German Continuous Nuclear Fusion Reactor Milestone

"W7X-Spulen Plasma blau gelb" by Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik - Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

“W7X-Spulen Plasma blau gelb” by Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik – Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons –

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Germany has activated its new Wendelstein 7-X Stellarator reactor for the first time, briefly testing its ability to heat and contain a Helium plasma. The German Stellarator is the first nuclear fusion reactor ever built which has a chance of hitting break even – or at the very least, of maintaining a sustained nuclear fusion reaction for up to half an hour at a time.

According to World Nuclear News;

After more than a year of technical preparations and tests, the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator has produced its first helium plasma.

On 10 December, the operating team in the control room started up the magnetic field and initiated the computer-operated experiment control system. It fed around one milligram of helium gas into the evacuated plasma vessel and switched on the microwave heating for a short 1.3 MW pulse. The first plasma could be observed by the installed cameras and measuring devices.

The first plasma in the machine had a duration of one-tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius.

The next task will be to extend the duration of the plasma discharges and to investigate the best method of producing and heating helium plasmas using microwaves.

Project leader Thomas Klinger said, “We’re starting with a plasma produced from the noble gas helium. We’re not changing over to the actual investigation object, a hydrogen plasma, until next year.” He added, “This is because it’s easier to achieve the plasma state with helium. In addition, we can clean the surface of the plasma vessel with helium plasmas.”

Read more: World Nuclear News

A Stellarator differs from a Tokamac by flattening and twisting the Fusion plasma, rather than attempt to hold it in a simple donut shaped magnetic bottle. This twisted configuration diminishes geometric defects in the containment field, reducing the tendency of the plasma to escape magnetic confinement.

Obviously these are early days, but if the German fusion reactor fulfils the research team’s expectations, within the next year or two the German team may demonstrate the first ever completely stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction.


157 thoughts on “German Continuous Nuclear Fusion Reactor Milestone

  1. When they have this sort of potential, why have they wasted all that on eco-tard energy (or lack of, depending on the wind and Sun are doing)?

    • Probably because a practical economical fusion reactor is not possible. I hope I am wrong. And I agree with you about sun and wind power being a waste. But two things about fusion to keep in mind: (1) They’ve been working on it since the early 1950’s. They’ve spent trillions now on the research. To date they have nothing. (2) A commercial electric power plant has to make money. It must produce electricity reliably and cheaply. If the equipment is so expensive that the elctricity never pays for the equipment it will never be built for commercial use. If the operation of the equipment is so difficult that you need a hundred PhD’s in nuclear physics watching it continuously it won’t be built commecially.

      Having said that, it sure would be nice if it were possible.

      • ” If the equipment is so expensive that the elctricity never pays for the equipment it will never be built for commercial use.”

        This restriction never seems to enter into the economics of the AGW crowd.

      • Let’s see, they are using a substance that is not actual fuel, and heating to a temperature which is 99 million degrees to cold.
        They are not even thinking about putting hydrogen into this thing until next year, so I would be very surprised if they have a stable fusion reaction that soon.
        The reason they are not using hydrogen right now is because the actual fuel is very difficult to work with.

        It seems to me the stellerator was a design which was passed over 65 years ago to concentrate on the tokamak design, since tokamak is superior.
        After concluding that tokamak will never work, at least no time soon, they consider it a breakthrough to be at square one with a machine which was rejected over six decades ago?
        I am hoping I am wrong too…but this glowing report is all hype and no substance.
        They turned it on, and…what? it did not wreck itself right away?
        A billion dollars to heat up a milligram of non-fuel for a tenth of a second to a temp that is one percent as hot as they need for anything to start to happen?

      • To give you a comparison, current fission reactors are consist of a steel container, filled with water, in which one inserts pieces of ceramic. The metal gets hot, because it is surrounded by the water, and the water either boils, or it is under pressure so that it does not boil, but it is pumped through a heat exchanger where it causes a separate fluid stream of sater to boil. The steam that is created is used to turn a turbine which drives a generator to make electricity.

        The difficulty and skill come from (1) designing the geometry of the ceramic in the water (very well understood), (2) being able to contain the raidioactive fission products produced when the ceramic (contained inside a sealed metal tube) gets hot, during normal operation and during operational events and accidents, and (3) controlling the radioactive materials created in the steel container when it is irradiated with neutrons from the ceramic material.

        Items 2 and 3 are the major difficulty with fission reactors, because the fission process in the ceramic material can be stopped rather quickly, but the fission products continue to generate substantial amounts of heat for a long while after the fission process has stopped. So, most nuclear safety concerns involve ensuring cooling of this ceramic material, inside the metalic tube, inside the steel container, inside the large concrete containment building.

        With fusion, the process starts with creating a bit of material that is the same temperature as the inside of a star, which also generates a lot of heat, plus neutrons that impact the container for the “star material”, and which cause it to become radioactive. The heat is used to boil water, which powers a turbine that spins a generator, etc. while the neutrons are used to create more fuel from lithium. The process can be shutdown rather quickly, and there are no fission products to continue to generate heat after the fusion process shuts down. But you have all the same issues controlling the release of radioactive material created by the neutrons (which is non-trivial). Plus you have to figure out how to contain a bit of “star material” on the surface of a planet, and add more fuel to the fire while it is continues to “burn” at stellar temperatures. This is the part that is extremely non-trivial.

        The liquid fuel thorium reactor does not contain the fission products in a metal tube, but instead it circulates them thru the steel container and outside it thru a heat exchanger where it boils water to make steam, etc. The fission products are removed continuously in a chemical process that is similar to the process used to re-process the ceramic material used in current fission reactor fuel. It still has to deal with all of the fission product heat, inside the reactor systems AND in the reprocessing plant, and it also has to deal with highly, highly, highly (can’t say that word enough here) radioactive material in systems that are operated, maintained, and repaired entirely by remote control, inside buildings where people will NEVER be allowed to go, once it is constructed.

        In fact, it is advisable that the entire reactor and the reprocessing plant be built by remote control, once the concrete is in place, in order to give the operators good practice in figuring out how to maintain them in the future. This is the part of LMTRs that is extremely non-trivial. It will cause the price of this technology to be MUCH higher than current fission reactors, which allow the spent fuel to decay to much more “approachable” levels before the fuel is reprocessed in one central facility that is dedicated to that function. With the LMTR, each reactor includes a full chemical reprocessing plant along with all the other stuff. It CAN be done, but no one who has ever dealt with a real operating reactor would think it is better than discrete fuel elements.

    • If developed, it will eventually be deployed, but, there will be wrinkles and a big fight. As soon as it becomes feasible, the “usual suspects” will all of a sudden realize that some radiation is produced and that there will still be some radioactive waste and want to ban fusion. The real fanatics will realize that fusion will allow populations of humans to increase or stay in the 10 billion range and that it will allow a market society to continue. Since they care more about “humanely” reducing populations by half and moving to what they believe is a better form of government – i.e. larger and more intrusive at the very least – they will fight fusion just as they have nuclear and clean versions of fossil such as natural gas (tracking).

    • You may have well have said the same about the dream of flight back in 1900. “Flight has been few years away for the last two thousand years”.

      What was lacking for two thousand years was the ICE for example, the technology. What has been lacking in Fusion research for sixty years is, again, the technology. Processor or materials technology as examples.

      We know Fusion works, the technology to control it is another matter.

      • Well hold on there 3×2.

        We know that gravity driven fusion works; but that is because gravity sucks.

