Futile fusion research

We must stop wasting money on tokamak fusion, and use if for programs with promise

Robert Hirsch and Roger Bezdek

The ultimate source of energy in the universe is nuclear fusion. It powers the sun and the stars. To work, extremely high temperature and high-pressure gases – plasmas – are required. The stars hold their plasmas by gravity. On Earth, in an attempt to harness fusion for electric power production, magnetic fields are required to hold fusion plasmas. This is an extremely difficult task. 

Decades ago, a Russian magnetic field configuration – the tokamak – appeared promising. Countries built ever-larger tokamak experiments to develop this “magnetic bottle.”

The aim was to progress to a system large enough that more energy would be produced than was required to heat the fusion plasma. While substantial progress was made, ever so slowly the promise of commercially viable tokamak fusion power ebbed away. Some recognized the situation, but most simply continued to increase the size of their tokamaks – and their budgets.

Currently, several large tokamak experiments are being conducted worldwide. The largest is ITER (Latin for “The Way”), a collaborative project by 35 countries, under construction in southern France (www.ITER.org). Its goal is to create a tokamak plasma device that produces ten times more energy than was used to heat the plasma.

ITER was originally envisioned to cost roughly $5 billion, a level that might extrapolate to a reasonably priced tokamak fusion power plant. But reality slowly intervened, and the cost of ITER escalated.

ITER managers now contend that ITER’s cost is roughly $22 billion. The U.S Department of Energy, which is supposed to be paying 9% of total ITER costs, has estimated that actual ITER costs are some $65 billion. Even at $22 billion, the cost of an ITER-like electric power plant would be roughly ten times the cost of a nuclear fission power plant, a totally unacceptable cost.

But that’s not all. The easiest fusion fuel combination – not easy – involves two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. Deuterium occurs in water and is easily extracted.  Tritium does not exist in nature and decays radioactively.  It must be produced. 

It’s now recognized that world supplies of tritium are inadequate for future fusion pilot plants, let alone commercial fusion reactors. In other words, fusion researchers are developing a fusion concept for which there will not be enough fuel! But related research nevertheless continues. 

How could this happen?  First, the cost escalation happened so slowly that it went almost unnoticed. That’s partly because fusion researchers have done their own program reviews for over 60 years. In effect “the foxes are guarding the henhouse.”  Practical electric power engineers, utility executives and others who are not members of the fusion mafia have been excluded from fusion program evaluation. 

We recently urged the Secretary of Energy to appoint an independent panel to conduct the objective, independent evaluation necessary to lay these facts bare. The Secretary gave our request to the leader of the fusion program, who responded that the program is guided by two recent fusion panels. But those panels consisted of fusion physicists and related researchers – most with vested interests in continuing the current program.

The situation is disturbing.  With so many people and institutions at risk of losing jobs and funding, the “wagons have been circled,” and programs continue. Talented people and large sums of money are being wasted – to the tune of a current U.S. fusion budget of over $650 million per year.

This may seem like chump change in an era of multi-trillion-dollar federal expenditures on “infrastructure” and other programs, however defined and politicized. But it is symptomatic of how governments waste our hard-earned tax dollars, and drive our nation deeper into debt with every passing month. And that’s not all.

ITER will yield roughly 30,000 tons of radioactive waste. Researchers feel this is not a problem because the waste will radioactively decay in roughly 100 years, which they tell us is acceptable. Acceptable? In whose backyard might they be planning to put this waste?

Is there hope for commercially viable fusion power? Yes, because other “magnetic bottles” and fusion fuel cycles exist. The related physics is much more difficult, but we won’t know if any of these options are workable unless we try. Unfortunately, there is currently no government support for these options.

We continue to have hope for viable fusion power. However, without sharp focus, capable management, and independent oversight, it won’t happen. Change will be traumatic and will take political courage.

It’s up to Congress and the White House to act. If they’re really concerned about having viable, renewable, sustainable alternatives to the fossil fuel energy that so many of them are determined to eliminate from our fuel mix – by 2030 or sooner – they need to redirect this money to programs that actually might provide substantial reliable electricity at affordable prices.

That’s assuming, of course, that they also intend to keep American health, welfare, jobs and living standards somewhere close to current levels – not roll them back to pre-1950 (or even pre-1900) levels.

