Homemade fusion reactor

Nuclear Fusion: The Great Clean Energy Hope?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The last few weeks has seen a crescendo of nuclear fusion clean energy hype, as proponents pitch for a share of Biden’s promised climate cash giveaway. But practical nuclear fusion, if it is even possible, is still many decades away.

From 2017;

Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be

By Daniel Jassby | April 19, 2017
Daniel Jassby was a principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab until 1999. For 25 years he worked in areas of plasma physics and neutron production related to fusion energy research and development. He holds a PhD in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University.

Fusion reactors have long been touted as the “perfect” energy source. Proponents claim that when useful commercial fusion reactors are developed, they would produce vast amounts of energy with little radioactive waste, forming little or no plutonium byproducts that could be used for nuclear weapons. These pro-fusion advocates also say that fusion reactors would be incapable of generating the dangerous runaway chain reactions that lead to a meltdown—all drawbacks to the current fission schemes in nuclear power plants.

As we move closer to our goal, however, it is time to ask: Is fusion really a “perfect” energy source? After having worked on nuclear fusion experiments for 25 years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement. I concluded that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite.

… unlike what happens in solar fusion—which uses ordinary hydrogen—Earth-bound fusion reactors that burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that are anything but harmless: Energetic neutron streams comprise 80 percent of the fusion energy output of deuterium-tritium reactions and 35 percent of deuterium-deuterium reactions.

Now, an energy source consisting of 80 percent energetic neutron streams may be the perfect neutron source, but it’s truly bizarre that it would ever be hailed as the ideal electrical energy source. In fact, these neutron streams lead directly to four regrettable problems with nuclear energy: radiation damage to structures; radioactive waste; the need for biological shielding; and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239—thus adding to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it.

In addition, if fusion reactors are indeed feasible—as assumed here—they would share some of the other serious problems that plague fission reactors, including tritium release, daunting coolant demands, and high operating costs. There will also be additional drawbacks that are unique to fusion devices: the use of a fuel (tritium) that is not found in nature and must be replenished by the reactor itself; and unavoidable on-site power drains that drastically reduce the electric power available for sale.

Read more: https://thebulletin.org/2017/04/fusion-reactors-not-what-theyre-cracked-up-to-be/

I love the idea of nuclear fusion. But Tritium fusion is anything but clean and economically viable – in its current form it releases far more neutron radiation than fission, an intense blizzard of atom smashing radiation which within months of starting operation would cause massive structural damage and severe secondary radioactivity in the physical components surrounding the fusion core.

There are fusion processes which are cleaner than Tritium, but these processes require even more extreme conditions than Tritium fusion, or exotic ingredients like Helium 3, the nearest abundant source of which is the surface of the moon.

Nuclear fusion’s day will come; one day fusion reactors will power our civilisation and open the way to colonising other star systems. But I doubt any of us will live to see it.

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Sunsettommy
Editor
December 31, 2020 10:29 pm

Dr. Jassby is focusing on one type of fuel, which is WHY it is a failure.

Here is one of two groups NOT using Tritium as a fuel:

FUSION ENERGY GENERATOR

What Is Focus Fusion and How Does it work? Focus Fusion is our name for the combination of the Dense Plasma Focus device with aneutronic hydrogen-boron (pB11) fuel. It is the fastest route to fusion energy. We are working to research and develop a generator based on this technology.
 
Focus Fusion generators could provide virtually unlimited supplies of cheap energy in an environmentally-sound way. They would produce no radioactive waste or pollutants. The end-product would be harmless helium gas. Focus Fusion generators would be free of long-term radioactivity, and the small number of low-energy neutrons emitted could be easily absorbed in several inches of shielding.

Alex
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 12:30 am

When?
Next millennium?

Posa
Reply to  Alex
January 1, 2021 4:42 pm

No. The LPPFusion reactor has already reached two of there criteria for achieving fusion (aneutronic fusion at that)… The reactor has been redesigned to achieve the require plasma density, the last step. The upgrade will be raedy in QI-2021. Around QIII the Hydrogen-Boron fuel will be introduced into the reactor. So no. This is all on a short term schedule.
see LPPFusion.com

Jim G
Reply to  Posa
January 1, 2021 7:22 pm

On the bright side, boron is used as a neutron poison for fission reactors, having a high cross section for absorption of thermal neutrons.

Sounds intriguing.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Posa
January 3, 2021 9:04 am

So only nine months to the next failed prediction and the next excuse and the next false promise?

Seems that we’ll need to update the saying…

Fusion is 90 days in the future. Always has been, always will be.

Greg
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 1:30 am

could provide virtually unlimited supplies of cheap energy

Haven’t I heard that sort of claim before ?

Curious George
Reply to  Greg
January 1, 2021 7:42 am

This is the first time you hear it in 2021.

Bindidon
Reply to  Greg
January 1, 2021 12:32 pm

In my native tongue I would say:

Greg, vous m’avez coupé l’herbe sous le pied.

Sunsettommy seems imho to be an excessive pB11 lobbyist.

No one has until now explained in a really comprehensive and above all convincing manner how he manages to bypass tremendous boundaries like

  • minimum plasma temperature 10 times higher
  • plasma inclusion time 500 times longer

than for D+T.

It’s a bit like people endlessly trying to promote 4G guys based on Th232 + molten salt.

Posa
Reply to  Bindidon
January 1, 2021 7:04 pm

No one has until now explained in a really comprehensive and above all convincing manner how he manages to bypass tremendous boundaries like

minimum plasma temperature 10 times higher

plasma inclusion time 500 times longer

Both criteria have already been achieved by the LPPFusion reactor. The key to the design are Ampere’s Law and the theta pinch.

Bindidon
Reply to  Posa
January 2, 2021 8:10 am

Posa

Without real evidence, your words are nothing more than a lobbyist’s prose.

I googled for “LPPFusion reactor plasma inclusion time temperature”

and found nothing, LPPF’s own output of course excepted, and dated… 2017.

Why don’t you anticipate such a simple reply?

Why do people like you all think we’re going to swallow everything you can think of here unchecked? Oh Noes.

J.-P. D.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Bindidon
January 2, 2021 11:49 am

I think MSR reactors are very promising and should be receiving more attention than the current fusion boondoggles (assuming that government should be in the business of funding this sort of thing to begin with). They already demonstrated actual (thermal) power production 50 years ago. It’s almost exclusively an engineering challenge at this point.

I fully agree on Thorium. It’s a cult at this point with no good technical reason to pursue–the notion that we are going to run out of 235U anytime in the next few centuries is nonsense.

Tenuc
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 2:01 am

So far, despite huge amounts of investment into research and test reactors, we are no further forward to getting a working prototype reactor which can provide sustained fusion that will produce enough surplus energy to be commercially viable.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the science behind how fusion occurs in the sun and what is the missing X-factor that seems to be preventing commercialisation of fusion reactors on Earth?

mcswell
Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 7:16 am

There’s no missing X-factor: the Sun is huge, and massive. The result is that the pressure at its core is enormous, which gives you two of the three factors needed for sustained fusion: density and containment (pressure). The third factor is heat, which originated from gravitational contraction, and is sustained by the fusion reactions themselves.

The density and temperature are created in hydrogen bombs by the explosion of a fission bomb; the containment is only momentary (since the bomb blows itself apart), which is why an H-bomb’s explosion is not sustained.

Present day attempts to create a sustained fusion reaction on Earth fail in (at least) one of these three factors: density, temperature, and containment. That doesn’t mean the analysis of what it takes to create fusion is wrong; it means that the engineering is difficult (some would say impossible, just like heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible).

The Dark Lord
Reply to  mcswell
January 1, 2021 8:25 am

hardly just like heavier than air flying machines … from an engineering perspective … nobody thought heavier than air flying machines were impossible … nobody … birds make you look silly making that claim …

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  mcswell
January 1, 2021 9:54 am

“Present day attempts to create a sustained fusion reaction on Earth fail in (at least) one of these three factors: density, temperature, and containment.”

Not so. Sustained fusion reactions are unambiguously produced by IEC devices that are commercially available today as compact neutron sources.

See my comment below posted at January 1, 2021 9:47 am.

mcswell
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
January 2, 2021 6:53 am

Thanks, Gordon, I should have said “self-sustained”, i.e. fusion reactions that happen at (or preferably better than!) break-even, so the excess energy can be used to generate electricity.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 8:55 am

If you read the articles, you would realize the Tokomack test is a dead end. The burning question is WHY does the government pour so much money into this dead end?

Philo
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 9:37 am

Votes.

Kpar
Reply to  Philo
January 1, 2021 12:39 pm

Grants. Politicians see their job as spending other people’s money.

The results of that spending are irrelevant, just the spending.

Posa
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 5:12 pm

No. It’s bureaucratic inertia and cronyism. Scientists advise politicians. And when a gaggle of scientists stake their career on a particular technology and gain hegemony in the field they’ll ride it forever until they fail so badly that the pols finally pull the plug OR others succeed without government backing.

This happens ALL THE TIME IN BIG SCIENCE. It’s happened in Alzheimer’s research where a Mafia wedded to the tau-plaque theory shut out every other voice. But after 20 years EVERY therapy based on the tau-plaque model FAILED. That’s created the suppressed voices finally to get a hearing. New therapies are now in testing.