        We don’t know that CONTROLLED non gravity fusion works. Uncontrolled does work as in H-bombs, but they don’t run continuously for 30 years.

        And it’s a Physics question, not a technology one.

        Check out Earnshaw’s theorem, about stable electromagnetic fields.

        The Coulomb force does not suck it blows, and it will eventually pop out somewhere and create quite a mess.

        But let’s see them make good on their conjecture that a stellarator will do the job.

        Now just what do we need a hpot helium plasma for ??


      • You make some good points, However are we do *not* know that controlled fusion can be made to work. We know that stars, using gravity, have fusion driving their energy outputs.
        Stars are remarkably free of technological tricks.
        We do not have tech tricks available to make fusion happen except in single use self-destructive devices. We know gravity exists. We are not close to managing gravity except with airplanes, gliders, space ships, etc.

      • I agree with George…we have no idea if a workable fusion reactor will ever be possible.
        We know flight is possible because we have the benefit of hindsight.
        And even before we had a plane that flew, we could see that birds could achieve heavier than air flight.

        There has never been a truly hope giving breakthrough in fusion research
        Spending a bunch more money and doing some stuff that is not fusion, is not a breakthrough.

      • Hunter,

        I don’t think you have grasped the fundamental constraint we have to work with.

        With current main stream Physics theory; it is believed that we only know of for sure of four basic forces of nature.

        I am excluding the ” dark matter ” and ” dark energy “. I’m not saying those don’t exist. They are concepts that seem to explain some strange cosmic phenomena, that suggests that most of the mass of the universe is undetectable, except as it would explain the rotation properties of galaxies. But we don’t have any idea what the hell, either of those things could be.

        I know I don’t seem to have any of either of them trapped in my bathroom.

        So that leaves us with the “strong” nuclear force, which so far as I know is confined to the atomic nucleus. It is maybe the strongest of the four forces, and it sucks. So it stops the protons and neutrons from blowing each other apart; well at least the protons.

        Then we have the Coulomb force between electric charges, which doesn’t suck; it blows, and it tries to blow the nuclear protons apart. It is an infinite range force. Operates from zero to infinity, not counting the two end points. We have a lot of control over it, but can’t do a thing with the strong force so far as I know.

        Then there is the weak nuclear force, which is somewhat of a mystery to me, so I don’t know whether it blows or sucks or how strong it is. I just know that it seems to have something to do with beta decay; and that si the sum total of all I know about it, other than we don’t control it either and it is confined to the atom (I think).

        Then there is gravity which sucks, and is also infinite range like the Coulomb force. But gravity is far and away by far the weakest known force. But everything in the universe sucks everything else in the universe towards itself. But the inverse square law, makes it only effective when masses are at reasonable distances from each other.

        So gravity is sucking all local mass towards the LOCAL center of mass, so it is naturally going to coalesce just like the great plastic Pacific garbage patch.

        And the more mass that accumulates in one place, the stronger it sucks on more mass.
        So how are you going to stop that all from scrunching itself down to nothingness, and ultimately a black hole. I guess Steven Hawking is uncomfortable about it scrunching down to zero; a singularity. Me too.

        So enough mass collected together and gravity will eventually compress the hell out of it which heats it, and ultimately if it is mostly Hydrogen of some species, it fuses. The energy that is released from fusion heats it all to generate enough pressure to stop the collapse, until you run out of hydrogen, and then the big squish takes off again and tries to cook up something heavier, like carbon or oxygen (I guess).

        So all you need is a heck of a lot of mass of hydrogen or some other light atoms.

        It all happens untouched by human hands, and we have no idea how to stop it from going fusion.

        So the Coulomb force is currently the only long range force we can even manipulate, and the fact that it blows instead of sucks says we have to push all that stuff together somehow. Well then we need some place to stand while we push, and that is the problem. We don’t have a bottle that can sustain both the high pressure and also the 100 million degrees C Temperature.

        Earnshaw’s theorem says there is no arrangement of electric charges, that produces an electric field which contains a point of absolute stability at which point one could presumably place another charged particle; being pushed from all sides to stay at that stable equilibrium point; because there is no such point.

        I don’t know enough about the theorem to understand what it might say about a dynamically controlled system; but a stable static system does not exist.

        So everything I know about it says non gravitational stable fusion, under the Coulomb force, is a physical impossibility.

        Now we dynamically control inherently unstable aeroplanes to make things fly that ain’t supposed to. So maybe fast computers and dynamic EM fields can do an end run around Earnshaw;’s theorem, but I don’t know that.

        So I’m not investing in any fusion schemes.

        I’ll be really happy to be proved wrong.


    • I used to work with a bunch of Physics PhDs who jokingly referred to the Fusion Constant: It was always 20 years away.

      • Same was said about wide scale use of fiber optics to the home in the 80s. It was always just 5 years away.

        Fortunately it is now widely and successfully used to supply tele-comm services to millions.

        Perhaps Fusion power will remain elusive. But we could really use a good technological breakthrough for a lower cost energy alternative.

    • hunter December 17, 2015 at 4:16 am

      Fusion Power has been just a few years away for the last 60 years.

      Fusion power has always been fifty years in the future and, unless something unforeseen co,es along, always will be.

    • ” just a few years away for the last 60 years.”

      Actually no, it’s been “a few DECADES away”, since I did uni, ~ 1979. I did a report on it.

    • Ahhaa… Always interesting…. and stubbornly refuses to die completely. Certainly, something a tad is going on in various experiments here and there. I’m not holding my breath so-to-speak, but I am always interested :-)

      • {Scene: The Ancient Monastery}
        Master: Grasshopper! Attend me and gain Enlightenment.
        Grasshopper: Yes, Master?
        Master: Look. What do you see?
        Grasshopper: The commenter has a silly name, I do not feel so bad now?
        Master: Grasshopper!
        Grasshopper: The commenter made an error, and then double posted to correct the error. Is it not proper to correct your error when you have made a mistake?
        Master: What you say is true, but not wise.
        Grasshopper: If every error, no matter how small was corrected, in pursuit of perfection, nothing would ever get done?
        Master: Wise. And?
        Grasshopper: The commenter is not humble, believes no one minds reading his comment twice.
        Master: Yes! Now, do not see, instead observe.
        Grasshopper: The careless commenter chose not to take the time to proofread before hitting the “Post” button. The commenter then spent the time to correct a foolish error. This is not a sensible way to do things.
        Master: Wise! And?
        Grasshopper: The commenter was Wisely named!
        Master: Enlightenment!

    • There are several others in the LENR field with promising and documented results( Brillion, Nanortech Inc.) and other approaches to hot fusion that are closer to production than this (Laweranceville Plasma Physics).
      The bill recently introduced to the U.S.House to provide funding for this research will be a huge benefit to the field and money in the right direction.

    • I find LENR implausible, because real calorific fusion reaction on the scale of the LENR demonstrations should produce enough radiation to kill everyone in the room, and probably the street outside the demonstration venues. One of the remaining challenges for building a viable fusion reactor, is finding a reactor containment vessel which doesn’t crumble into dust under the impact of all the radiation. The LENR explanation, that they have discovered a “new kind of fusion”, is less than credible IMO.

      • (Note: “Buster Brown” is the latest fake screen name for ‘David Socrates’, ‘Brian G Valentine’, ‘Joel D. Jackson’, ‘beckleybud’, ‘Edward Richardson’, ‘H Grouse’, and about twenty others. The same person is also an identity thief who has stolen legitimate commenters’ names. Therefore, all the time and effort he spent on writing 300 comments under the fake “BusterBrown” name, many of them quite long, are wasted because I am deleting them wholesale. ~mod.)