Management Information Services, Inc. senior energy advisor Dr. Robert L. Hirsch is experienced in research, development and commercial applications of energy technologies in government, industry and non-profits; he directed federal fusion research in the 1970s. MISI founder and president Dr. Roger H. Bezdek has over 30 years’ experience in private industry, academic and federal government energy, utility, environmental and regulatory areas. MISI is a Washington DC-based economic, energy and environmental research firm.

A cutaway pictorial of the core of the ITER tokamak experiment, showing the donut shaped plasma (blue) inside a massive, complicated magnet system. For size, note the person in the lower right side. (Reprinted with permission of ITER.org)

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July 13, 2021 2:22 pm

Like the Sun, Tritium can be produced by Deuterium-proton fusion. There’s just no need for us to create Deuterium by proton-proton fusion. The trick is coming up with a reactor that starts with proton-Deuterium fusion to create Tritium, and then fuse the Tritium with Deuterium to create a high speed H4 ions that as a moving charge can in principle can be extracted as useful electricity. The fusion also creates the high speed proton needed for the original Deuterium-proton fusion that created the Tritium.

Seems to me it’s a matter of taking high speed beams of protons and Tritium ions and colliding them into much slower speed more easily focused and directed beams of Deuterium ions and collecting the resulting products into storage rings. You could even modulate the reaction to create a time varying beam of H4 ions that can be converted into useful electricity with what amounts to a transformer. Of course, easier said than done …

Enginer01
Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 13, 2021 3:15 pm

sounds like complicated Focus Fusion

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Enginer01
July 13, 2021 9:48 pm

Is that one of the new electric Fords?.

My money is on cold fusion.

posa
Reply to  Enginer01
July 14, 2021 4:27 pm

Focus Fusion isn’t complicated. It’s already reached 2 of three criteria for achieving fusion criticality … and LPPFusion is honing in on the final phase.

Drake
Reply to  posa
July 15, 2021 6:42 pm

LPPFusion, nice that they are asking for money everywhere. I chose not to send them any of mine directly, although the US government may be sending them my money collected in taxes without asking me.

They seem to me to be the same 40 years away form productive fusion that has always been the case.

TallDave
Reply to  posa
July 16, 2021 1:00 pm

lol good old Lerner

fond memories of his “working reactor in 2010” timeline

David Thompson
Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 13, 2021 3:56 pm

Be a bit specific. Beam current and energy for each of the two beams? Efficiency of the collision section in producing fusion?

Izaak Walton
Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 13, 2021 4:26 pm

such a scheme won’t work since it would require more energy than it would produce. H4 is unstable as is tritium and thus decay back to deuterium and so the process needs energy to occur rather than producing net energy.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Izaak Walton
July 16, 2021 12:29 pm

12.1 years is hardly unstable. Maybe we could creat fusion by crashing Dr. Mann into Dr. Suzuki.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 13, 2021 5:07 pm

The energy extraction from a tokamak is in the form of fast neutron flux and some gamma rays exiting the vacuum, magnetic containment. Alpha particles will not leave the magnetic containment. Sustaining the magnetic field is the major energy consumption, along with producing the crygenic helium to keep the superconducting magnets carrying the very high currents they need.

The technical challenges of material problems are intense. Right next to a super hot plasma in near vacuum are liquid helium cooled magnets near 4K. Should the two meet, like happened at the LHC in 2008, really bad things happen.

bonbon
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 14, 2021 1:55 am

That was caused by forgotten technicians sandwich. Helium likes to expand.

Alex
Reply to  co2isnotevil
July 14, 2021 12:00 am

Tritium will be produced from lithium mantel. There is no problem with tritium supply.

Philip Rose
Reply to  Alex
July 14, 2021 4:29 am

What an evil machine that’s going to be. And how pray is useful energy to be extracted from this monster? Building mini breeder fission reactors would meanwhile be a practical, self-funding enterprise and solve the energy crisis. Just needs official approval!