It’s the difference between “Follow the science” and “Don’t follow bad science”

Hans Erren
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 2, 2021 5:40 am

Its spelled tokamak (toroidalnaja kamera magnitnaja, katushka)

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 3, 2021 11:39 am

If you read the articles, you would realize the Tokomack [sic] test is a dead end.”

I beg to differ. During my time as a DARPA program manager, I toured General Atomics Tokamak facility, the only operating tokamak in the Western hemisphere (or maybe anywhere, right now). GA’s Chief Scientist for the tokamak program was my tour guide. Every nation on Earth doing magnetic confinement fusion research and development uses the GA tokamak at one time or another, to solve plasma stability and confinement control problems, test materials, etc. The reactor can run continuously for an arbitrary period of time. However, GA is not “licensed” to use tritium (I wasn’t aware that one needed a license for such a thing) – they use only deuterium. Because of that, the device runs slightly below engineering breakeven, the point at which the power out would be usefully greater than the power in. It would, in fact, run at or above engineering breakeven if they used deuterium and tritium. But the lab isn’t set up for that kind of neutron flux or neutron energy (14.1 MeV for D-T fusion vs 5 MeV for D-D fusion). The technology developed at the facility is being incorporated into ITER, the international fusion reactor at Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, in Provence, southern France. It will use D-T, and I have no doubt that it will run well above engineering breakeven.

Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 9:00 am

Forgeddabout solar fusion, ya’ll get sunburn!
Tom Bearden (yeah, I know!) makes a very simple observation: There is much less calcium in a chicken egg, than there is in a newborn chick. Feeding a hen extra calcium has little or no effect, but constricting potassium causes calcium shortages in the chicks. Somehow, a chicken egg knows how to convert 19-potassium into 20-calcium. Has anyone tried starting there?

Philo
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 1, 2021 9:41 am

The eggs do NOT convert 19-potassium into 20-calcium. The system(s) that absorb calcium in the eggs is regulated by potassium.

So start looking at the enzyme cascades that handle both potassium and calcium. Much easier and more focused than trying to do fusion reactions in an egg.

Reply to  Philo
January 1, 2021 10:19 am

Absorp from where? Not arguing, I find the idea intriguing. It does not come from the shell, far’s I know. Apparently, the shell does not even contain enough calcium to explain this issue?

Kpar
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 1, 2021 12:21 pm

Absorb from elsewhere in the diet. Did you know that Potassium is vital to controlling blood pressure? Yeah, you probably did, but did you know that Magnesium is very important to the absorption of Potassium? There are many synergistic effects throughout biology, and other things, too.

Reply to  Kpar
January 1, 2021 1:45 pm

So..o..o…o, the egg absorbs calcium from somewhere else in its diet?

Tenuc
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 1, 2021 10:03 am

Not come across that before, PG – thanks. However, if this is some sort of cold fusion it is likely to be an endothermic reaction (uses energy), so difficult to see how this could be a net producer of extra energy, unless you believe in the imaginary vacuum-energy malarkey.

Probably small scale fission reactors are the best way forward at the moment. We know these work as the Rolls Royce unit has been deployed successfully in submarines for several decades.

Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 10:28 am

Endothermia I thought about not. That would, however, create a thermal dipole, which could be used to drive an engine? Hey, we ARE talking about way-out stuff here, why put limits on the rules of magic?
Before Tillman shoots me, remember the definition of magic, ‘misunderstood technology’?

Kpar
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 1, 2021 12:23 pm

“misunderstood technology”… the science we don’t know, yet.

Good one!

Tenuc
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 1, 2021 12:29 pm

Paradoxically, there is no such thing as a vacuum or empty space, certainly not in our solar system and its environs. Every cubic centimetre has billions of photons per second passing through it. It may be possible to tap into this constant stream of enery, using more efficient tech than the current very inefficient PVCs, which only work well with photons in and close to the visible spectrum.

In my youth I used to make germanium crystal radio sets, which allowed me to listen to my favourite BBC programs. Just needed a decent ariel and earth – no battery or other power source required.

Posa
Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 4:53 pm

That has been done resulting in many new designs and experimental fusion reactors.

https://www.climatecolab.org/contests/2012/electric-power-sector/c/proposal/1304168

These advances are in the private sector. Governments, however, are pouring billions into a dead-end tokamak reactor design. It’s a major scandal.

Last edited 25 days ago by Posa
Posa
Reply to  Tenuc
January 1, 2021 7:06 pm

Tenuc. The sun isn’t a model for a fusion reactor. Self-confinement designs (Dense Plasma Focus) for example achieve fusion reactions without the mass of the sun.

Enginer01
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 6:15 am

My many decades as a “successful” Chemical Process Engineer did not train me to avoid jumping to the next “great thing.” Focus Fusion sounded like a potential until I read the details. MHD (electricity generation by a moving pulse of charged particles) piqued my interest in FF. Likewise, the anti-proliferation potential of the Molten Salt Reactor and the Pebble Bed Reactor. Solar and Wind never cut it for me.

I have posted on WUWT, with the usual trolls, pushing my biases. Now, at 78, I realize how poorly informed the average plasma physicist, cosmologist and Quantum mechanic really is. The arguments initiated by Einstein and Bohr about “is it a particle–no, a wave, no, it’s both” have fascinated me even though I would run with horror from the mention of a Lagrangian equation or Clifford algebra.

But the new Great News–lovers (or detractors) of the E-Cat SKL will be interested that Andrea Rossi has updated his fascinating article on Long Range Particle Interactions that does the best he can to explain how to get ZPE from the vacuum.
see http://www.researchgate.net/publication/330601653_E-Cat_SK_and_long_range_particle_interactions

Fusion (ugh!) addicts see https://e-catworld.com/2020/12/29/korean-fusion-project-announces-world-record-operation-for-a-fusion-reactor/ wherein is described the Koreans breaking the record for Tokamak operating time.

Enginer01
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 8:48 am

here’s a better link – https://e-catworld.com/2020/07/13/rossi-clifford-algebra-unlocks-the-mechanism-of-the-e-cat/

When no “proof” offered, doubt or allegiance are the usual alternatives. I doubted what I was taught about nuclear physics at University. Now I just hope.
And I understand the progression of understanding since the Alchemists thru the electrons orbiting a nucleus model to what we have or don’t have now. I hope it leads somewhere good.
If you believe AR, he has allied with (and is listening) to a major force in this area, advised by the (relatively great) Deloitte firm, with promises of a public demonstration in 2021. He says “they” have constructed a 100 E-Cat module that has continuously produced electricity, with minor, fixable reliability issues.. If the “claims” are correct I guess 1/2 megawatt, at less than $0.02/kWh, CAPEX included.

Scissor
Reply to  Enginer01
January 1, 2021 9:48 am

Why should anyone place much trust with AR, he being a felon with numerous fraud convictions? His pattern of behavior has not changed over the decades.

Kpar
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 12:27 pm

Eric, I recall the US Navy had purchased and was testing an E-Cat (a 1MW unit) a few years back (possible power source for the Zumwalt class?), but I have never heard anything about the results of the tests. Do you have any resources to check?

Enginer01
Reply to  Kpar
January 1, 2021 1:49 pm

The E-Cat has migrated from lattice-constrained nuclear transmutations to a self-organizing plasma-based system that apparently can vibrate a proton apart, producing 97% electricity (at 600 volts) directly. If AR is not F.o.S. the IH E-Cat resembles the E-Cat SKL like Fulton’s steam engine resembles a steam turbine, accept with totally new “reaction” providing the energy.

Posa
Reply to  Enginer01
January 1, 2021 5:19 pm

Focus Fusion sounded like a potential until I read the detail

Yeah. Ok. Show why don’t your share your insights Chemical Engineer?

Enginer01
Reply to  Posa
January 3, 2021 1:15 pm

Perhaps the light generated in the new room-temperature Bose-Einstein condensates will help illustrate your darkness…If Rossi and several others are correct, this fundamental ability to fabricate “pico-metric” microwave cavities is yielding energy and not just the potential for advanced cavity-beam matter wave weapons.
See, for example, US Patent 9,502,202 B2 assigned to Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 8:56 am

Eric, they explained WHY they are not using Tritium as a fuel source, The Tokomack facility made clear why it is a dead end.

Posa
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 5:21 pm

Correct. Worrall is in way over his head. He has no idea what he’s talking about. Anthony should review articles before posting and avoid major embarrassment to WUWT.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Posa
January 1, 2021 10:23 pm

I don’t have any problems with his article or comments, it serves a value in getting people more informed about it.

Posa
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 5:16 pm

What does tritium have to do with focus fusion? With deuterium the LPPFusion reactor reached 2 B degrees C for several nano-seconds — long enough for a reaction and hot enough to achieve two of three “Lawson Criteria”.

Jeez Eric. You don’t seem to have any sense of these fusion devices, how they work and what their research status is.

In a few months the LPPFusion reactor will be loading Hydrogen- Boron, the ultimate fuel to achieve aneutronic fusion.

Last edited 25 days ago by Posa
Posa
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 4:50 pm

Thank you Anthony for this major clarification. Several key researchers have come to the conclusion that the tokamak reactor design probably won’t work and even if it does work as a ($50 B lab experiment) a tokamak design could never be commercialized for reasons cited in Worral’s article above.