  2. This is the area where all the ” GREEN ” money should have been spent !! Maybe this is why the liberals are in such a rush to push their agenda, they know they are running out of time !!

    • I don’t think so. Nuclear fusion is extremely difficult to handle. Pretty much everything in nuclear fusion is extreme. It is very likely it will never reach competitiveness. The green money should be invested in nuclear fission instead. It is allready competitive, reliable, very low emission and scalable both up and down. Waste problem has been solved years ago and next generation fission power plants are able to burn existing waste. And still the greens vehemently oppose it.

      • SALT Reactors seem like they are a better choice then both of the above but I don’t know their workings well enough yet to decide !

      • Whatever. Fusion might be better in the long run, but fission is much better than pretending that it is possible to relevantly decrease energy consumption using silly saving ideas.

        What Greens need most is to become green i.e. start protecting Nature and stop doing politics. Greens love GMO free, ‘biological’, near-produced products. All of the Green virtues are ‘virtues’ which increase the amount of acreage and amount of work needed for farming a unit of products. Greens want their energy produced in an impossible expensive way. While some of the reasons are good, the end result is inevitable. Greens are a cult which third-worlders do not afford.

      • James Hansen doesn’t oppose it. But then, I suppose that means he’s “not green” ipso facto. He’s an alarmist, obviously, but may actually have a few viable brain cells, so that makes him worse than useless to the Gr$$ns. Funny, though, how they seem to overlook his heretical remarks about nuclear and don’t vilify him. So he’s a “useful idiot” from their POV? We’re through the looking glass …

      • Marcus, when Antti Naali said “next generation fission power plants are able to burn existing waste”, he was talking about molten salt designs now in the testing stages
        meanwhile there should be no embargoes on conventional proven designs with additional emergency cooling provisions.
        It is also time for a more realistic regulation of dosages in humans. I was exposed to more radiation working in a coal burning power plant than my counterparts at the nuclear plant 100 miles away were allowed to receive annually. The Wyoming Anthracite fuel is moderately radioactive according to the company, releasing higher rads when pulverised and burned, plus a radioactive ash waste
        Anyone who has worked in both a coal fired plant and a nuke will tell you that a nuke is much easier duty for your body. You only have to monitor personal radiation. When you reach the limit you get paid vacation. In a coal plant you must protect yourself from breathing fly ash and coal dust which is radioactive and everything is generally filthy compared to a nuke plant. Plus, you have to be part of the load management in a coal (or gas) plant, so you are always adjusting the unit, while a nuke is baseload and load changes are infrequent.

      • brians356 –James Hansen doesn’t oppose it. … Funny, though, how they seem to overlook his heretical remarks about nuclear and don’t vilify him.

        They may have stopped the overlook.

        The Guardian –

        There is a new form of climate denialism to look out for – so don’t celebrate yet – by Naomi Oreskes

        But not so fast. There is also a new, strange form of denial that has appeared on the landscape of late, one that says that renewable sources can’t meet our energy needs.

        Oddly, some of these voices include climate scientists,[link to below] who insist that we must now turn to wholesale expansion of nuclear power. Just this past week, as negotiators were closing in on the Paris agreement, four climate scientists held an off-site session insisting that the only way we can solve the coupled climate/energy problem is with a massive and immediate expansion of nuclear power. More than that, they are blaming environmentalists, suggesting that the opposition to nuclear power stands between all of us and a two-degree world.

        Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Tom Wigley, Dr. Ken Caldeira and Dr. Kerry Emanuel will present research showing the increasing urgency of fully decarbonizing the world economy. However, they will also show that renewables alone cannot realistically meet the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C, and that a major expansion of nuclear power is essential to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system this century.

        Now this is by Oreskes, who goes by – “Not only do the slaves have to “stay on the plantation”, they have to “stay in the same field on the plantation” .

  3. Good for them. I’m not a great fan of most big science. For example I think as I have always thought that the International Space Station is expensive, hazardous to its inhabitants and largely pointless. I doubt we’ll see moon colonies, much less Mars colonies in this century. Asteroid mining? Not with current or foreseeable launch costs. You have to lift a lot of stuff into orbit to stand any chance of getting your asteroid down where you want it to come down. I doubt the economics work until the costs of putting a kilogram in orbit get down to the 100USD range. Which won’t be any time soon. Possibly not any time ever with chemical rocket launch vehicles.

    But this Stellarator thing grabs me just as an artistic creation. Here’s an image that shows enough of the exterior to see what it looks like. Straight out of star wars. And of course, the eventual impact of a real hydrocarbon free energy source that generates large amounts of power and appears to be virtually impossible to weaponize would be enormous. And also, it’s just so damn cute

    That said, I just as soon that my local power plant containing million degree Celsius plasmas with electromagnets was not built in my backyard. The next county over might be too close.

    • They should really be quite safe, the reaction is not self sustaining as soon as the containment field collapses, so does the reaction – indeed in general reaction by-products also poison the reaction and cause it to collapse. Fusion is nowhere near as potentially dangerous as a fission plant and even those these days with the new designs are actually quite safe. The real problem with early fission reactor designs was the cold war which unfortunately influenced the fuel choice.

      • Well, yes blunderbunny. In principle you are dead on. And my understanding is that even the radioactive materials that would possibly escape would probably be less nasty to deal with than the witches brew from a failed fusion reactor. But still, It’d be nice to have some practical experience with failure modes before pronouncing the devices to be (relatively) safe. I think most folks who have some field experience with new technologies will tell us that whatever can break eventually will — often in really interesting and unexpected ways.

      • By the time they are ready to build a commercial fusion reactor, we will have had 100’s of thousands of hours of experience with the various levels of experimental ones.

      • Well with Coulombic fusion, you have to (try to) force it to compress the fuel. With gravity fusion, when you have enough mass, you can’t stop it from fusing. It just does it by itself with zero technology required.

      • We would need to not simply control gravity, but to create it in the absence of a corresponding mass.
        Which is right up there with magnetic confinement in the realm of things which may be never possible.
        Actually, gravity without mass seems even more likely to be an impossibility.
        May be more worthwhile to work on inventing a transporter beam.
        Then we could just transport a little piece of the sun’s core to where we want some heat and energy.
        Or time travel, so we can go into the future and see if fusion is ever mastered…then steal the plans and bring them back to now.

    • Big science is a bad idea and not in my backyard are two memes that I hate. I was a kid when we reached the moon. That was big science doing amazing things. It has been proven we learned so much from the Apollo program that the economic boost more than paid for the cost and yet the ‘big science is a bad idea’ folks helped to kill the program. I suppose you don’t like using a cell phone or all the benefits from a computerized economy? Yea computers are a pain at times, but the efficiencies they’ve helped with have been great for everyone. ?Big science is a bad idea? As Snoopy would say. BLEAH! The list of items big science has provided is very extensive. The ignorance of big science is a bad idea is frightening. The not in my backyard is a similar neanderthal meme which has killed or made incredibly expensive many things. If you’re really worried not having something in your backyard which is dangerous, you should consider getting rid of bathrooms.In 2008 an estimated 234,094 nonfatal injuries occurred in bathrooms and that isn’t counting the fatalities. It’s frightening.

      • The only “big science” that came out of the moon program was the really big rocket engines used to blast the things off.
        Everything else that has been claimed as a “benefit” of the moon program was actually already in development long before NASA came into existence.
        The absolute best that can be said of NASA is that it accelerated the development of a few technologies by a few months to a few years.

