have to consider is a tok tripping off. That is a huge surge. What is desirable is that no single source represents more than 1% or 2% of the total load.
    The Polywell design http://protonboron.com/portal/ is workable at around 100 MW. It needs (like all fusion reactors) to be proved. Cost of proof is around $500 million total. An intermediate step would cost about $50 million.

  49. Am I missing something here? Why are we not focusing on Thorium reactors? Aren’t they supposed to be small scale? And also safe?

  50. There is a greater likelihood that the national grid will be powered by Unicorn Farts in thirty years.

    • Molten Salt Reactors proved its capabilities in the 1960s over 20,000 hours running the MSRE met all goals. The Seaborg Commission recommended to JFK that all civilian nuclear reactors be based upon the inherently safe MSR design. Due to its inability to aid nuclear weapon development the MSR was shelved.
      MSR, burn 99% of their fuel leaving magnitudes less waste and 80% of the waste is inert within decades. They can’t blow up, melt down and are walk away safe as the failure mode is to freeze in safety cooling tanks. They will be 1/3 as costly to build due to no pressure dome, no 170 atmosphere plumbing, no triple redundant water cooling & power backup. They can truly be built on assembly lines and benefit from process improvements. Think of a Boeing 777 being built one a day and having higher safety concerns than a MSR will need; MSRs are far less complicated.
      Add to the fact that Europe spent €1 Trillion installing 210 GWs of green energy nameplate and producing only 38 GWs 18% output: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/07/31/european-renewable-energy-performance-for-2014-fall-far-short-of-claims/. They could have built 600 GWs of MSR producing $.03 KWh energy 24/7 http://www.egeneration.org
      Obama’s Dept. Of Energy gave China the keys to ORNL’s MSR design; China is on a multi-billion ten year crash program developing our tech planning to own our IP globally.

  51. Within a few decades?
    I remember when the joke was, “nuclear fusion it’s only ever ten years away”.
    Now it’s a few decades away.
    It appears to be further away than it was previously.
    Does anyone have a graph of how far away it has been during the post-war period?
    I have a theory that Hitler over-relied on innovative military developments after secretly watching episodes of Flash Gordon. In addition to consuming far too much amphetamine.
    Could it be that the Caffeine and Hollywood Sci-Fi generation are prone to the same lack of realism.
    I’m always astonished at the eagerness with which people embrace even physically impossible predictions.
    Admittedly, fusion is conceivable.
    But, I wouldn’t bet the house on it.
    Currently the LCOE is roughly infinite.
    I would like to see that figure come down to a more realistic level.

  52. I think when this happens it will be something resembling a surprise – whether it’s two decades or ten decades.
    I’m just hoping there isn’t another, worse kind of “widespread use of fusion” before then.

  53. In the comments above there was some suggestion that fission is already “economically viable” and so why bother with fusion.
    Can anybody explain why here in the UK, we have committed to paying approx. double the current wholesale market price of electricity for electricity provided via the proposed Hinkley Point C Reactor?
    If this technology is so “economically viable” then why is the energy produced going to cost us double the price of the energy that we currently receive?
    AND – we have had to offer loan guarantees and an assortment of special clauses for compensation in the event of various things. So ultimately costs to the tax payer could conceivably exceed this.
    I remember back in the days when “economic viability” revealed itself in the form of cheaply delivered product.
    Here in the UK the expression has taken on a new meaning.
    It appears to mean only that the public can be suckered into paying for it.

    • “indefatigablefrog
      October 3, 2015 at 12:51 am
      It appears to mean only that the public can be suckered into paying for it.”
      Not suckered at all. Forced, literally forced to pay for it. No choice, if you want power. Of course the likes of Cameron and Windsor (Charles) won’t benefit at all. That’s where the British public have been suckered.

    • Fission should be cheaper than coal. The fear of radiation, both real and imagined, drives the cost up.

  54. “Fusion reactors generate electricity by heating plasma to around 100 million degrees centigrade so that hydrogen atoms fuse together, releasing energy. Fusion reactors are safer as there is no high level radioactive material to potentially leak into the environment”
    Pretty safe on the sun but absolutely no go on the earth.
    How far a radius does one need around 100 million degrees centigrade [Note, is this figure even possible or real???].
    Plus if one could get 100 million degrees centigrade why would one even bother to need the heat from the fusion?
    Whatever your using to get there would warm the planet.