Former DoE Fusion Research Director Robert Hirsch scores similar points. However Hirsch does add

Tokamak fusion, as envisioned by ITER and according to the foregoing, will not be close to being economic and has inherent safety and radioactivity problems. As ITER tokamak realities become more widely known, it is conceivable that the public will feel that it has been lied to by scientists and governments. Accordingly, a public backlash could result. Although understandable, it would be unfortunate, because there are other approaches to fusion power that may hold great hope for the future.

Rafe Champion
December 31, 2020 10:34 pm

Enough with this talk about clean energy!

However desirable nuclear power is, we don’t need to allow any concession to the silly alarmists by using their language of “clean” energy.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Rafe Champion
December 31, 2020 10:43 pm

FUSION FAQ

HomeFusion FAQ

THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE OUT THERE CLAIMING TO KNOW HOW TO GET CHEAP OR EVEN FREE ENERGY. WHY IS FOCUS FUSION DIFFERENT?

Unlike zero-point energy and cold fusion, which are based on new physical theories, or at least new interpretations of existing theories, aneutronic fusion with a dense plasma focus device, which we call Focus Fusion, is based on an original application of very well-confirmed scientific theories such as electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. No “new physical theories” are invoked. Indeed we are utilizing natural phenomena that have been observed at much larger scales in the universe—in solar flares, for example.

LPPFusion’s work in this field is taken seriously by our peers. In addition to participating in numerous scientific conferences to present our results, our work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Fusion Energy and Physics of Plasmas, the world’s leading journal in the field of plasma physics, which is fundamental to fusion research. In 2012, our paper in Physics of Plasmas was named the most-read paper of the year.

IF ANEUTRONIC FUSION WITH THE DEVICE IS SO GOOD, WHY IS LPPFUSION THE ONLY GROUP WORKING ON IT?

Aneutronic fusion with the plasma focus device, or Focus Fusion for short, is not the product of one researcher or one group. It is the fruit of a research program involving dozens of experimental groups around the world over 40 years. The plasma focus device, while it has suffered over the years from a great lack of funding, and faced challenges to theoretical understanding, has now become one of the most promising alternatives to the costly tokamak approach to fusion. In Latin America, for example, plasma focus devices are the only alternative device that is now being actively researched.

LINK

=====

Read the rest of the link.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 8:47 am

They are not using Tritium as a fuel source, did you even read the Focus Fusion link?

No one else is even using this fuel set up:

Focus Fusion is our name for the combination of the Dense Plasma Focus device with aneutronic hydrogen-boron (pB11) fuel.

meab
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 9:53 am

Focus Fusion’s claims are bogus. It takes a plasma 50x hotter with H – 11B as it takes with D-T to get ANY fusion reaction density and the plasma has to be about 1000x hotter to match D-T’s peak reaction rate. Since the difficulty in achieving energy breakeven scales supralinearly with the plasma energy, Hydrogen – Boron Fusion is well more than 1000x harder to do than D-T. As you said, if Focus Fusion can’t do (relatively) easy Fusion than they have no chance of doing difficult fusion. (Relatively) easy Fusion is actually extremely difficult already.

See the composite cross section and reaction rate plots at the very end of this report. D-T is #1 and H-11B is #6.

https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/4014032/

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  meab
January 1, 2021 12:21 pm

It is clear you didn’t read about their research and testing events.

Posa
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 6:42 pm

Correct Sunset… the LPFusion experimental device reached 2 B Degrees C and sustained the reaction long enough for fusion.

meab
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 9:51 am

Focus Fusion’s claims are bogus. It takes a plasma 50x hotter with H – 11B as it takes with D-T to get ANY fusion reaction density and the plasma has to be about 1000x hotter to match D-T’s peak reaction rate. Since the difficulty in achieving energy breakeven scales supralinearly with the plasma energy, Hydrogen – Boron Fusion is well more than 1000x harder to do than D-T. As you said, if Focus Fusion can’t do (relatively) easy Fusion than they have no chance of doing difficult fusion. (Relatively) easy Fusion is actually extremely difficult already.

See the composite cross section and reaction rate plots at the very end of this report. D-T is #1 and H-11B is #6.

https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/4014032/

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 10:25 am

Eric,
While it is an accepted truism that one must learn to walk before they can run, the metric for whether sustained tritium fusion is easier than boron fusion is which is accomplished first. The assumption that tritium fusion is easiest has not been demonstrated. The truism is best applied to demonstration engineering projects that are obviously scalable.

meab
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 11:45 am

But it is obviously scalable. That has been known for 50 years. It takes a plasma 50x hotter with H – 11B as it takes with D-T to get ANY fusion reaction density and the plasma has to be about 1000x hotter to match D-T’s peak reaction rate. Since the difficulty in achieving energy breakeven scales supralinearly with the plasma energy, Hydrogen – Boron Fusion is well more than 1000x harder to do than D-T. Obviously, if Focus Fusion can’t do (relatively) easy Fusion than they have no chance of doing difficult fusion. (Relatively) easy Fusion is actually extremely difficult already.See the composite cross section and reaction rate plots at the very end of this report. D-T is #1 and H-11B is #6.
https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/4014032/

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 5:26 am

“The plasma focus device, while it has suffered over the years from a great lack of funding,”

Ding ding ding…there it is.
Not enough private money? Perhaps it is not as alluring as you think.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 1, 2021 8:49 am

Maybe, it could also be because they are so fixated on the long failed (government preferred) Tokomack project, that they don’t look anywhere else.

How many here even heard of Focus Fusion before I brought it up?

They are being honest about their project.

Last edited 25 days ago by Sunsettommy
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 1, 2021 10:34 am

Tom,
While the lack of private money may be a reflection of the process not being alluring to investors, that doesn’t prove that the concept is flawed. The history of promoters such as Carnegie and others is a single man seeing the potential in a different way of doing things, almost going broke, and then raising capital to change the world. In Carnegie’s case, we wouldn’t have long-span steel bridges and skyscrapers without the construction steel he promoted. One could definitely say that investors for Carnegie’s steel projects did not find them “alluring,” initially.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 12:25 pm

The University of New South Wales is also working on boron-proton fusion. Just because a government funded organization fails, doesn’t mean it is the only viable process.
https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/laser-boron-fusion-now-%E2%80%98leading-contender%E2%80%99-energy

“We must do something!”
This is something
“We must do this!”

Posa
Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 1, 2021 6:44 pm

EVERY new technology needs investors. ever hear of “venture capital”, “angel money” etc?

LPPFusion is the most cost effective fusion device ever. It has adequate resources to advance its goals. But it would go faster with more money.

fred250
Reply to  Rafe Champion
January 1, 2021 12:13 am

With proper filtering and scrubbing, we already three VERY CLEAN and VERY RELIABLE energy sources that can cover all our energy needs.

COAL, GAS and OIL.

Bonus is they also release much needed CO2 into the atmosphere from carbon that has been removed from the short term carbon cycle that SUSTAINS ALL LIFE ON EARTH.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 8:57 am

For now, but eventually it will become too expensive to use anymore, then what?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 10:38 am

If one were cynical, they might suggest that governments are going slow on supporting fusion until the end to cheap fossil fuels is in sight, thereby allowing the use of that resource to be optimized, and preserving the capital investments of fossil fuel companies.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 12:30 pm

That’s just like people in the early 1900’s worrying about how to solve the horse manure problem in the growing big cities. We can let future generations worry about where to get their energy from; after all, they will have superior knowledge and technology to do it. Few of our ancestor’s ideas on how we would conduct our lives turned out to be even close to reality, but you can hardly blame them for not knowing what would be discovered and invented in the future. The same is true for us. We need to concentrate on the problems right in front of us, not far into the future.

Kit P
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 12:19 pm

What do you mean by ‘we’ paleface?

Just because you live someplace that electricity and gas is delivered to your house. and your fuel at the corner gas station without being concerned about the whims of some dictator does not mean delivering your energy is a trivial task.

Vincent
December 31, 2020 10:58 pm

Energy supplies are the foundation of our civilization, prosperity and all progress we might achieve in any field.

Science should investigate all possible sources of energy, but obviously we should give priority to the most plausible potential outcomes. There are many claims by posters on this site that nuclear fission is the solution to the imagined climate crisis, but such claims ignore the dangers of nuclear fission and the potential disasters. It is the dangers of nuclear fission that have motivated the research into nuclear fusion.

Perhaps the research funds could be better spent on more research into battery storage and more efficient and durable solar panels. The energy from the sun is totally free. No need to destroy the environment by mining coal and oil and toxic elements like uranium. Let’s just exploit that limitless free energy from the sun, which also comes with free transportation, using the best and most efficient methods that our science and technology industry can manage.

fred250
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 12:17 am

“The energy from the sun is totally free.”

RUBBISH !

Harnessing that power for human uses requires HUGE amounts of toxic industrial processes and will leave behind large amounts of recyclable toxic waste.

It is also only available for a small fraction of the day, and can be highly intermittent and unreliable,depending on the weather.

It is NOT limitless.. it only functions for some 6 hours a day, and not at all in many places in winter.

If it is FREE, then there should be absolutely NO NEED for HUGE subsidies and mandates.

Last edited 26 days ago by fred250
fred250
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 1:53 am

end of first sentence should read

and will leave behind large amounts of NON-recyclable toxic waste.

Vincent
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 3:21 am

“Harnessing that power for human uses requires HUGE amounts of toxic industrial processes and will leave behind large amounts of recyclable toxic waste.”