      • Hate it all you want. People still don’t want to have things near them that they think are bad for them or that they don’t trust. It’s human nature. Mocking people because they’re concerned about their safety isn’t helpful and it makes you look like an idiot.

      • Tim

        I think if you take some time out to do some research, you will find that MarkW is correct. The Apollo program actually didn’t yield a big return on the dollar in practical or scientifically interesting results. Take computers. The Apollo program contributed next to nothing. Mainstream computing development was funded by development for business needs by IBM and the “seven dwarfs” (Honeywell,Burroughs,CDC,Sperry-Rand,GE,NCR,RCA) and later DEC. High end computer development was funded by the oil companies (for seismic data analysis) and the government for anti-ballistic missile work. Much really important research was done by Bell Telephone Labs (e.g. the transistor, unix) and other academics with some government money via darpa, not NASA. My belief is that modern technology in general owes a lot more to the USAF space programs than to the manned spaceflight program. It’s hard to be completely sure because much of the USAF work was (and remains) classified. I’m not anti-NASA btw. For the most part I think they’ve done a fine job of coordinating, managing and supporting the unnumerable unmanned satellite programs. I just think the high profile nasa stuff (Hubble excepted) — Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS was/are a lot of hat and damn few cattle.

    • We won’t make it into deep space until after we have moon colonies. Build and launch the heavy stuff from the moon, instead of the earth. Could even use linear accelerators to launch, charged by solar arrays. (See I’m not opposed to solar power all together, just want to limit it to areas that make sense.)

      • Well I think you undersell the Moon project a bit. Because it was a manned project, NASA required uninterrupted around the globe communications, and weather observation capability. The improved weather forecasting that resulted from those weather satellites, saved more money in reduced crop losses from better weather predictions, than the whole manned moon project cost, and it saved all of that money in half the time the project took. The moon project incidentally came in under budget, and ahead of schedule. It was a bargain, and spun off a lot of technologies for practical use.

        Oh I forgot to say, those crop loss savings, was just in the South Eastern United States. It doesn’t include what has been saved globally.

        NASA (in those days) was a better investment than going to war ever was.


      • MarkW

        We can and do get robots into deep space now. Humans? We could probably get them there, but a lot of wusses probably would want to retrieve them more or less intact and still functional. That’s pretty marginal right now and probably for the next few decades.

        Why do we need to use a moon base to get humans to deep space. AFAICS, one could build a rail gun launcher in Earth orbit if one wanted to. (Yes there are more than a few problems that would need to be overcome). But going from Earth orbit to the moon to launch space missions seems a bit like climbing out of one hole so one can climb into another because the decor is more exotic in the second hole.

      • George E. the satellite era would have happened with or without NASA. Yes, they co-ordinated it here on earth, but absent the man moon mission, there still was a desire to create satellites.

        Don K. The reason you launch from the moon instead of the earth is because it only takes about 1/10th the energy to do so. A linear accelerator in earth orbit would be useless. First you still have to launch from earth to even get to it. The second is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every time you launch from the accelerator, you would have to use chemical rockets to get the accelerator back into it’s proper orbit.
        Could a moon factory be set up and run by robots? Sure. Did I ever say differently?

  4. Fusion energy is closer than most people think.
    There has been steady progress over the past 6 decades. Today, the best systems are producing about as much power as is put in, whereas it was perhaps one billionth as much in 1965. The next generation of devices is expected to produce much more than breakeven, perhaps 100 times as much in the case of the ITER now under construction in southern France. More importantly, several well funded private entities are also reporting leading fusion power developments, suggesting the long effort is now close to its goals.

    • The thing is fusion is closer to break even in energy generation but no one knows if it will ever be economically competitive. I personally very much doubt it. Electricity is the bulkiest of all bulk products. Every player in the same market got the same specification. The most typical thing for bulk is that the customer makes his purchase based on price allmost 100 % of the time.

    • Do they include capital costs off replacing the embrittled chamber interior tiles in the break even calculation? The radiation is intense and destroys those materials. I doubt these sin in a box tools will ever break even. I think lenr is much more likely to be solved first.

      • Marcus,

        The fusion reaction releases neutrons, the energy of which will be used in future power stations to heat water to heat drive the power plant. The neutrons would be quite dangerous to humans, but when the plant is turned off the production of neutrons ceases within milliseconds.

        The neutron bombardment also affects the vessel itself, and so once the plant is decommissioned the site will be radioactive. However the radioactive products are short lived (50-100 years) compared to the waste from a fission powerplant (which lasts for thousands of years). Also, the radioactivity in a fusion powerplant will be confined to the powerplant itself, there will not be any waste needing to be transported for disposal, storage or reprocessing.

      • There is this little matter of how you service this highly complex machine, for example replacing the tiles, once it becomes radioactive.

      • The main reason that the waste products of fission reactors remains radioactive for eons is that President Carter decreed that the plutonium and uranium present would not be extracted and re-cycled out of fear that weapons might be made from it.

      • (Note: “Buster Brown” is the latest fake screen name for ‘David Socrates’, ‘Brian G Valentine’, ‘Joel D. Jackson’, ‘beckleybud’, ‘Edward Richardson’, ‘H Grouse’, and about twenty others. The same person is also an identity thief who has stolen legitimate commenters’ names. Therefore, all the time and effort he spent on writing 300 comments under the fake “BusterBrown” name, many of them quite long, are wasted because I am deleting them wholesale. ~mod.)

    • I’m not sure that fusion energy is that close. Or even that it can work with current technologies. Freeman Dyson — whose opinions I respect — has said Tokamaks and similar magnetic containment devices likely won’t ever be practical. But I do agree that most people — me included — don’t really understand the state of things.

      I would also point out to those who say that fusion is always two decades away that I was around in the 1950s and 1960s and I don’t recall anyone back then telling me that fusion was only two decades away. What I heard was 60 to 80 years. Which would be about right if ITER works and leads eventually to viable commercial units.

      • Always thought there was much more mileage to be had in spherical tokamaks myself a’la MAST and NSTX, they are more efficient and the reaction is easier to sustain than in “full-on/proper” tokamaks like ITER, but I also found the Lockheed design quite an interesting prospect.

        We certainly live in interesting times!!!

        If you’re really interested there’s also the Inertial confinement and z-pinch type of devices to consider.

      • That Lockheed press release has been widely discussed.
        There is the small matter of credibility.
        I don not think they familiarized anybody with anything…they merely stated they were a few years away from a compact fusion reactor.
        I am only a few chapters away from completing my book detailing a foolproof method to become a millionaire in 30 days.

      • A quick look at their stock chart is telling me that not a lot of people think that Lockheed is nearly completion of a device which will make them the largest money producer in history.

      • Gloateus Maximus: Probably not enough money on the planet to build it if n>2. It’s going to take a new architecture and some new physics to get a breakthrough. In the mean time we need all the experience we can get and every idea we can get to get there.

        Clearly the intuitive right direction is toward bigger tokamaks.

    • What exactly are you taking as the energy input.

      For a electricity generating energy plant, you need to make more energy available for external use by customers, than the sum total of all the legacy energies that go in the gate by any means. Break even is not getting more HEAT (noun) energy from a flock of neutrons, than the electromagnetic (optical) energy of the laser pulse that blatched the fuel capsule in an inertial confinement machine.

      You need a continuous, uninterrupted on demand fuel input to the operating reactor, and simultaneous removal of the garbage that the reaction produces, before it shuts down the
      fusion reaction.