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Alex
July 14, 2021 5:20 am

Agreed. Tritium is produced via neutron capture by lithium, whether lithium 6 or 7. The US found out about the lithium 7 route the hard way, in the Castle Bravo nuclear shot, the first to use lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. Neutrons from the fission primary would convert the lithium 6 into tritium, exothermically. But what Los Alamos hadn’t factored in was that lithium 7 (the more abundant isotope) also produced tritium in an endothermic n-7Li reaction (which also produces another neutron). The predicted yield had been between 5 and 6 megatons, but was a completely unexpected 15 megatons. The fallout on a Japanese fishing boat in the area sent several fishermen to the hospital, and killed one.

But I digress. A tritium shortage is not a problem. We make it all the time in isotope production reactors, because it’s used extensively in emergency lighting systems.

Last edited 16 days ago by Michael S. Kelly
David Thompson
Reply to  Alex
July 14, 2021 6:21 am

I’m asking because I don’t know the answer to this. One D-T reaction produces 1 neutron. Not all of the neutrons end up in the lithium blanket, so there is a loss of some portion of the neutrons. Once a neutron encounters a Li how many H3 do you get? Seems to me that needs to be more than 1 for the round trip or you have a shortage of Tritium and will need to supplement the supply from somewhere else.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  David Thompson
July 14, 2021 4:27 pm

You’re partly ight, in that the D-T reaction itself produces only one neutron. Fusion power plants, however, will use beryllium “neutron multipliers,” which takes one high energy (14.1 MeV) neutron, and emits two moderate energy neutrons.

BTW, my previous post contains an error. The reaction with 7Li which produces an extra neutron is a fusion reaction with a deuteron, a reaction which was overlooked due to a laboratory error in cross-section measurement.

David Thompson
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
July 14, 2021 6:34 pm

Thanks, the beryllium neutron multiplier role is what I didn’t know and that explains a few other things as related to fission as well. Like the death of Louis Slotin for example. There, beryllium was referred to as a neutron reflector.
I’m a museum volunteer in Oak Ridge after a career there and often get questions about things nuclear.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Alex
July 16, 2021 12:31 pm

Not if the greenies’ electric batteries eat up all the Li.

July 13, 2021 2:26 pm

re: “Unfortunately, there is currently no government support for these options.”

Join the club; Dr. Mills of BrLP gets little traction from any sort of govt grants or interest even (that we know about, or that appears in public domain anyway).

And before the usual members of the ‘peanut gallery’ chime in with typical low-brow remarks, let’s review just WHERE energy in a chemical reaction comes from … for this we have to look at something called physical chemistry and Valence Bond Theory. Feast your eyes on this website me lads: https://thefactfactor.com/facts/pure_science/chemistry/physical-chemistry/valence-bond-theory/10949/

Oh look – the electron *does* come in closer to the proton …

Hydrogen_Valence_Bond_MolecularStructure_015.jpg
Last edited 16 days ago by _Jim
Rud Istvan
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 3:40 pm

Jim, hate to break it to you. Mill’s hydrino theory is a scientific fraud now going on 30 years, first using the investment vehicle Black Light Power, and when that failed investors now Bright light power. His one issued patent is a fraud on the patent office; the single experiment’s method he says was used as proof (a patent requirement) cannot do what he says it did. Was extensively covered in a chapter of The Arts of Truth, along with 3 other similar energy scams all based on fundamentally flawed ‘science’ :ECAT, MEG, and QVE. Is the Details chapter. Maybe you should read it some day. The book is cheaper now at Amazon Kindle; because of good sales, Amazon unilaterally reduced the price from $9.99 to $7.99 without my publisher’s permission. Is still as originally priced $9.99 at iBooks.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 5:38 pm

“Mill’s hydrino theory is a scientific fraud now going on 30 years,…”

Although dressed up and high-priced respectable, one could say the ITER is a scientific fraud if the authors of this article are half way correct. It has that peculiarly post modern characteristic of the climate cabal – we won’t show our stuff to outsiders because they just want to find something wrong with it! They’ve built a money machine and that totally wipes out objectivity. And just what haven’t they tested on this heritage idea that gives real scientific hope for success?

I also, in this day and age, possibly unfairly, wonder if this ITER team is really the pick of the crop or even compares favorably to physicist giants of the past who worked on this idea. They don’t appear to be think-outside-the-box types if they won’t let others assess their data. The poker tell in this is that they, too, are doubtful of their project. Remember Phil Jones of Climategate, when the jig was up came pretty clean on the flaws in the corrupted science of climate and then took retirement. They know.