You missed the point. Harnessing the power from coal also requires huge amounts of toxic industrial processes, such as the construction of coal-fired power stations, the disposal of the waste product from the burning of the coal, and the construction of expensive emission controls to reduce the harmful health effects of the pollutants.
However, the coal, or oil, also has to be first extracted from the earth, which causes more pollution and expense, and then transported long distances incurring further, additional expense. Sunlight and wind does not have to be mined or transported. Got it?

“It is also only available for a small fraction of the day, and can be highly intermittent and unreliable, depending on the weather.”

As explained before, at any given time, the amount of sunlight that reaches the whole of the earth’s surface is huge. If the entire Sahara desert were covered with solar panels, it would provide around 20 times the total amount of energy used in the entire world, converting all forms of energy use into equivalent kWh.
HVDC power lines can transport energy long distances with minimal loss.

“It is NOT limitless.”

It IS effectively limitless for as long as life on Earth exists. No sun equates to no life. Coal and oil supplies will eventually run out, whether in 100 years or 300 years or 500 years. The sun will not run out of fuel for another 5 billion years. Got it?

“If it is FREE, then there should be absolutely NO NEED for HUGE subsidies and mandates.”

Subsidies are applied to a huge range of various activities and processes to encourage development. The purpose of the solar subsidies is to develop technology which can transform the free energy from the sun into electricity that we can use. Got it?

Bill Toland
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 5:31 am

Vincent, you claim to be concerned about the damage caused by coal mining. However, you have ignored the huge increase in mining which would be required to build enough ” renewables” and batteries to power the world. The environmental damage would be devastating. I don’t believe it would even be possible in the real world to actually build sufficient additional mines to do this due to the opposition of environmentalists. I have seen some studies which have cast doubt on the existence of sufficient quantities of some of the raw materials required.

Enginer01
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 7:09 am

HVDC = extremely long extension cords.
Actually HVDC transmission efficiency is only slightly greater than HVAC transmission.

The concept of 24 hour power from HVDC (or LI batteries) is just plain silly!

mcswell
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 8:05 am

HVDC power lines can transport energy long distances with minimal loss.” A question: can these power lines be run underseas, and last for a decade or more without maintenance? I know there are communications cables that do that, but power lines carrying enormous amounts of power would be a different technology. Or would it be necessary to build such solar power grids on multiple continents (and at least some islands)?

BTW, I’m not criticizing the idea, I’m just trying to understand its practicality better.

Another thought: the mean miles of roadway per square mile of land in the US is 1.69 (https://www.stockingblue.com/article/160/miles-of-roadway-per-square-mile-of-land-in-us-states/). The average width of a two lane street (with parking on both sides) is around 25-35 feet (various sources); obviously two lanes is a minimum, with a few exceptions. If solar panels could be built over the top of roads, with sufficient clearance for trucks to pass under (similar to some parking lots now, albeit a bit higher), that would give an average of 1.69 miles * 30 feet, or (rounding down a bit) 250,000 square feet per square mile, which is conveniently about 0.001 (or 1 * 10^-3) square miles.

The land area of the US is about 3 million square miles; so if all roads were covered by solar panels, that would be 3*10^6 * 1 * 10^-3 = 3000 square miles of solar panels. Average yearly production of power from 1kw peak solar (https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/how-much-electricity-does-a-solar-panel-produce) is over 1000 kwH in the lower 48 states, and requires about 70 square feet. 3000 square miles = 8 *10^10 square feet; dividing that by 70 square feet and multiplying by 1000 kwH gives around 10^12 kwH/ year. The US electrical consumption is around 4 trillion = 4 * 10^12 kwH. So up to a quarter of the electrical consumption could be provided by solar panels over roads. (Someone check my math…)

A couple advantages of putting solar panels over roads: the right of way is already owned by governments. The density of roads is higher in regions of greater population, which are (in general) exactly the places you’d want to use the electricity. So the power cable runs would be shorter than if all the panels were placed in the desert.

And in the north, you’d reduce the need to plow the snow off the roads. The solar panels would be tilted to better intercept the sunlight (can’t do that with roads), so the snow would tend to slide off onto the side of the road, at least for roads running east-west–some assistance in the form of heaters would be needed, and you might still have to plow the drifts up in Sven-and-Oley land…

Before someone objects that this doesn’t solve the problem of night time electricity, well duh, yes. Given the cross-country electric grid that we already have, you get some benefit out of the fact that the east coast is three hours ahead of the west coast, but that still leaves a need for massive storage and concomitant losses.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  mcswell
January 1, 2021 10:51 am

mcswell,
You said, “And in the north, you’d reduce the need to plow the snow off the roads.” Perhaps, but another possibility is that the structures would create a wind shadow, reduce the velocity of the wind, and allow huge drifts to form under the structures, making them unplowable!

AndyHce
Reply to  mcswell
January 1, 2021 11:28 am

Maintenance is a big factor. while it obviously depends on local conditions, some published research on solar farms in southern desert areas (high sunlight) found measured output decreasing by as much as 35% in one month due to dust.

Jake Jackson
Reply to  mcswell
January 1, 2021 5:10 pm

Constructing them above highways would be far more expensive than a) buying or leasing the acreage privately, and/or b) putting them on federally-owned land.

Once constructed, maintenance of those ribbons you propose would be hugely expensive given that panels need to be constantly cleaned to produce at their rated capacity. This is a significant issue no matter where you mount them, but the worst place would be over roads and their grime.

Cost-wise, the cheapest would be to concentrate them on large parcels near existing power lines. They would still be far more expensive and far less reliable than gas, coal, and nukes, but by FAR the most hideously expensive idea would be yours. Congrats!

Last edited 25 days ago by Jake Jackson
mcswell
Reply to  Jake Jackson
January 2, 2021 6:55 am

@Jake: Then why are you (or at least I) starting to see parking lots covered with solar panels?

fred250
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 12:03 pm

Coal, Oil, Gas, are also FREE

All you have to do is build the infrastructure to get at it and use it..

Your feeble DREAMS don’t impress anyone.

Vincent Causey
Reply to  Vincent
January 2, 2021 1:47 am

If wind and solar were actually scaled up to levels that would decarbonise the global economy, the environmental destruction would be utterly devastating. Not only does it take about 10 times the quantity of raw materials to construct the equivalent power capacity as does gas generation, but it involves toxic elements as well, and impossible to recycle plastics. But it gets worse. Because a wind turbine or solar panel has a lifespan of only 20 years everything that was built at enormous environmental impact will have to be thrown away and rebuilt. And again. And again. Any true environmentalist should be utterly horrified at the thought of this.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 10:44 am

As to costs, the damage to the environment from solar panel farms, which will displace traditional food farms, needs to be accounted for as well. As NASA has discovered, there is no such thing as a free launch. It is only liberal tree-huggers that believe that “The energy from the sun is totally free.”

fred250
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 12:10 pm

Coal, Oil, Gas, are also FREE

All you have to do is build the infrastructure to get at it and use it.

Building Coal infrastructure is easy, and non-toxic….. steel and cement.

By-products of coal, such as ash, have many uses as well……

Society is built using ash as a part of concrete, roads, linings for dwellings etc etc

The main byproduct, CO2, is ESSENTIAL for ALL LIFE ON EARTH to exist.

Building solar and wind infrastructure involves extremely toxic processes and will need HUGE amounts of mining and highly toxic etc to come anywhere near the 24/365.25 dispatchable capacity of coal, oil and gas.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 12:28 pm

Oil and coal and gas are free also. The costs to actually use them are cheaper than the costs to use wind and solar power.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  dan no longer in CA
January 1, 2021 5:52 pm

Where can I get permits at no cost (i.e., free) to remove oil, coal or gas from any land parcels on Earth?

In most cases, even when you buy a piece of property (urban, suburban or undeveloped land), you do not buy the “mineral rights” (i.e., ownership) to valuable substances underneath your property. The most commonly extracted underground “minerals” these days are natural gas, oil, and coal, although the existing “mineral rights” owner might also own and extract gold, silver, or other minerals.

In case you haven’t heard, TINSTAAFL (there is no such thing as a free lunch).

fred250
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 1:31 am

Here is the output compared to built capacity for German grid solar in 2015 and 2016

comment image

Limited to about half nameplate, with a factor around 11-12%

Less than 10% of capacity about 70% of the time.

It is a POINTLESS WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY.

David A
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 2:22 am

All energy is totally free. All things that are things are energy. Energy cannot be destroyed. We live move and breath in a sea of energy.

Harnessing energy to work as one directs it, now that is the cost.

fred250
Reply to  David A
January 1, 2021 2:32 am

Coal, Oil, Gas, are also FREE

All you have to do is build the infrastructure to get at it and use it..

Vincent
Reply to  David A
January 1, 2021 5:18 am

“All energy is totally free. All things that are things are energy. Energy cannot be destroyed. We live move and breath in a sea of energy.”

But most of us don’t live and breath in coal mines, oil wells, or uranium mines, but we do live in the sunlight and wind, breathe the free air and soak up the free sunlight to provide essential vitamin D.

Coal mines, oil wells and uranium mines are not free. The sunlight that reaches your solar panels, is free. Why is that so difficult to understand?

“Harnessing energy to work as one directs it, now that is the cost.”