      Electromagnetic compression is not inherently stable like gravity is.

      Gravity powered nuclear fusion rea ctors, are typically 860,000 miles in diameter, and need to b e safe placed about 93 million miles away from humans; or 186 million miles in the case of a Kevin Trenberth non rotating flat planet earth.

      We didn’t get to where we are by climbing fig trees in competition with the monkeys.

      It was fire and chemical stored energy that got us to today.


      • You are entirely correct that break even is not just heat out similar to heat in.
        By the time conversion losses are included, one needs at least 10 times the heat out versus the heat in.
        ITER is expected to produce 500 times the heat out versus the heat in, so comfortably in the black by any measure.
        ITER does not resolve the engineering tasks necessary for a reliable fusion power plant, it only is to prove that the idea works. It may be that some of the other approaches turn out to be better for practical use.
        In that context, there are clearly serious challenges in the basic Tokomak fusion to generate neutrons to boil water approach,
        Alternative schemes using fusion to produce charged particles that generate electricity more directly seem much more attractive, but need much higher temperature plasma. It is probably relevant that the various private fusion efforts are leading the charge on that front, as they hope to produce smaller, simpler and cheaper designs than the massive ITER and its bigger successors.

      • What don’t you like about my comment Marcus? If you’re going to post snide comments, kindly stick your nose out where i can take a good swing at it.

      • Don K. “That said, I just as soon that my local power plant containing million degree Celsius plasmas with electromagnets was not built in my backyard. The next county over might be too close.”
        He asked how the left would try to stop it so………

  5. I was on site during the first test run of the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in December 1982. Those were exciting times and I’m sure that same excitement surrounded the initial test run of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator some 33 years later. After all of these years I begin to wonder if I’ll live to see the day that fusion power becomes commercially viable.

    • I was in Oak Ridge at that time and worked on the neutral beam injectors for TFTR. Also ATF, ISX, EBT, AND LCTF. Oak ridge at the K25 site was studied for CIT and since the site had a 2500 MW substation CIT would not have needed spinning energy storage like TFTR had. Fun days.

  6. Now we need to figure out how to build a turbine that can handle the inlet pressure from a 1 million degree steam generator :-)

    • They will use a heat exchanger with liquid lithium metal to convey the heat (unless I’m out of date).

    • Interesting point. Never really thought about how one gets energy out of a fusion reactor in a controlled fashion. But I’m sure the engineers have. And that’s the sort of thing that I expect them to get more or less right up front — close enough to tune to usability surely. I wouldn’t think the steam is going to be unusably hot. But what do I know?

    • It would not need to handle such high temperature- the reaction heat from a reasonalble distance, combined with a working fluid, could bring it to standard temperatures suitable for a turbine.

    • Heat is just crap. It is the garbage end of energy processes. Electricity is second only to photons, in terms of energy goodness.

      So why do they do all this work just trying to make a lot of heat. You can never convert all of heat energy into something else that is useful.


  7. All that money wasted on fusion research when they could have spent it on wind turbines and saved the planet.

    Naomi will call them bad names if they succeed.


  8. Don K
    December 17, 2015 at 4:39 am

    “Good for them. I’m not a great fan of most big science (but)”

    Exactly my assessment. Nice to read your comment after the usual “We’ll never fly” type remarks above you. Most don’t see that imagination is the font of every marvelous thing that has been created (as long as the imaginer is not of the evil persuasion – unfortunately it works that way, too!). Yes the ISS is largely a waste of money, one of those civil service things, that, once created lives on forever – like naming a department ‘of Climate Change’, it’ll keep doing stuff even if everything settles down (it’ll be putting out bulletins on the harm a quarter of a degree is causing)- how can you ever get out of the rut?

    Born of acceptance of Malthusian pessimism, asteroid mining is totally unnecessary, unless a thousand years from now you have to do repairs on a shuttle to Mars or something. Population will peak after mid century adding another billion or so. I expect it will shrink back some even, once we have prosperity for all. Keeping people in poverty will swell population more than otherwise. We have more than adequate resources on earth for the foreseeable future: a) everything we have mined is still on the surface and we are recycling more and more, b) unit consumption of metals and minerals has been declining steadily (cell phone compared to a large air conditioned room 1960s computer). c) substitution permutations are enormous – we don’t demand copper, we demand electrical conductors, most zinc goes into corrosion resistant sheet metal – we demand culverts and barn rooves, not zinc.

    The USGS did a study in 2013 of conventional geological resources of copper to be mined: 3.5B metric tonnes. Historically, we’ve mined 0.5 billion and use 20million tonnes a year. Eventually with unit demand reduction, stable population about 15% more than now, higher recycling levels and substitution, we will be using mining as a mere topping up activity.

    My 1972 Canadian Minerals Yearbook chapter on Lithium predicted that lithium batteries would be sufficiently developed by the 1990s for use in electric vehicles, and Lithium 6 isotope, expected for use in fusion reactors directly and as a heat exchanger coolant to convey heat to turbines would be under development beyond 2000 (which seemed like a heck of a long time forward to me then). Hey, we made the hydrogen fusion bomb in 1952.

    • Thanks Gary. Mostly I agree. I think population may peak a few billion higher than you expect. There are strong “conservative” forces like the Catholic Church that still think that being fruitful and growing exponentially is a good thing. But over all, I agree that getting the human race up to a reasonable standard of living except for the fraction of 1% who really don’t want running water, electric lights and indoor plumbing will cause reproduction rates to sag a bit below full replacement. And population will slowly drop … eventually.

      My negative view of asteroid mining is partly a result of my computing the scrap metal value of a metric ton of typical nickel-iron meteorite — which is surprisingly low. In the $2000-$3000 range. Moreover geologic differentiating processes have probably had a lot longer to act here on Earth than in the asteroid belt. I think that we quite likely have richer ores down here for most scarce materials than we will find in space. That said, if rocks can be found in space that are, for example, 90% pure Platinum Group metals, bringing them to earth might well be economically viable. As long as they don’t harvest too many of them and flood the market.

      • The Catholic church only asks that it’s parishioners not use artificial forms of birth control. It does not demand large families from it’s members.
        I know of no conservative organizations that have any comments regarding family size other than not killing your children in order to keep the numbers down.

  9. Obama was overseas and gave a speech, blaming his troubles on the republican’s in Congress. Imagine that Putin gave a speech in New York, blaming his troubles on his opponents in the Duma. We would all think he had lost his marbles. The President of the United States is supposed to govern as though he is neither republican not Democrat, because he represents all the people, not just some of the people. Obama still sees himself as a Democrat first, and President second. This clouds all his policies and decisions, and will be his lasting legacy.