DMA
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 7:16 am

Rud
Mills has developed a theory of classical physics that has successfully computed configuration and bonding for hundreds of molecules that quantum mechanics can only estimate. He has a boiler ready to implement as a prototype.
https://brilliantlightpower.com/suncell-steam-boiler-2/
He might be worth watching for a while after all. I think he has a lot better chance of getting something into public use than ITER and his devise will certainly make wind mills and solar panels nonviable if it works as good as the verification testers say.

GoatGuy
Reply to  DMA
July 14, 2021 9:56 am

As I have always said… if Mills et al has a ‘boiler ready to go’, today, and moreover has been marketing solid scaling theory this whole time, then it really seems concomitant upon them that they ought to be scaling and running a succession of ever larger boiler operations to generate copious power. And/or selling that power to the grid. Produce an amount of power well in excess of their containment warehouse need.

Since the power ought to be well in excess of need, they could also ship it ‘next door’ to another very large warehouse, and ‘burn it’ lighting up many megawatts of LED grow lights and exhaust fans.

No, not for marijuana, but just lettuces, tomatoes, hell … banana trees … basically a large continuous cropping operation of high profit salad herbs.

Why?

Because the second ‘grow operation’ is proof positive they can turn a profit by having nearly free self-supplied energy, and then by physically ‘cutting the grid’ (as evidenced by their operation working at a slightly different Hz/frequency … which any goober with a twenty-four dollar digital multi-meter could verify to 6 significant digits) would then be REALLY convincing to a whole lot of investors that are wary of Mills’ claims.

Working at anything from 51 to 59 Hz is really pretty unimpeachable “see-we-are-not-cheating” evidence, too. There’s no way to take grid power (which is either almost exactly 50 Hz or 60 Hz) and suck it in, and convert it to 51-to-59 Hz without sophisticated AC-re-synthesis equipment. Or without well (WELL) muffled diesel generators hidden someplace not-too-far-away, plus underground mains cabling. It’d take quite a bit of work to get that to happen.

By contrast, if their multi-megawatt boilers were working well, then having them drive an integrated self-exciting dynamo type megawatt A/C genset would have all sorts of opportunities to “investor check” operations.

Measuring amps coming out of the generator’s thick-wired coils. Measuring voltages with appropriate equipment. With equipment costing quite a bit less than $1,000, measuring the 3 phase output, the direction of power flow becomes obvious, as does the total output.

Likewise, one can easily contrive to “stick multimeter probes” in wall sockets throughout the facility, measuring frequency. IF “not cheating”, then the same frequency would necessarily be observable on ALL spot-check plugs. And the power panels for the LED salad greens farm. Basically unimpeachable.

Anyway… I’ve voiced this before.

GoatGuy

Last edited 16 days ago by GoatGuy
TallDave
Reply to  GoatGuy
July 16, 2021 1:05 pm

Rossi should have done the same, instead of all the demos that no one ever would have believed under the best of circumstances

“oh, it doesn’t work? what’s keeping the lights on then?” is a much better argument than “prove this two-hour test isn’t nuclear-powered”

but of course that would require his machines to actually function continuously, for days or weeks, which they don’t

apparently it was known at least as early as the mid-1990s that you could transmute nickel isotopes in an exothermic process, but the interaction is not commercially useful

Last edited 13 days ago by TallDave
John Dilks
Reply to  DMA
July 14, 2021 8:15 pm

Wind mills and solar panels are all ready nonviable.

ironargonaut
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 4:02 pm

Friend sent me article on this company. https://electricfusionsystems.com/#tech
What’s your opinion? Sounds to good to be true…

Dan DeLong
Reply to  ironargonaut
July 15, 2021 2:18 pm

Ironargonaut, here’s another interesting small effort, helion:
https://www.helionenergy.com/

And there are others, such as Laser Boron at the University of New South Wales:
https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/laser-boron-fusion-now-%E2%80%98leading-contender%E2%80%99-energy

TallDave
Reply to  Dan DeLong
July 16, 2021 1:11 pm

lasers are such a joke, there’s not even a vaporware confinement scheme for any of them, it’s all handwaving about pulses

helion might get somewhere, as might tri-alpha… FRCs are very promising

Last edited 13 days ago by TallDave
William Ward
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 6:15 pm

If spending money with nothing to show for it is fraud, what do you call the $100B+ spent on magnetic confinement fusion over 70 years? Brilliant Light Power changed its name from Black Light Power, but the company is the same. They now have at least three patents granted and eight additional patents pending, most of them submitted in the last 24-36 months. If Mills is a fraudster, he isn’t a very good one, for he appears to spend all of his fraud money on prototypes. And these prototypes work according to the numerous validation reports.