Of course it is a cost. However, as I’ve mentioned before, energy from fossil fuel requires two major projects; the construction of the power generator, plus the mining and transportation of the fossil fuel to the power generator. You must have noticed that coal and oil has a price, therefore it’s obviously not free.

Wind and solar farms also have a cost, but no-one has to pay for the wind and the sunlight, so that’s a clear advantage. Can’t you see that?

DHR
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 6:18 am

Vincent,

Coal, oil and natural gas are also free, just like sunlight and wind. All are produced by natural processes, some occurring over millions or billions of years, which do not involve human activity whatsoever. There are expenses involved in collecting and utilizing each of these energy sources which are peculiar to their nature.

Coal, oil and natural gas have the advantage of being able to produce as much useful energy as is needed at any time. Sunlight and wind cannot do this so there are added expenses involved in making up for this inherent deficiency. The balance of these costs as they arise from current and conceivable technology greatly favor coal, oil and natural gas, and nuclear fission as well.

The central question is then what precisely is this balance and can we afford solar and wind and still maintain our standard of living? At present, the answer seems to be no. Can’t you see this?

Vincent
Reply to  DHR
January 1, 2021 7:20 pm

“Coal, oil and natural gas are also free, just like sunlight and wind. All are produced by natural processes, some occurring over millions or billions of years, which do not involve human activity whatsoever. There are expenses involved in collecting and utilizing each of these energy sources which are peculiar to their nature.”

One of the aspects of the AGW debates that I find interesting is the completely biased and entrenched views that some people seem hold, on both sides of the debate. I have personally accepted the argument for a long time now, that AGW alarmism is a type of religion where people conveniently ignore the historical data and falsely claim that the current warming is unprecedented, or that a particular extreme weather event is unprecedented. 

I understand quite well that such false statements and exaggerations are for political purposes, and that there is a downside to such false claims, such as a lack of resources directed at preparations for the recurrence of natural, extreme weather events that are known to have occurred frequently in the past.

Your statement that ‘Coal, oil and natural gas are also free, just like sunlight and wind’, is an excellent example of a biased and entrenched attitude which defies basic logic. Well done!!

Either you don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘free’, or you do understand it, and are making a false statement.

Something which is free is something you don’t have to pay money for. Coal and natural gas are not free. They have a price tag which varies according to supply and demand. Everyone and every organization that uses coal or gas has to pay for it, unless you steal it, or unless it is donated by some charity organization.

There is absolutely no charge for sunlight or wind. However, there obviously is a charge or cost for the electricity produced from the wind or sunlight.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 11:01 am

“the construction of the power generator,” which is comparable to the construction and maintenance of new transmission lines, batteries, and inverters. Solar panel manufacturing requires the mining of the materials used (such as silica instead of coal) and the transportation of the mined materials to smelters and fabrication facilities. Large areas increase the probability of damage to solar arrays from hail and wind, which requires repair. Also, water is in short supply in areas best suited for solar panels, and the arrays will need frequent, periodic washing to maintain their efficiency. The problem of dust will be more severe in those areas with a lot of sunlight!

AndyHce
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 11:31 am

So far the cost to capture and use that “free energy” from sunlight and wind is much higher than the cost to utilize fossil fuel.

fred250
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 12:16 pm

Coal, Oil, Gas, are also FREE

All you have to do is build the infrastructure to get at it and use it.

Building Coal infrastructure is easy, and non-toxic….. steel and cement.

Building wind and solar infrastructure is a toxic, polluting and highly environmentally destructive.

By-products of coal, such as ash, have many uses as well……

Society is built using ash as a part of concrete, roads, linings for dwellings etc etc

The main byproduct, CO2, is ESSENTIAL for ALL LIFE ON EARTH to exist.

Building solar and wind infrastructure involves extremely toxic processes and will need HUGE amounts of mining and highly toxic etc to come anywhere near the 24/365.25 dispatchable capacity of coal, oil and gas.

You CANNOT BUILD wind or solar without using FOSSIL FUELS….. period.

Also , when they “die” after a short intermittent life, they leave behind a whole heap of TOXIC non-recyclable junk to de disposed of in massive landfills.

Vincent
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 9:14 pm

“Coal, Oil, Gas, are also FREE
All you have to do is build the infrastructure to get at it and use it.
Building Coal infrastructure is easy, and non-toxic….. steel and cement.
Building wind and solar infrastructure is a toxic, polluting and highly environmentally destructive.”

I think you might be in a state of ‘denial’ here, Fred. Most industrial processes produce toxic waste. Whether or not the production of renewable devices such solar panels, windmills, batteries, and so on, are more damaging to the environment than the mining and burning of fossil fuels will vary from region to region, depending on the quality and the enforcement of the environmental regulations in place.

Both the mining and the burning of coal has a terrible history of pollution and toxicity, which has affected both the environment and the health of millions of people. However, that is not to say that such environmental and health impacts cannot be addressed. Unfortunately, they are often not addressed.

Even in a well-developed country such as Australia, coal ash is a major environmental problem, and most of it is not used for concrete.

“Coal ash is one of Australia’s biggest waste problems and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the entire nation’s waste stream.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-10/coal-ash-has-become-one-of-australias-biggest-waste-problems/10886866

Here’s another article on the destructive effects of coal mining,

“The surface mining of coal is incredibly destructive to landscapes and watersheds. In particular, the practice of “mountaintop removal” mining that is common in Appalachia has proven to be devastating to the environment.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/coal-fired-power-plant

And here’s another more detailed ‘scientific’ article addressing the problems of coal dust.

“Occupational exposure limits for respirable coal dust are based on exposure during working hours, but coal miners may experience additional community-based exposures during nonworking hours. We analyzed Australia National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) data for the years 2008–2018 to estimate air pollutants (metals, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter ≤ 10 micrometers (PM10) and ≤2.5 micrometers (PM2.5)) originating from coal mines.”

Coal mining is a hazardous occupation, with high risks for both accidents and occupational diseases, especially respiratory disease, compared to other types of work. Occupational disease risks are not restricted to underground miners but extend to surface mining workers as well. Surface mining workers are exposed to respirable dust and silica, and are at risk of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

In addition to occupational risks, coal mining also affects surrounding communities. Surface mining in particular contributes to local air pollution, with documented genotoxic effects and increased risks for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease, among community populations.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7084742/

Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 6:10 pm

Vincent,
The core problem is that when Solar energy is delivered to us it has low energy density, meaning a lot of solar panels are required. Oil, Coal and Gas have been processed by nature into products that have a high energy density. for ease of extraction and use Solar can never compete directly.

This is why you cannot, and probably never be able, to use solar energy to make more solar panels.

Another way of thinking about it is that when solar panels are made they come with a carbon debit from manufacturing and transportation. In comparison with burning coal, the solar panel has to be running for years before it is ahead of generating electricity from coal.

AND don’t get me started on solar panel disposal at the end of the panels life cycle.

Vincent
Reply to  John MCCUTCHEON
January 3, 2021 5:04 am

“Vincent,
The core problem is that when Solar energy is delivered to us it has low energy density, meaning a lot of solar panels are required. Oil, Coal and Gas have been processed by nature into products that have a high energy density. for ease of extraction and use Solar can never compete directly.”

Of course. There are usually both positives and negatives to every issue. The question is, do the potential positives outweigh the potential negatives of renewable energy? Perhaps only time will tell.

If the problems of renewable energy eventually prove to be unsolvable, or worse than the problems of fossil fuels and nuclear power, we can always move back to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

If we do return to fossil and nuclear fuels, we might still have gained the advantage of Electric Vehicles, with advanced battery storage, which are potentially more efficient than dinosaur gas-driven cars with their horrible noise and exhaust pollution.

Vincent
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 5:42 am

Eric,
If this is truly the case, then claims that energy from renewables such as solar and wind are now around the same price, or sometimes even cheaper, than energy from fossil fuels, must be a complete fraud. Can you provide evidence that this is the case?

As I understand, the ‘levelized’ cost comparison, in such claims, does not include the intermittency problem of renewables, and this should not be ignored. However, the energy from renewables is obviously still a work in progress, and negativity is not going to help, but skepticism is fine.

Curious George
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 9:59 am

“The energy from the sun is totally free.” Only if you are a green plant with a plentiful supply of carbon dioxide and water, and a little of other elements. I still wonder how Tillandsias can grow on phone wires.

fred250
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 12:21 pm

They also leave out the HUGE cost of implementation into the grid.

comment image

A recent study of integration costs into the grid in Vietnam showed just how UTTER POINTLESS and EXPENSIVE intermittent supplies are.

Bryan A
Reply to  Vincent
January 1, 2021 8:47 pm

Vincent,
Walking across the street is far more dangerous than Nuclear Fission induced generation. Just look at the number of people killed in accidents on an annual basis compared to the number of annual Nuclear Accident fatalities.

Vincent
Reply to  Bryan A
January 1, 2021 11:00 pm

That’s because there are huge numbers of vehicles on the roads, throughout the world, but relatively tiny numbers of nuclear power plants. Imagine if the number of nuclear power plants were to increase a thousand-fold, to satisfy mankind’s increasing demand for energy.