  10. Fusion Reactors haven’t yet got to the development stage achieved by the Oak Ridge Thorium Reactors in the 1970’s. They are therefore not, and cannot be, the next generation Power Plants. They could be the next but one generation Power Plant!
    Uranium Nuclear Fission Reactors have increasingly been proved to be far too long in implementation with ever escalating programmes from design and approval through to commissioning. They are far too costly, with ever escalating additional costs during the project progress, and particularly when toxic waste management and disposal costs and very expensive de-commissioning costs are included. Compared with alternatives, they are relatively unsafe.
    What is regrettable is that the West’s Power Suppliers are not copying the Chinese and Indians in having a very significant R&D programme for Thorium Reactor development based initially on the USA’s 1970’s Oak Ridge Pilot Plant data. The Chinese are attempting to get a commercial Thorium Reactor on line within 15 years at latest. This should provide a far quicker, far simpler, far safer and far cheaper solution compared to Uranium Reactors, particularly when the far lower toxic wastes and commissioning costs and far safer operations are taken into consideration. Thorium is also far more abundant than Uranium and, I’m told, existing nuclear wastes can be used as feedstock/fuel. The latter, if true, could be a massive bonus in itself.
    What is wrong is that an open competitive free market in Energy has not been operating, particularly in Europe, A small fraction of the massive subsidies, tax breaks and guaranteed minimum prices provided for the Renewable Energy Suppliers, would have been spent by Power Generators on such a Thorium Programme at least 15-20 years ago in the cost-leadership commodity free market that Power Generation should have been and has now to be. As evidenced recently by the USA Coal Powered Power Stations in competition with their Gas Turbine Power Station competitors, who operate in a market as near to this ideal market environment as is currently practised, if you can’t innovate and drive down your unit power costs you lose market share and ultimately go bankrupt. The same should be happening, globally and now!
    The tragedy is, and again it is most prevalent in Europe, the subsidies of various sorts provided to Power Generator manufacturers and Power Suppliers is distorting and even destroying such markets and totally de-motivating these Suppliers and Operators. Why should they invest massively in such R&D works in order to survive when governments will subsidise their businesses.
    The further tragedy is that the Green Brigade and the Professional Engineering establishment, should have been promoting Thorium Reactors and other cost-effective renewable energy systems, and assisting in such a free market, instead of openly condoning if not even directly supporting the wasteful and grossly over-expensive Energy Policies which have been imposed upon us.

    • “I’m told, existing nuclear wastes can be used as feedstock/fuel. The latter, if true, could be a massive bonus in itself.”

      Several MIT students have recently received research grants to do this.

    • Enjoyed your comment! The frustration is palpable logic.

      “The tragedy is, and again it is most prevalent in Europe, the subsidies of various sorts provided to Power Generator manufacturers and Power Suppliers is distorting and even destroying such markets and totally de-motivating these Suppliers and Operators. Why should they invest massively in such R&D works in order to survive when governments will subsidise their businesses.”

      It isn’t governments it’s retirement portfolios. Energy stocks are a safe haven for retirement. Low risk dividend generating investments. The true need is to decentralize power generation and we already know how to do this. Unfortunately, it simply can’t be done, in developed countries, overnight.

      However, the decentralized solutions to energy and potable water should be freely given to developing countries. I blame the UN for the ignorance!

    • Yes, Thorium LFTRs are already a proven technology. Proof of principle is now well over 45 years old.

      You seem up on this, yourself, but I’d like to throw in some facts for others, as I’ve gleaned them so far…

      In about 1970 Richard Nixon shut down the prototype which had worked for a few years because he chose to put money into breeder reactors which were going to be a boon to his Southern California region. So – like the Paris agreement – this decision was a political one.

      Additional reasons for not pushing LFTRs was that the technology was so different from light water reactors, and there were no generals or admirals or lobbyists on its side – again, politically speaking. Westinghouse and GE had put billions into LWR tech, and submarine reactors were already working well enough. They had their near monopolies and didn’t want anyone rocking the boat.

      But the technological success of the LFTRs was unquestionably there. The Chinese have tasked hundreds of scientists and thousands of engineers with making LFTRs work. They will have to go through another decade and a half of engineering them, but LFTRs are coming. The Indians aer putting hundereds of scientists to work on it, too. India has a vested interest in LFTRs, especially, because they have scads of Thorium deposits to use as what I would term “seed fuel”. By “seed fuel” I mean fuel that gets seeded into the reactor , that when it has transmuted to U-233 it then becomes the actual fuel. THAT transmutation is basically the only processing necessary to turn Thorium into reactor fuel. Simple gravity separation of Thorium ore – like grading of sand and gravel – is the only other processing needed.

      The efficiency of LFTRs is so far beyond anything yet in use. LWRs are able to extract 0.7% of the available energy. LFTRs utilize 99% of it. Not only does this mean that we get 150 times as much energy per gram, but we also have less than 1% nuclear waste. The benefit in waste reduction alone makes LFTRs feasible. Add to that that a good portion of the waste is usable and highly valuable in medical applications.

      You are right on the waste usage. LFTRs can include existing nuclear waste and use THAT as fuel, too. That applies to both plutonium and uranium wastes. This means that on that alone LFTRs should be developed – if only to make the already accumulated nuclear waste materials far more safe.

      Europe did not really know about LFTRs 15-20 years ago. Essentially not until Kirk Sorenson “discovered” the old LFTR information at Oak Ridge National Labs in about 2010 did the current wave of interest in Thorium begin. That LFTR information was sitting, molding on the shelf until then.

      Let it be said also that the Europeans are not the only ones who’ve subsidized existing nuclear technology. Without the U,.S. government subsidies in the 1950s present nuclear power technology would never have gotten off the ground. Subsidies still exist, as far as I know subsidies still exist, and they are far into the billions.

      I might as well mention how safe LFTRs are, too. First of all, the fuel is in a liquid form, and it only needs a temperature plug that has a fan blowing over it, and if the fan stops, the plug melts – draining the liquid fuel into a below-ground holding tank. The fan turns off if temps get too high. In addition, the expansion from heat causes the fuel to cool down naturally, making explosions impossible. Hot fuel expands, and expansion cools it, so even heating ends up cooling it.

      Plant costs are going to be about 10-15% of the costs of present LWR plants. And with 150 times the energy output per gram, this will make nuclear plants possible and cost-effective all over the world – even in developing countries.

      Nuclear prolifertaion is eseentially impossible with LFTRs. Three nations have tried making bombs out of U-233, and the stuff turned out so nasty to deal with no one will try it again. Each of them tried it one – ONE time. And never again. The U-233 radiation screws up the controls, making a nuclear explosion IN THE LAUNCHING TUBES possible. You can’t just “make a nuclear missile and put it in silos for 20-30-40 years. Not without risking an accident that would make Chernobyl look as friendly as a campfire. “It fall down and go BOOM” is not what anyone wants on their own soil. So, if any of you hear that “people have made nuclear bombs out of it'” they aren’t giving you the whole story.

      I love the videos on this on YouTube, and I recommend anyone interested in the next generation power generation to watch them. They are very instructional besides being a bit entertaining.

      This is coming folks, and when it does – IN OUR LIFETIMES – it is going to revolutionize ALL thinking about energy.

      The USA is totally dropping the ball on this. We will liely have to pay the Chinese for our LFTR plants, come 2040 or so. That is bbad, considering it is OUR technology in the first place. But if we have to, we have to.

      Eventually, gone will be ALL the current LWR plants and their like. Gone will be all natural gas and coal-fired power plants. Gone will be the CO2 issue. Even the current LWR plants are CO2-free.

      When a raquetball-sized chunk of Thorium is a lifetime supply of energy (vs thousands of tons of coal), energy will be essentially free. A pea-sized ball is a year’s supply. What will that DO to our thinking about energy, when we have so much available?

      And what does it do to the existing oil-based energy industry? Your reaction to this point may be, “Yeah, they will monopolize it like they do everything now.” Possibly. More possible will be that the Chinese or Indians who sell us the plants will dictate who and how it is delivered and sold. The US-based oil companies may end up going the way of buggy whip and saddle manufacturers 100 years ago.

      100 years from now the energy scene will be far different from now.