I have watched BLP for nearly 20 years now. I observe precisely what I would expect to see for a product development based on novel technology. BLP appears to have done with $100M what the global effort could not do with over $100B. BLP claims to have a 250kW boiler unit, run continuously for hundreds of hours, then torn down to confirm no appreciable degradation of components. Validation reports claim ~ 4x power gain, and units will now undergo field trials at commercial sites.

Mills has proposed theories & equations to explain the anomalous power that known chemistry or physics cannot explain. Maybe his theory is wrong. But the numerous validation reports of 4x power gain by university professors (like Dr. Mark Nansteel) who are known experts in the field of calorimetry should give us reason to pause and consider the possibility they have found something novel. Science has been at a standstill my entire life. The science underpinning most technology (the science that can be repeatably verified in a laboratory) is based on discoveries between 1650 and 1960. Since then, science has devolved into the science of statistical significance and unfalsifiable science. Have we truly run out of things we can discover and quantify mathematically such that we can engineer with them? Or does corporate and government funding of research guarantee we will only find that which pleases the funders? I suggest it is the latter.

BLP is near the end of the runway. Considering their current claimed development status, either they will soon take off, becoming surprising international news, or they will crash and burn. BLP may be a fraud. Or they may be bonafide. It takes very little courage to dismiss them now. However, if it turns out that they have discovered previously unknown properties of physics – and a new energy source that changes the paradigm for humanity – it will serve as a big exclamation point for the limiting results of groupthink.

TallDave
Reply to  William Ward
July 16, 2021 1:15 pm

BLP actually installed a unit more than ten years ago

problem is none of their units are economical b/c the cost of the nickel isotopes far exceeds the value of the power produced

b/c they don’t understand what’s actually happening they have wildly optimistic fuel assumptions

Last edited 13 days ago by TallDave
William Ward
Reply to  TallDave
July 16, 2021 7:15 pm

I’m not aware of a unit being site tested 10 years ago. I think your information is outdated. Much has changed in the past 10 years. The reactor is entirely different and the catalyst is molten gallium, which also serves as an electrode. If you want an update, their corporate presentation from April can be found at this link. Reactor BOM cost, fuel costs and generation costs are specified.

https://brilliantlightpower.com/pdf/Business_Presentation.pdf

TallDave
Reply to  _Jim
July 16, 2021 1:03 pm

lol oh no, not hydrino chemistry please

Last edited 13 days ago by TallDave
John Tillman
July 13, 2021 2:38 pm

An overview of magnetic containment, laser ignition and their emerging alternatives. Skip the paragraph about “climate change”.

https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/5-big-ideas-for-making-fusion-power-a-reality

Also notes that in FY 2020, some funds were diverted from ITER to more promising approaches.

Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 2:59 pm

Okay … how about the other kid on the block –

“Whether Cold Fusion or Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions, U.S. Navy Researchers Reopen Case”
Spurred on by continued anomalous nuclear results, multiple labs now working to get to bottom of story

https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/energy/nuclear/cold-fusion-or-low-energy-nuclear-reactions-us-navy-researchers-reopen-case

Last edited 16 days ago by _Jim
John Tillman
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 3:10 pm

Only counts if it can be created in a Mason jar.

mcswelll
Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 3:23 pm

I’d settle for a Mr Fusion cannister on the back of my car.