    • The sun’s energy comes from the gravitational force; which sucks. It requires nothing more than a big enough mass of fusible atoms.
      Gravity is by far the weakest known force, so it requires literally astronomical amounts of hydrogen like atoms to get enough compression.
      There is no other long range force that sucks. The Coulomb force blows, and there’s no way to do that stably that has yet been demonstrated.
      Laser implosion ( LL whack-a-mole machine) is uncontrolled compression and totally unstable. So is H-bombs.
      There is no arrangement of electric charges that creates an electric filed with a position of stable equilibrium, at which location you can hold (forever) another electric charge, let alone a gazillion of them to squish together.
      Your point is good though. But the idea is for the fusion energy itself to sustain the 100 million degrees.
      It’s much like the Ivanpah solar powered plant which is actually powered by natural gas required to melt the molten salts or boil the water.
      If you need a lot of kindling wood to start a roaring fire; the place where the money is, is in the kindling wood.

      • Some fusion reactions such as deuterium tritium (DT) release high energy neutrons. Other potential fusion reactions such as He3 deuterium or deuterium deuterium or P 11Boron as examples release energy without neutrons. As a practical matter, based on crosssectional diameters and the energetics of the reaction, DT will be demonstrated first. As vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors and transistors replaced by integrated circuits as our understanding of physics was increased, aneutronic forms of fusion will be common place within a hundred years.

  55. There is absolutely no way to accurately asses the costs of a process and therefore its economic viability, when you are still decades away from realising it.

  56. Almost as big a scandal as the human-caused global warming scam is the scientific establishment’s rubbishing of the work of Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons. Their experiments publicised (OK, inadvisably) in March 1989, but based on five years of personally-funded prior study, have been replicated many times over the past 26 years and yet the message is still the same – impossible, because the “laws of physics” say so.
    It was Richard Feynman who said “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” There have been hundreds of experiments demonstrating generation of heat, helium, tritium and the changed composition of isotopes which cannot be explained by current theories. That these experiments have been done by so many different people in so many different laboratories in so many different countries, in my mind, makes vanishingly small that every single one was badly measured or wrongly conceived.
    The vested interests of the hot-fusion fraternity, seeing their billions of research funding threatened, are very similar to the dirty tricks performed by the “Team” in discrediting any approach made by scientists sceptical of the climate control knob being CO2. Needless to say, full collaboration of the main stream media is an integral part of the picture.
    Apart from a few brave souls, most work on cold fusion is done outside mainstream science by those of advancing years: see how one eminent scientist was treated by googling “John Bockris transmutation”. Echoes of the Willie Soon episode? That an exciting new field is taboo to all but a few who are not prepared to toe the party line has strong echoes in my mind of those climate scientists willing to speak out against the “consensus”. And, of course, the climate alarmists don’t like this idea either – a possible solution to (the non-problem of) CO2-induced global warming that does not involve the destruction of first-world economies.

    • Actually, yes, on the fuel side of steam generation. With wood, gas, coal and oil, once it is burnt, it is burnt. With fission, and fissile material, the fuel can be re-processed and used again and again. In fact some reactors can take “waste” and make use of it. As I understand, there are few, if any, technical issues with this. Political issues on the other hand know no bounds in terms of blocking progress.
      I am not sure about fusion in this respect.

  57. The problem is with reactor design. So long as the Tokamak remains the basic concept, progress towards an economical form of Fusion power is going nowhere fast, just like in the last fifty or so years.

  58. The advance of fusion reactors has been outpacing Moore’s Law. They are inevitable, probably with a large scale demonstration within 5 years, commercial operations in 10.
    That said, if you read the study, they project HTS will have a relatively minor impact on economics. My money is on someone like Helion or Lockheed Martin, not ITER, to crack the economic fusion nut.

    • Hmmmm…. except for the fact that there are no fusion reactors on Earth, and are not going to be for along time if ever, and the fact that Moore’s law has to do with things that actually exist and progress, you make a great point.
      Not.

    • You clearly have no idea of the history of the semiconductor industry, and just how many orders of magnitude have transpired as a result of Moore’s law.
      Controlled fusion has not yet been proven theoretically possible (I said controlled), let alone demonstrated on ANY scale.