      • Steve,
        As I’m reading your reply:
        Nixon chose to support breeders because we were in the Cold War and needed nukes from energy. It was a stupid win win. Stupid is as world stupid does …

    • Hey, engineers are for hire to design and solve problems for their employers or clients. They don’t actually make the size of waves you imagine in the area of choice. I’m an engineer and I sure don’t think the activities going on these days have the right priorities, but if I’m a staff engineer at Siemens and I’m asked to design a windmill for North Sea deployment that’s what I better work on. Perhaps my findings in the engineering and cost are of interest to my employer but I don’t get to put thumbs up or down.

  11. Sorry.. I suffer a little from word blindness and to a small extent from dyslexia… doesn’t really effect me that much. But does tend to hamper postings and emails a little….

  12. If the GHG , ie : electromagnetic – spectral , trapping of heat had real physics behind it , why the difficulty ? Just refine and iterate the phenomenon which Hansen claims causes a 400K stable temperature increase over the height of Venus’s atmosphere enough times . It’s just a stack of color filters after all .

    Oh , right , no basic quantitative equations or experimental demonstration of the phenomenon have ever been presented anywhere and the notion violates fundamental classical physical and mathematical laws.

  13. Fusion has no advantage whatsoever over molten salt reactors, which are cheap and right around thecorner and can largely dispose of our nuclear wastes using them as a free fuel all the while.

  14. Fusion Reactors…

    So they make nuclear reactions while suspending hydrogen nuclei in a magnetic field yielding Helium.

    Making Tera-Watts I presume?

    How does one extract Tera-Watts from a plasma without touching it?

    We are still stuck with conduction, convection and radiation, right?

    How does one move Tera-Joules from a magnetically suspended plasma to a steam generator?

    • (Note: “Buster Brown” is the latest fake screen name for ‘David Socrates’, ‘Brian G Valentine’, ‘Joel D. Jackson’, ‘beckleybud’, ‘Edward Richardson’, ‘H Grouse’, and about twenty others. The same person is also an identity thief who has stolen legitimate commenters’ names. Therefore, all the time and effort he spent on writing 300 comments under the fake “BusterBrown” name, many of them quite long, are wasted because I am deleting them wholesale. ~mod.)

      • Buster…

        Yes I get that.

        Into what are they deposited? Fuel bundle design in nuke reactors exploit conduction and convection to prevent heat accumulation that would melt everything.

        The heat transfer surface is enormous as it is in coal fired plants. Steel is the conduit of choice, so how does the heat get from a magnetically suspended donuts at 10^6 degrees to 2000psi water at 500 degrees?

        We have 93,000,000 miles between us and the sun and we get a minuscule fraction of the sun’s output. So how do we reverse engineer that effect?

        There has to be a concept floating around out there?

      • Paul,

        The heat transfer system depends on the reactor design. For both magnetic and inertial confinement designs, there may be more than one possible system. The bombardment type process, described in a link I posted above, produces alpha particles, which, being charged, could theoretically induce electric current directly.

        National Heat Transfer Conferences used to be held in the 1960s-80s. Dunno if they still are or not.

      • Any gas that’s a million degrees in temperature is going to be radiating infra-red energy like craze.
        The reason why we get only a small fraction of the sun’s energy output is because the earth’s surface is only a tiny fraction of the volume of a sphere, 93 million miles in radius. All of the energy radiating from one of these engineered fusion reactions can be potentially captured since the source will be completely surrounded.

      • Well MarkW a 6,000 K Temperature gves you a 500nm spectral peak wavelength (on a wavelength scale, so 30,000 K gives 100nm, 300,000 K gives you 10 nm, and 1,000,000 K will give you about 3 nm peak spectral wavelength.

        So yes it will result in scads of IR radiation, but much much more of the radiation will be at X-ray or gamma ray wavelengths.

  15. arthur4563 “Fusion has no advantage whatsoever over molten salt reactors”

    Well then don’t build a fusion reactor.

  16. I think you fellows are a bit hard on the Krauts. They are good engineers even if not deep thinkers. In engineering as you all know advances are slow, solving one problem ate a time.

  17. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ITER, funded by the advanced nations of the World, and being constructed in France, is the last scientific Fusion Experiment, and even then more than half is engineering design for a future fusion power plant. The next plant now in conceptional design, the DEMOnstration plant will add millions of KW to the power grids. It will likely start being designed in detail beginning in 2017 or 2018, less than 2 years from now.

    The Wemdestein-X and the similar sized Tokomaks around the world, are Proof of Concept designs, too small to produce useable power, and meant for scientific reserch only, but ITER is the first scaled up design capable of generating power for the Grid. It won’t, because they want to use it as a test machine for lots of scientific research, but it will still generate 500MW if turbines were bought and hooked up to it. While it has been being designed and constructed, Fusion advance has been rapid. New much stronger Superconducting magnets have been created. Several methods for actively controlling Plasmas to enhance containment have been discovered. Prospect for completely non radioactive Fusion, employing what were hitherto forbidding temperatures, are is prospect.

    During the decades of rising plasma pressure and temperatures, only to uncover yet another plasma instability to overcome. It seemed an endless task,and discouragement could set in. But we have reached the requisite plasma pressures and temperatures sought. We have now catalogued and figured out the exhaustive, extensive list of the plasma instabilities that must be overcome. We have developed methods to control these instabilities.

    Fusion Science is largely done; Fusion Engineering is near.

    As for Thorium MSRs, it will take as long and probably longer to obtain certification to build a commercial Thorium reactor than a Fusion reactor, measured in decades.

    Why? The Thorium machines like all Fission based reactors, contain large quantities of highly radioactive elements that must be prevented from being released. The Fusion reactors have no such cache of highly radioactive materials, so they will be licensed far more quickly, unless sabotaged by the Libtard Greenies,seeking a return to the Stone Age as long as they rule..

    As an Scientist and Engineer who spent time at PPPL, it is pleasing that Mankind’s decades long search for a large scale, clean and inexhaustible, dispatcheable power source is nearing fruition, after decades of effort.. I recognize that it will take a while to exploit, but much of that time will be consumed actually constructing commercial Fusion Power Plants.

    Remember it is likely to be much shorter than the time since the first Energy (Price) Crisis in the early 1970s, some 45 years ago.


    • (Note: “Buster Brown” is the latest fake screen name for ‘David Socrates’, ‘Brian G Valentine’, ‘Joel D. Jackson’, ‘beckleybud’, ‘Edward Richardson’, ‘H Grouse’, and about twenty others. The same person is also an identity thief who has stolen legitimate commenters’ names. Therefore, all the time and effort he spent on writing 300 comments under the fake “BusterBrown” name, many of them quite long, are wasted because I am deleting them wholesale. ~mod.)

      • If the fusion reaction does not produce a free neutron there is no radioactive excitation in the reactor or building structure The twin Helium 3 reaction or the 4 proton reaction or the Boron proton reaction, are such. But the temperatures and pressures for DT have been obtained in many Tokamaks, and we can increase both magnetic power and plasma pressures to higher figures. which makes fusing these reactions in prospect. Up to now we have not attempted to develop these, as it is hard enough to produce the lowest temperature DT reaction. That DT reaction does produce a neutron.

        Liquid first walls, and choice of low activation materials minimize the excited radioctivity to but a small, tiny fraction of what a fission reactor must produce. Furthermore the materials made radioactive are not long lived actinides which will remain radioactive for thousands of years. The induced radioactivity is short lived measured in days, months or years.

        The new superconducting materials and magnets constructed from them make the temperature and plasma pressure possibly attainable for these neutronless fusion reactions. So it is conceivable there will be no radioactivity at all.