The total cost of the Fukushima disaster, taking all factors into consideration, could be as high as a Trillion dollars, by some estimates.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Vincent
January 2, 2021 1:05 pm

“Some estimates.” Whereas the trillions of dollars already wasted on greed (yes, sic) energy have less power generation than nuclear to show for it. Taking all factors into consideration.

kwg
December 31, 2020 11:16 pm
Greg
January 1, 2021 1:28 am

incapable of generating the dangerous runaway chain reactions that lead to a meltdown

Who needs a meltdown when you already a million degree plasma ball you are hoping to contain?

Fukupshima had meltdowns and criticality events because of loss of power to simple cooling circulation pump. How much complex is the infrastructure required to confine your plasma?

Fusion has to be infinitely more unstable than fission, that is why they are still struggling with fleeting bursts after half a century of trying.

mike macray
Reply to  Greg
January 1, 2021 9:17 am

.. that is why they are still struggling with fleeting bursts after half a century of trying.

I remember well the headlines about the Zeta fusion Project in the mid ’50s.. then as now a mere 30 odd years away. I suspect that like the ‘perfect solvent’ it is waiting for the container..?! Gotta love those paradoxes.. remember Epimenedes the Cretan?
Cheers
and happy New Year to all
Mike

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Greg
January 2, 2021 1:07 pm

The reaction quenches without input power. It’s not the same issue at all. Fission plants requires years of cooling to deal with the residual heat in the spent fuel.

ggm
January 1, 2021 2:25 am

Fusion is a con. Another example of corrupt scientists feeding from the trough of public money.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  ggm
January 1, 2021 12:25 pm

Focus Fusion group isn’t getting any “public” money, it is all investments.

Harry Davidson
January 1, 2021 3:50 am

In the 1950s the UK brought it’s first nuclear power station on stream. That was Calder Hall. We were promised at the time that within 10 years we would have Fusion power, so cheap it would not be worth charging for. Then in the 70s Fusion was 20 years away, now it seems to be 30 years away.

bonbon
January 1, 2021 4:13 am

Fusion energy is a commodity, and its current application, thermonuclear “dial-a-yield” mobile platforms, will guarantee no-one will be around if the current geopolitical China and Russia – bashing at a screeching level is not halted.

A fusion crash program with the USA onboard is in fact the only survival strategy for this planet.

And that, the likes of Prince Charles, Mark Carney et. al will do anything to prevent as it means the end of their green swill. Their Titanic will not be ice-berged by a clever blog word salad, or mere opinion piece here.

So the Author here is raining on the parade, wittingly or not.

bonbon
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 7:14 am

Fair enough.
The point is it is not a technical engineering problem, nor even a scientific one, rather a major political intention. It is the way out of the climate-CO2-green finance quagmire.
This is the way to dump the green rigged game….

Of course there are really difficult technical issues to master, much easier than dumping the Great Reset.

Rich Davis
Reply to  bonbon
January 1, 2021 9:00 am

Nonsense as usual bonbon

Fusion is 20-30-50-100 years out.. pick a number, any of those will do. It’s the Holy Grail of the crony capitalist quest. Now mind you, we must continue with windmills and solar panels in the meantime. (It’s a climate emergency dontchaknow). So the green swill not only will not end, but will need to be redoubled.

At the same time, sacrifices will have to be made by all (well, by all the little people, at least), until we have built Utopia. Unfortunately, lifestyles will need to revert to the 12th Century, and population will need to decline, the economy must be imploded.

Control energy and you control the commanding heights of the economy. Cheap and abundant energy is like giving a machine gun to an idiot child. Therefore let us spend a quadrillion dollars in pursuit of the impossible. We must never again have cheap and abundant energy.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rich Davis
January 1, 2021 11:08 am

Rich
I doubt that you personally are an expert on the subject. What is your authority for stating unequivocally that fusion may be as much as 100 years out? Consider how much technology has changed in the last 100 years!

Curious George
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 1:55 pm

Clyde, Rich, bonbon: Happy New Year to us. Technology may have changed a lot in the last 100 years, but in the last 50 years, the nuclear fusion has always been 30+-10 years out. I would like to see it, but I have my doubts.

Posa
Reply to  Curious George
January 1, 2021 6:50 pm

You’re out of date.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2021 6:33 am

Clyde
Over 6 decades trying, and nought but the faintest glimmer of hope for technical feasibility. There is a chasm between technical feasibility and commercial success. I don’t know if it is even technically feasible. Personally I always say that sustained terrestrial fusion will come when the sun goes red giant.

It’s a certainty that it won’t happen in my lifetime.

My point is that the fusion quest is going to be used much like the promise of heaven after death, as a means of getting the peasants to stay docile. With the supposed necessity to forego fossil fuels, we’ll be told that we all must sacrifice and accept energy poverty. Windmills and solar panels will be acknowledged as inadequate, but the only hope will be fusion, which will never come as a source of cheap abundant power, even if it is technically perfected. It will never come because that would ruin the elites’ game.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rich Davis
January 2, 2021 8:21 pm
Last edited 24 days ago by Clyde Spencer
Rich Davis
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 3, 2021 8:39 am

Clyde,
From your linked article dated 28 Jan 2020:

“Hawker says First Light hopes to initiate its first fusion reaction this year and to demonstrate net energy gain by 2024.”

A prediction that has already failed to come to pass. And also a deceptive claim:

https://news.newenergytimes.net/2019/02/12/first-light-fusions-fake/

Returning to your link, we find this quote:

“But he acknowledges that those achievements won’t be enough. “Fusion energy doesn’t just need to be scientifically feasible,” he says. “It needs to be commercially viable.”

Exactly my point.

robin townsend
January 1, 2021 4:14 am

I visited the experimental fusion reactor in UK. Fascinating and incredibly impressive thing and amazing staff who were totally incompetent for the job in hand. All they wanted to do was play with fireballs. They did loads of funky experiments which they had great fun with, but they all complained of the one problem they couldnt solve (and werent interested in solving) – the waste heat.
i assumed they were joking at first, but no.
The entire design focussed on the fireball and totally ignored the waste heat. they should all have been sacked and replaced by engineers who would have concentrated equally on the stable fireball and turning all that glorious waste heat into useable energy.
The project has founded itself on incorrect principles and thus cannot produce a fusion power station.
just hot balls. (very hot balls, well, streams actually)

bonbon
Reply to  robin townsend
January 1, 2021 11:33 am

Funky derives from Funk, spark.
Seems you have a problem with fire, an ancient problem as Prometheus documented…

anna v
January 1, 2021 4:15 am

For people interested to learn about fusion and particularly the state of the neutron problem https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10894-018-0182-1

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  anna v
January 1, 2021 12:29 pm

The Neutrino problem is already addressed by the Focus Fusion group, their design generate so little of it and low energy levels.

anna v
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 9:28 pm

The neutron problem. , neutrinos are weak interacting particles, neutrons are strong and are the problem in fusion as the article states.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  anna v
January 1, 2021 10:31 pm

What article are you referring to?

Matthew Bergin
January 1, 2021 6:20 am

I personally believe that the only why to produce a stable fusion reaction containment is the same way the sun does, with gravity. So it is simple. We just need to learn how to control gravity.🤦‍♂️🙄😉

Hans Erren
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 7:18 am

The dangerous side of a black hole is that, if it breaks containment, it starts swallowing its surroundings, like a break-out T-Rex.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 1, 2021 9:08 am

Or we construct a black body. Since it will catch all photons in sight it will become really hot and we may install a heat exchanger inside it. The disadvantage is that it gets extreamly cold around it. There is no free lunch, you know.

So where did I left my /sarc tag?

bonbon
Reply to  Matthew Bergin
January 1, 2021 11:36 am

There was a time when some said the Sun was a coal burning star. Hey, that’s Carbon, but I digress.
Then along came a smart kid, with a burning stick – look Ma’ my finger is on fire. Ma slapped the ears, but that did not stop us mastering fire.
Now you come along – Ma should clip your lugs.

Hans Erren
January 1, 2021 7:10 am

Four decades ago as a student I visited the tokamak of FOM in Nieuwegein, Netherlands. Fusion was then “decades ahead”. Forty years later it stil is “decades ahead”. Sounds a lot like the ice free arctic, which is also always “decades ahead”.

Sunsettommy
Editor
Reply to  Hans Erren
January 1, 2021 8:54 am

Tokamack is a dead end, that is why it failed. Too many problems they couldn’t solve.

bonbon
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 1, 2021 11:54 am

The Sun has actually set on the British Empire, although ideologues of the
Rhodes persuasion just cannot accept it.
Meanwhile the New Paradigm is Fusion, and many at Jet know it.
Dump the empire.

M__ S__
January 1, 2021 7:19 am

Hmmm. It takes a star a certain minimum mass to achieve the conditions necessary for sustained nuclear fusion—something along the lines of 5% of the sun’s mass. This balances the heat and pressure needed to sustain the process with the outward pressure to keep the star from collapsing—and to ensure there is enough fuel available to the core that is kept in a state that encourages sustained fusion.

In effect, gravity—that seemingly limitless “force”—keeps up the pressure without expending energy to do so. If we eventually have a usable, and sustainable, process, I suspect it will be using this kind of force-like phenomenon to create usable energy. What this would take is beyond me, maybe an artificially created and “controlled” singularity—who knows? For my lifetime, I won’t be holding my breath, and I personally think we’re wasting resources chasing this pipe dream using energy guzzling mechanisms to achieve microscopic and temporally transitory reactions.