      • EMS,
        Do you think Industrial Heat’s commercial 1 MW LENR plant is an illusion?
        Woodford Equity has just invested $49 million in it after doing what they claim was rigorous due diligence for 2.5 years.

        • Exactly. LENR is a more technical term for “cold fusion” based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions. By definition fusion must overcome the Columbic barrier which requires a plasma state and a temperature > 50 Million K. LENR can apply to the “work” done by Andrei Rossi in Italy. The U.S. Navy has thoroughly investigated LENR and some NASA scientists have opined on it. But please do not confuse with fusion. LENR may produce extremely small amou8nts of energy for reasons we do not yet fully understand but the operative phrase is extremely small.

  59. Although I support fusion research and do hope that it will produce positive results in the near future, this analysis is just like the climate game — give us more money, the results are just over the horizon.

  60. We already know how to create fusion. Just construct a gigantic one-cylinder engine and drop a fusion bomb into the chamber at the top of the power-stroke. Presto — a two-stroke IC fusion engine.

  61. I have a friend who worked at Oak Ridge on Fusion Reactors. He said the standard joke in the industry was that Fusion power was always 20 years away, regardless of when the question was asked

  62. I hope this doesn’t come across as a stupid thought but, after all these years when we learned electrical theory and practice, it seems always to be assumed that in order to create electricity we need to heat water, drive a steam turbine and generate electricity from a generator. Hmmmm. Will the world in 2100+ have discovered a new way to create electrical current?

      • Got any idea how inefficient the Seebeck electric generator would be ??
        The effect depends on Temperature differentials, so the efficiency just from a Carnot point of view is severely restricted by the maximum Temperature that the hot junction materials can tolerate with reliability.

  63. Plasma containment is easy, really. Don’t need no stinking doughnut. Just put a small “black hole” in the middle of the mess. Caution: Move any instruments (or anything else) you wish to preserve far, far away from the experiment.

    • Isn’t it the problem of designing a universal container to store the universal solvent?
      Sorry, couldn’t resist!

  64. Didn’t I already read that 5 decades ago? And frequently since? It seems awfully familiar. Not that I am skeptical entirely, but the engineering problems always seem to be more difficult than anticipated.
    Meanwhile, you can get power from fusion and also dispose of radwaste by properly designed and built fusion/fission reactors.

  65. Serious question – what is the last new energy production method to be commercialised? Has anyone come up with anything more recent than fission that works commercially?

  66. Well, way back in the ’70s when I was in the nuclear fuel business, they joked about the “fusion constant”…it was always 20 years in the future.

  67. well under really high pressure and at a Temperature of 10million to 15 million kelvins, the Sun is able to produce about 0.2 milli watts per kilogram of hydrogen in the core. If you have a ton of hydrogen under these conditions, you too could produce 0.2 Watts of power – more than enough to light up a small key chain led flashlight. Of course the good news is the Sun can keep this up for about 10 billion years. For higher production rates, you’ve got to get the temperature higher.

  68. ITER generates 0.5GW and weighs 23000 tonnes, at best for such an incredibly complex machine constructed from expensive and difficult to work materials you could hope for perhaps $500/kg, but probably much higher (eg commercial jets cost $2000/kg). So about $10billion to build.
    0.5GW generates about $200million worth of electricity per year, and if it costs nothing to run can sustain a construction cost of (being generous) perhaps $3-4billion. The cost per kg for construction of ITER would need to drop to $150-200 for it to have any chance of being economic. That is quite simply never going to happen for a machine that is bigger, heavier, lower powered and orders of magnitude more complex than a nuclear reactor that costs $3-4billion to build, and still has massive problems with neutron activation, radioactive hydrogen that leaks through everything and hideously complex plasma control and heating systems.
    Helion, General Fusion and Tri-alpha as unconventional pulsed machines may end up being far smaller and cheaper and have a shot at being economic, but Tokomaks are most assuredly an economic dead-end outside of far-future space applications.
    Smaller, cheaper, lighter and safe Molten salt fast breeder reactors are the sensible long term choice to power human civilisation.