        Thorium MSRs have an intrinsic problem of unanticipated concentration through the thermal salt circulation cycle. The USA experienced unanticipated problems where supposedly sub critical liquid or gaseous streams created areas of unanticipated critical concentration, and large scale fission reactions. Eddy currents can be dangerous.

  18. “The first plasma in the machine had a duration of one-tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius.”

    Umm. a small operation called LPP Fusion in Lawrenceville, NJ heated plasmas to BILLIONS degree C plasma for aneutronic fusion more than two years ago with required confinement times.

    Important progress is being made right now to reached required densities to reach self- sustained fusion.

  19. It should be noted that the tokomak configuration is being eclipsed by the stellerator configuration, dense plasma focus, and several other non-tokomak designs that are showing so much progress in a short time , largely on a budgetary shoe-string.

    Unlike this, the mammoth ITER project is a decade away from an initial test firing. And ITER is not aneutronic, so it will present some waste issues.

  20. After sending all the “science” the West developed to manufacturing sites in developing countries, it is interesting we will be able to buy something truly useful back:

    My bitch is that Carter screwed all this up when the DOE failed in it’s main goal of reducing dependency on outside sources of energy. As a trained nuclear engineer Mr. Peace should have seen the value in Weinberg’s work. Who will win? Canada, India, China? I hope they don’t charge us too much to solve the energy problem. You can see the failure of the “efficient market” concept in that we are wasting more money on foolish things like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy project. I thing we could have has a practical MSR running commercially for less than the Greens have forced us to spend on subsidies..

  21. “may demonstrate the first ever completely stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction.”

    At huge cost and likely not enough energy production to make it worth while, in my opinion. A huge waste of money for no reason to do it that just for the sake of doing it. We could get much better value for the money using existing technology.

  22. After another 60 years development work, Nuclear Fusion may be made to work, or may not. Stars work because they are very big and have enormous gravity. Nuclear Fusion Reactors will be very small by comparison and constantly close to instability. They may also work but have no useful output, like solar panels and wind turbines.

  23. “Obviously these are early days, but if the German fusion reactor fulfils the research team’s expectations, within the next year or two the German team may demonstrate the first ever completely stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction.”

    Actually, there are others – I believe a Farnsworth Fusor would fit that category. They may be the first to achieve breakeven, though.

  24. A Stellarator differs from a Tokamac by flattening and twisting the Fusion plasma, rather than attempt to hold it in a simple donut shaped magnetic bottle. This twisted configuration diminishes geometric defects in the containment field, reducing the tendency of the plasma to escape magnetic confinement.

    This is the point in the show where Geordi yells, “Coolant leak! Everybody out!”
    Then after rolling under the slowly closing blast door, he calls the bridge to say, “We have a warp core breach in progress. I’ve lost magnetic confinement. It’s going to blow!”

  25. “… may demonstrate the first ever completely stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction.” This particular stellarator will not produce fusion; it has not been designed to do so. As I understand it, they won’t be feeding it tritium because it would be too expensive to deal with. Their project is also relying on ITER (!) to solve a lot of engineering problems (e.g. lithium to tritium).

  26. I note that many people’s concept of Fusion is based on the large, rather expensive “tokomak” type of project and therefore unlikely to be commercially viable. But small scale much much cheaper fusion ideas are extremely abundant and also very close to break even. One or more of these are much more likely to reach break even in the near future than the larger tokomak style.

    The most promising (that I can get information about) is the Focus Fusion Project:

    This project is going straight to aneutronic fusion (Boron + Hydrogen) and is of such a simple and small design that it could easily be produced commercially and be extremely economic once the design is finalised. Broadly speaking, they use what amounts to a cathode placed within an atmosphere of the fuel to run an extremely high voltage along it where the plasma folds over onto itself into a “plasmoid”, which then collapses to create the conditions required for fusion. The energy is inducted back into the cathode where it collected by capacitors that produce the next shot and anything left over can be draw as usable energy.

    I like this approach because the energy is actually collected by the fusor itself. Some of it’s problems simply relate to specialised materials needed to protect the tungsten cathode. Fascinatingly, they think the process mimics a large scale galactic event known as quasars.

    Another interesting point – the amount of fusion you get from one reaction is very small – about the calorific content of a pistachio. But it happens very fast, so you can run it 100s of times a second. That adds up to a lot of pistachios.

    Then of course there is Polywell:

    Both the Polywell device and the Focus Fusion device would effectively be about the size and have roughly the same output as a jet engine.

    The of course Skunk Works have a device in development they think they have made breakthroughs with:

    There are many others but this post is long enough. Roughly speaking Fusion has been following “Moores Law”:

    So there are many projects that are in the mature stage of development where proof have principle is moving over to breakeven or net producing prototypes. IMO, while thorium MS is very promising, and there may still be a place for it, and while there are still non-trivial engineering challenges for small scale fusion, its likely that fusion may supercede TMS or next generation fission before it really has a chance to get started.

    • So the little maroon dots are Fusion performance, and the baby blue dots are Moore’s law.

      So fusion started ahead of Moore, circa 1968 and has grown by 10,000 X since then.

      Given that there has been NO (controlled) fusion whatsoever, just how has that 10,000 X fusion multiplication manifested itself; other than maybe in dollars wasted chasing Scottish mist ??


      • (Note: “Buster Brown” is the latest fake screen name for ‘David Socrates’, ‘Brian G Valentine’, ‘Joel D. Jackson’, ‘beckleybud’, ‘Edward Richardson’, ‘H Grouse’, and about twenty others. The same person is also an identity thief who has stolen legitimate commenters’ names. Therefore, all the time and effort he spent on writing 300 comments under the fake “BusterBrown” name, many of them quite long, are wasted because I am deleting them wholesale. ~mod.)

  27. Where “new” means they built it when I was a kid; now I am an old man and they have finally switched it on…

  28. 1. It is Tokamak, not “Tokamac”.
    2. Tokamak will never be a useful reactor, because it is a pulsed device. ITER is a typical EU-fraud.
    3. Stellarator is the only realistic way towards fusion power, because it can work in a continuous regime.

    Good luck, Wendelstein. You seem to be the very last hope for fusion!

  29. “The German Stellarator is the first nuclear fusion reactor ever built which has a chance of hitting break even…”

    Then why has the US pumped billions into its fusion power research programs knowing full well that the designs are hopeless?

  30. Fusion is a Big Idea. A Big Idea is something that once someone thinks it up, someone feels compelled to do it, with no other justification than “because it’s there”. It worked for Everest; but did climbing Everest do anything for the rest of us? Did putting a man on the moon do anything for the rest of us, other than spin-offs and side effects? Building the first atomic bomb was a Big Idea; that one didn’t work out so well.
    Fusion might work, eventually, but even if it does, it may never be a practical energy source. Like getting to the moon, if we reach that point we can declare victory and give up, or say “now what?”. Did finding a Higgs boson change life for the better? If you need a pyramid building project, go for it.

  31. Nice to see this progress, but still no attempt described to even try to extract some of the million degreeC heat energy produced, even for a tenth of a second. Until this is done, we’re just playing with expensive toys!

    More promising is LFTR activity. Here’s a compilation of Thorium progress. The BIG mistake is that their proponents called the devices LFTR for Liquid Floride Thorium Reactor, instead of LIFG for Liquid Floride Thorium Generator. They have yet to figure it out, and thus continue to scare people away from it. Here’s the Thoriumnergyreport update:

Comments are closed.