We have elements that support fission-based energy, and have simply been unwilling to expend the human energy either finding, or exploiting, ways to make this economically sustainable.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  M__ S__
January 1, 2021 9:39 am

A singularity?
Well, the Romulans figured it out so we should also be able to do so. Romulans are WOS!!

bonbon
Reply to  M__ S__
January 1, 2021 11:57 am

Never heard of Ivy Mike or Czara-bomba? This stuff is open for decades, not to mention Grapple X at Christmas Island?

ColMosby
January 1, 2021 7:24 am

It is a mystery why ?energy experts” consistently miss the coming revolution in nuclear (and low carbon) energy inn the form of small modular molten salt reactors. These provide everything one could ever possibly want in a base/peak power producer : cheap to build, cheap and totally safe to operate, can be sited anywhere, able to load follow, available within the next few years, Able to reduce radiation level of fuel to a low level – can reach background radiation levels within a hundred years, not thousands. etc etc

DMacKenzie
Reply to  ColMosby
January 1, 2021 8:27 am

So where is one ?

Beta Blocker
Reply to  ColMosby
January 1, 2021 10:38 am

Can you put up a click ad for “ColMosby’s homestyle molten salt reactors” so that we can check out the believeability and the accuracy of your product claims?

Walter Horsting
January 1, 2021 7:51 am

The Case for the Good Reactor https://spark.adobe.com/page/1nzbgqE9xtUZF/

Seaborg.co

Gordon A. Dressler
January 1, 2021 9:47 am

The photo of the “homemade fusion reactor” at the lead-in to the above article is actually that of a relatively-simple-to-build Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) fusion device. These have, in fact, been shown to produce nuclear fusion in several different gases (most often either deuterium-deuterium or deuterium-tritium fusions), but at nowhere near break-even energy conditions due to their use of very low (weak vacuum) plasma densities. Such devices, at relatively high electrical input power levels, produce copious neutrons as a result of the DD or DT fusions, and can present a radiation-danger to personnel near the device.

Phoenix, formerly Phoenix Nuclear Labs, (https://phoenixwi.com/neutron-generators/dd-deuterium-deuterium-neutron-generators/ ) commercially markets compact neutron generators based on IEC technology. According to their website: “DD neutron generators are the ideal system to meet your radiation needs if you require an intermediate neutron yield within the range of 10^9 to 10^12 neutrons per second. For higher neutron yields, DT neutron generators system are ideal.” The company also claims continuous operation for a 24-hour period, and for those products that employ a gas-infused solid “target” for increased neutron yield, over 10,000 of operation before the target needs replacement.

Separately but significantly related, helium-3 can be produced by neutron bombardment of abundantly-plentiful lithium.

Also there is this: “. . . the so-termed ‘fast’ neutrons released by nuclear fusion reactors fueled by tritium and deuterium lead to significant energy loss and are extremely difficult to contain. One potential solution may be to use helium-3 and deuterium as the fuels in “aneutronic” (power without neutrons) fusion reactors. The involved nuclear reaction here when helium-3 and deuterium fuse creates normal helium and a proton, which wastes less energy and is easier to contain. Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 could therefore provide a highly efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and no radiation.” (ref: https://www.explainingthefuture.com/helium3.html

So, here’s the thought:
1) Use a spherical shell of lithium (itself with a glass container to prevent reaction with external oxygen and to allow capture of helium-3 product) to surround an IEC neutron source and to absorb 99+% of the emitted neutrons, then tap off the helium-3 that is produced by the neutrons bombarding the solid lithium.
2) Use that on-site production of helium-3 gas to fuel a separate nuclear reactor that is based on the fusion of helium-3 with deuterium. Whether such a fusion process would best be accomplished by a Tokamak-like device or a separate high power IEC device remains to be seen.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
January 1, 2021 10:33 am

One additional thought regarding the lithium shell proposed in my OP . It probably would be better if the vessel containing and isolating the lithium surrounding the heavy-duty IEC emitter of neutrons was designed in a manner to heat and maintain the enclosed lithium in liquid phase (i.e., above 180 C, or above ~360 deg-F). This would facilitate separation of helium-3 from the metal and would enable easy “refilling” of lithium during continuous operation.

Bindidon
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
January 2, 2021 10:41 am

Gordon A. Dressler

Looks very nice, but… what about

  • the temperature needed for the plasma
  • the much lower cross section compared with D+T?

See for example:

A Comparison Between the Burn Condition of Deuterium–Tritium and Deuterium–Helium-3https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/journals/zna/70/2/article-p79.xml

And they did not even mention the generation of tritium out of 3He at such temperatures, which inevitably will generate these nice 17 MeV neutrons, even if in lower amounts than D+T.

*
Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m no D+T lobbyist.

German scientists informed already in 2006 about the waste problem created by DEMO, ITER’s successor in case of success, due to

  • the need for breeding tritium out of lithium with beryllium as ‘neutron catalysator’;
  • D+T’s extreme neutron agressivity increasing dismantling costs.

In the sum: 60,000 tons of highly contaminated waste per unit lifetime.
Yeah.

J.-P. D.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Bindidon
January 2, 2021 12:40 pm

Bindidon,

In IEC devices, the fusion process generates very little sensible heat even though the charged particles can have very high (> 1 MeV) energies. Normal soda glass is sufficient to contain the very low density plasma.

A relevant example is a normal fluorescent light bulb: the electrons in its low density plasma (during continuous operation) can reach energy levels equivalent to temperatures above 11,000 deg-C (ref: https://www.plasmacoalition.org/lighting-plasmas.pdf ), but you can still touch the warm glass tube without getting burned.

The cross-section of D-D reactions versus those of D-T reactions basically just affects the rate of generation of neutrons . . . but D-D IEC devices still create fusion reactions.

Your link to the article at http://www.degruyter.com appears to be broken. Nonetheless, I suspect the subject article was comparing D-T reactions to D-He3 reactions in hot fusion devices such as Tokamaks, not in IEC devices. The two are quite different in their manner of creating nuclear fusion.

And, BTW, my proffered concept for a path to practical fusion is not without its problems . . . chief among these would be advancing IEC single-device technology to produce neutrons at a much higher rate than 10^12 per second. One mole of He3 (about 3 grams) represents 6E^23 atoms, so to produce just this small a quantity in one year would require single-reactor neutron production at a rate of about 2×10^16 per second, assuming 100% absorption and transmutation in the surrounding lithium shell.

However, there is a big carrot at the end of this road:
“At $1400 per gram, one hundred kilograms (220 pounds) of helium-3 would be worth about $140 million. One hundred kilograms constitutes more than enough fuel to potentially power a 1000 megawatt electric plant for a year when fused with deuterium, the terrestrially abundant heavy isotope of hydrogen.” (source: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/decadal/leag/DecadalHelium3.pdf ) But note that the stated cost and power production level translates to a non-LCOE, at the point of production, cost of electricity of just USD $0.016 per kWh . . . yes, less than two cents per kWh. And IEC-generated He3 has the potential to reduce its cost significantly below USD $1400/gm.

Taken together, the above two paragraphs imply at least a seven order-of-magnitude improvement from today is needed to make aneutronic D-He3 fusion practical (most likely via IEC), and thence make practical its direct electricity extraction from the resulting high energy proton flux, at commercial power-plant size.

But then again, targeting for an automated, appropriately safe, home fusion plant to generate, say, 10 Kw continuously for a year (using storage batteries for load leveling), would reduce the above paragraph’s implications by five orders of magnitude, leaving only two to go!

Compact fusion devices or utility scale fusion plants . . . who knows?

Bob Hoye
January 1, 2021 10:02 am

Useful electrical power from fusion is simple.
All that is needed is to replicate on Earth, the gravitational field of the Sun.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Bob Hoye
January 1, 2021 10:34 am

And we get the necessary hydrogen from . . .?

bonbon
Reply to  Bob Hoye
January 1, 2021 11:42 am

Thermonuclear fusion weapons can produce electromagnetic power without the Sun or gravity.

fred250
Reply to  bonbon
January 1, 2021 12:29 pm

And contain it ? …. roflmao !!!

They are the EXACT opposite of what needs to be achieved.

AndyHce
Reply to  Bob Hoye
January 1, 2021 11:48 am

I’ve read, but don’t have the background to evaluate, that models of the sun show the pressure at the core is at least an order of magnitude too little to produce sustained fusion. Since fusion is apparently happening, there must be something wrong with the calculations but it has so far proved too hard a problem and is mainly just ignored.

Does anyone here know if there is anything to that claim?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  AndyHce
January 1, 2021 1:35 pm

I will comment that all sorts of alarm bells go off in my mind when I stumble across the phrase “models of . . . show . . .”

Since there is very little direct observational data on the structure and physical processes occurring deep below the photosphere and down to the Sun’s core, I would recommend disregarding any modeling of interior pressure (or temperature) of the Sun’s core.

GIGO can exist in stellar models just as it exists with today’s “best” climate models.

Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 11:25 am

Jassby is quoted as saying, “… forming little or no plutonium byproducts …” I don’t know why he would qualify that with “little” because a commercial fusion power-generator would produce no plutonium. It is difficult enough to maintain a stable plasma without mucking around with introducing uranium or other transuranic elements into the confines of the reactor and producing fission products and non-fissionable radioactive transuranic elements that would have to be disposed of. It would probably be easier to produce plutonium in a conventional fission reactor dedicated and tuned to optimize plutonium production. It smells like Jassby has an agenda.

bonbon
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 11:43 am

Yes, as the LLNL guys say “High Z”.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 1, 2021 12:27 pm

“. . . because a commercial fusion power-generator would produce no plutonium.”