    • ITER is an international science experiment designed to support a short term sustained net energy gain using deuterium and tritium. It is not an electricity producing demonstration. The huge size and mass is predicated on our best beliefs as to what it will take for the first tokamak to produce a sustained positive energy gain and no attempt has been made to design it as a cost effective energy producing solution. ITER is meant to show through demonstration that fusion can be controlled. It will be followed by another project called DEMO which couples a scaled down reactor to a steam turbine for demonstration purposes. The Tri-Alpha Energy, General Fusion, Helion and other similar private sector approaches are exploring MTIF alternatives to the tokamak and in fact may beat ITER to the first controlled fusion demo and for far less investment and complexity. Remember the Wright Brother’s first plane and compare to a modern jet fighter or commercial craft like a 787. Remember the first triode vacuum tube and compare it to a modern micro-computer ship. See: http://www.iter.org

      • By sustained positive energy gain, I presume that the total amount of energy that can be extracted from the entire set of hardware necessary for sustained safe energy ‘release’ (energy is not created); exceeds the sum total of ALL of the input legacy energy inputs, necessary to cause that hardware to perform its task.
        A Boeing 787 commercial jet aircraft would be a dud, if its engines only produced enough net available energy to keep the cabin lights on during takeoff.
        g

  69. I have some doubts about the economics. Currently, the world most expensive building is the gen3 reactor that they are building in Olkiluoto, Finland. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant
    The price is high since the unit is the largest currently (?) and because it’s supposedly very safe. Just think how much would a large scale Fusion reactor cost nowadays. How could it ever pay back the investment?
    And if you are wondering, why it’s been built on a country, which has the population of 5 million, and where they are going to build a modern Russian unit in next decade, think of the choices. If we don’t build these, the Russian will build them near enough, and then we are just waiting for an accident. There are currently Chernobyl type heavy water plants operating near by. Finland currently imports energy from Russia.

    • According to Areva the high costs in Olkiluoto are results of heavy bureaucracy. Greens leading the officials have done their best to slow the construction.
      Another big mistake is to combine design and construction. A design prototype is cheaper in experimenting which solutions the officials will approve. The same applies to fusion design, especially ITER though there delivering public money to supporters is the point, not the results.

      • I don’t know how many greens would work at STUK, the radiation safety unit. And they ware on parlament when both licenses ware given, two separate times. Once they left and then stayed.
        Since EU has made foreign work force easy to use, arava hired the cheapest people it found. These made shitty work and lot of things needed to be rebuilt.
        And Siemens failed to install the electronics. Same happened with the new metro line. Siemens failed on the automation and now there are human drivers, wich can’t operate the trains so frequently.
        Earlier reactors ware build by Russians and then rebuild by Finns. These work well and ware operational in reasonable time.

  70. Harvesting helium could add an extra financial benefit. World helium prices would have to be lydisined up though, if you catch my drift.

  71. When I was earning my masters degree in nuclear engineering, back in the early 80’s, my professor was asked when would we see commercial nuclear fusion. His answer over 30 years ago was “not in your lifetimes”. All of us former students are now at least 50 years old (I am 61) and it appears that he was right.

  72. At prep school I remember the excitement in c.1954 about the ZETA fusion project… unlimited energy in twenty to thirty years. Are we getting any closer?

  73. Its not looking good.
    “ITER’s mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, and prove that it can work without negative impact.[24] Specifically, the project aims:
    To momentarily produce ten times more thermal energy from fusion heating than is supplied by auxiliary heating (a Q value equals 10).
    To produce a steady-state plasma with a Q value greater than 5.
    To maintain a fusion pulse for up to 480 seconds.
    To ignite a ‘burning’ (self-sustaining) plasma.
    To develop technologies and processes needed for a fusion power plant — including superconducting magnets and remote handling (maintenance by robot).
    To verify tritium breeding concepts.
    To refine neutron shield/heat conversion technology (most of the energy in the D+T fusion reaction is released in the form of fast neutrons).”
    How much spent and to spend on these quite modest aims?
    “Construction of the ITER Tokamak complex started in 2013[6] and the building costs are now over US$14 billion as of June 2015, some 3 times the original figure.[7] The facility is expected to finish its construction phase in 2019 and will start commissioning the reactor that same year and initiate plasma experiments in 2020 with full deuterium-tritium fusion experiments starting in 2027.[8][9] If ITER becomes operational, it will become the largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment in use, surpassing the Joint European Torus. The first commercial demonstration fusion power plant, named DEMO, is proposed to follow on from the ITER project.[10]
    Sounds like the mother of all junkets to me.
    Cheers
    Roger

Comments are closed.