Hard to say for sure. It would depend on the exact materials surrounding/containing the fusion reaction and the amount of “fast” neutrons being produced by the fusion reaction within. The physical process of nuclear activation takes place in such materials.

Neutron activation is the process in which neutron radiation induces radioactivity in materials, and occurs when atomic nuclei either simply absorb free neutrons—becoming heavier and entering excited states—or when the capture of a neutron causes nuclear fission, splitting the atomic nucleus into two smaller nuclei.

“Neutron activation is the only common way that a stable material can be induced into becoming intrinsically radioactive. Neutrons are only free in quantity in the microseconds of a nuclear weapon’s explosion . . . In an atomic weapon neutrons are only generated for from 1 to 50 microseconds, but in huge numbers. Most are absorbed by the metallic bomb casing, which is only just starting to be affected by the explosion within it. The neutron activation of the soon-to-be vaporized metal is responsible for a significant portion of the nuclear fallout in nuclear bursts high in the atmosphere.”
(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_activation )

Neutron activation to produce plutonium would be theoretically possible by two successive single neutron absorptions by uranium. There are other available neutron-excited transmutation paths.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
January 1, 2021 9:30 pm

Gordon,
You said, “Neutron activation to produce plutonium would be theoretically possible by two successive single neutron absorptions by uranium.” That was why I referenced transuranic elements. There is no conceivable reason to incorporate transuranic elements in a light-element fusion reactor!

Bindidon
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
January 2, 2021 8:43 am

Gordon A. Dressler

You are obviously right. Clyde Spencer’s reply (January 1, 2021 9:30 pm)

There is no conceivable reason to incorporate transuranic elements in a light-element fusion reactor!

sounds even a bit more naive than what the guest poster wrote.

A detail: I didn’t understand your ‘by two successive single neutron absorptions’.
Why two of them? Would one not be enough to move from U238 to Pu239?

J.-P. D.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Bindidon
January 2, 2021 10:43 am

Bindidon, thank you for your reply and your question about the detail of the transmutation of U238 to Pu239.

You are, of course, correct in that there is a single neutron absorption path, with accompanying successive beta decays, that provides the end product of Pu239: U238 + n —> U239 —> (β-decay) —> Np239 —> (β-decay) —> Pu239

In referring to the two-neutron-absorption path (likewise with intervening beta decays) to get to Pu240, I relied upon the nuclear physics rule-of-thumb that nuclides with an even number of protons (Pu240 has 94) and an even number of neutrons (Pu240 has 146) are more stable than nuclides that are not “even-even” with respect to p-n counts.

I do not know which of these two paths would predominate in a hypothetical fusion reactor that is releasing copious neutrons (with attendant complexities of absorption nuclear cross-sections versus range of neutron energies) and that might use U238 or some other transuranium elements to produce/moderate/shield the fusion process.

Last edited 24 days ago by Gordon A. Dressler
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Bindidon
January 2, 2021 8:51 pm

Bindidon
Would you be good enough to explain why you thought my remark was naive? Are you speculating that light elements can be turned into transuranic elements by a cascade of high energy neutrons?

Robert of Texas
January 1, 2021 11:49 am

When they can generate more usable electrical power than it takes to produce the fusion for months at a time – then I wil get excited. That’s at least…what is it? 40 years away and always will be?

Build nukes.

Kpar
January 1, 2021 12:33 pm

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I see the issues of fusion power thusly.

Current proposals (tokamak, implosion devices) use fusion energy as heat engines to make steam to run turbines to convert power into a usable form (electricity).

That requires cooling jackets to make the steam, but the largest component of fusion energy is “fast” neutrons.

Fast neutrons are absorbed by the stainless steel jackets, but the downside is that they ablate and embrittle the steel, so the jackets have to be periodically replaced.

What to do with the many tons of HIGHLY radioactive steel? It cannot be recycled, like ordinary steel.

Replacing one problem with a larger one may be the way governments work, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Last edited 25 days ago by Kpar
Posa
Reply to  Kpar
January 1, 2021 6:56 pm

You’re describing a tokamak design. It’s agreed toks have no future as a commercial reactor. But there are OTHER fusion reactor designs that operate on different principles.

Ed Norman
January 1, 2021 12:55 pm

Practical fusion power plants are just one of the current technology dreams that none of us will see in our lifetimes: My Meanderings: Futile Technological Dreams (thopid.blogspot.com)

Dan Harrison
January 1, 2021 1:47 pm

Since the 1970’s I have been shocked at this focus on tritium fusion for production of sustainable electric power. My objection fundamental, basic and possibly naive.

In 1971 in an organic chemistry class I learned that photosynthesis by plants break down the energy of a photon of light approximately 20 times in some 23 reactions in order to produce ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate) to power cells. I simply could not understand, and still don’t, why/how we humans expect to be able to make the leap to nuclear fusion using the Russian Tokamak toroid without better understand for, and breaking down, the incredible energy output of tritium and most other nuclear reactions.

There are just too many hints of other avenues for serious investigations that the resources put into the “Tokamak” could be used to generate much more productive scientific progress toward realistic nuclear energy production. This all seems to me like nothing more than political ego, probably because the Russians invented the Tokamak, not us or the Europeans. The same for Europe, South Korea and China.

Kit P
January 1, 2021 2:40 pm

What is the problem?

Engineering 101 is checking your assumptions. After getting my engineering degree, my next stop was naval nuclear power school. On one test I apparently got the wrong answer because I did not get a 100%. It is SOP to learn from your mistakes when your life and those of your shipmates depend on doing it right.

Checking the key, I found that the problem was not solved correctly because the assumptions were not checked.

In the US, power production is legally required to be safe with insignificant environmental impact. There are no dangerous or dirty power plant. No children have elevated plants levels of mercury from coal plants or radiation exposure from US nuclear plants. Things easily measured.

So no problem.

In the US, there is no requirement to choose only the best way. Making electricity is a public service. If the public wants wind and solar, it gets done on a cost plus basis.

As far as paper power projects, I concede the debate to you. Before you make power you will need to finish the permitting process. It is not the same as a blog. Material false statements are serious felonies.

In the US, permitting includes input from the public. All you have to do is provide evidence it is not safe or the environmental impact is significant. Your opinion is not evidence.

At the risk of being fired from a project, I was arguing with a manager about redundant and diverse safety requirements for handling weapons grade material. This was at a time when DOE projects were just beginning to be reviewed by the NRC. I was there because I had both DOE and NRC experience. I said be prepared to discuss the issue at a public meeting.

The manager went and checked his assumptions and found he was wrong.

It is like the issue of weapons grade material. Commercial nuke plants actually destroy it. If you are trying to permit a fusion plant it does not matter what other plants do but how your plant addresses the issue.

THX1138
January 1, 2021 3:45 pm

Nuclear “physicists” have a long history of ignoring new scientific discoveries which do not fit their preconceived model of reality. Here is one scientific discovery they have ignored or vilified, making their “understanding” wrong, or incomplete at best.

Biological Transmutation of Elements – YouTube

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  THX1138
January 1, 2021 5:25 pm

So, now we have good reason to call them nuclear power plants.

Sure!

Walter Sobchak
January 1, 2021 4:21 pm

If fusion ever got near working the warmunists would start attacking it like this. Warmunists do not want to solve a problem. They want to impoverish, humiliate, and demoralize the lower classes. Any not CO2 producing source of energy that has a prayer of being able to power a modern civilization must be disqualified.

Jake Jackson
January 1, 2021 4:28 pm

There is a lot I don’t know about fusion, so I harken back to a conversation I had 17 years ago with a nuclear engineer while crossing the Atlantic on the old QE2 liner.

The guy told me that getting the reaction going is the easy part, and that containment is the impossible part. The reactor vessel that could hold the reaction is unbuildable with any materials anyone knows about, he said. Not only would the steel and concrete have to be incredibly thick, but it wouldn’t last long enough for a fusion project to be viable, either financially or environmentally.

From time to time, I will read an article or a posting about fusion, and my non-expert mind immediately searches for containment. I first heard about fusion almost 50 years ago when I was in college. From everything I can deduce, we are no closer to a real-world implementation than we ever were — which was never close.

Posa
Reply to  Jake Jackson
January 1, 2021 6:57 pm

Lots has happened in 17 years.

January 1, 2021 6:23 pm

At the other end of the scale is the scientist seeking funding for a project.  By and large, the direction of research and funding in the scientists area of interest is based on how well they present their case for funding and their standing in the scientific community. Therefore interesting big bang projects such as fusion and fission get funding whereas less spectacular and interesting projects such as soil conservation and waste recycling get the scraps from the budget allocation.

Funds are only forthcoming for a project or line of research if it is seen as being of major interest, profitability or conferring a level of status to scientists or funding bodies. New building materials, concrete structures, electronic development, and exploration display a tangible reward for effort whereas pollution control, population control, new plant strains and soil conservation are more open ended with less tangible results. Given the choice of getting something to bob up and down in the water to create a few volts of electricity or smash sub atomic particles together, I know which one that I would choose, both to be in and to fund.

Excerpt from my book – Smaller is Better

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