John Tillman
Reply to  mcswelll
July 13, 2021 3:27 pm

Until you run out of banana peels.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 3:48 pm

Jim, I also wrote up LENR in a different Arts of Truth chapter. Cold fusion was a misnomer from the gitgo. It isn’t fusion, and has nothing to do with either the strong force or overcoming Coulombic proton-proton repulsion. It is a byproduct of the weak force, and utilizes electron proton capture via a mechanism much less violent than which creates neutron stars. NRL series of papers did a great job identifying the thing experimentally.
Problem is, Brillouin Energy only demonstrated 2x energy gain. An alternative design for 4x failed when built by SRI. ITER says the minimum needed gain is 10x. So the LENR physics (unlike Mills hydrinos) is real and well explained theoretically, but of no practical use.

D Boss
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 5:30 am

Rud is correct, LENR is real. I ran a small privately funded research lab for a decade, investigating “alternative energy” systems. One project we attempted was a replication of Celani, who achieved 3-4x thermal gain using constantine and H2. We were unable to use his method, and rather we approached these investigations by copious literature research and hunting for the root principles first (and discarding the flakes and kooks with silly claims – though sometimes a known kook has some kernel of truth which you can benefit from).before applying lessons learned to the test bench.

Then using root or basic principles attempt a more thoughtful approach to replicating the results. Since Celani used a CuNi alloy, we had other experiments and known behavior with another CuNi alloy, we chose that instead. Monel metal – which actually demonstrates some catalytic action with H1 and H2 in the cracking of crude oil, it was in our view a better candidate.

We were able to achieve verifiable gain using carefully designed and calibrated calorimetry, however the max gain we achieved was only 1.43. We abandoned that line of investigation because we already had higher gains with other mechanisms.

But LENR is real, it’s not really “cold fusion” per se, though I would add I believe the standard model is seriously flawed.(hence the big fusion work is doomed to fail in my view)

I disagree with Rud though on one point – which is needing 10x gain to be viable. You can get viability with much less gain in other settings. Some only need to get say 4x-6x gain. (though I am not necessarily speaking of LENR – that is only one avenue to achieve a gain)

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  _Jim
July 14, 2021 11:42 am

I’m continually surprised at how readers here vote. This was a link to a short, simple status report from a reputable source. You have a right to be skeptical and demand evidence. However, if you are convinced that the approach is flawed, how about sharing your facts and logic instead of just down-voting an informative article?

Stanford Research Institute invested years in pursuing this line of research, even after an employee was killed when a calorimeter exploded. From what I have seen, the palladium electrodes that have been involved in episodes of anomalous heating show pits in the surface that suggest that purity influences whether and where reactions occur. That is, something in the relatively impure palladium may either be acting as a ‘poison’ or something else may be acting like a local catalyst. Either way, there is still a lot that isn’t known about unexplained phenomena.

Some of the greatest discoveries in science have come from an experimenter observing, “Now that is interesting!”

D Boss
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 15, 2021 4:49 am

Clyde Spencer said: “That is, something in the relatively impure palladium may either be acting as a ‘poison’ or something else may be acting like a local catalyst. Either way, there is still a lot that isn’t known about unexplained phenomena.”

You hit the nail on the head! Investigating a whole host of “unexplained phenomenon” on the lab bench, we discovered that more often than not a real anomaly was difficult to replicate precisely because of things like impurities or sloppy fabrication, etc. An inventor cobbles something together with limited budget or sometimes skill and stumbles upon something truly amazing – which inevitably flies in the face of “accepted” science but nonetheless works.

He/she is ridiculed and attempts to replicate fail – not because it was fake or fraud, but because the core or root principle occurred because of the impurity or sloppy fabrication or the like. (and replicators didn’t understand what made it tick, nor did the inventor)

This is why we were able to show an LENR gain using a different material and method than Celani did. Everyone replicating Celani didn’t really understand what made it work!

So yes, don’t throw out ideas or devices or new discoveries – just because they do not fit or jibe with your understanding, or even the mainstream doctrine!

Dan DeLong
Reply to  _Jim
July 15, 2021 2:25 pm

Here’s an hour long video of another US Navy group describing evidence of nuclear processes in solids.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VymhJCcNBBc

No doubt there is something nuclear going on, but they make no claims for it to ever be a commercially process.

Rich Davis
Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 4:15 pm

Ok, lowbrow peanut gallery here.

This same article was hyped here 18 months ago. Where’s the progress? Oh right, covid and the dog ate my homework.

Face it. Commercially-viable fusion power will never happen.

Is it conceivable that fusion power costing 10-100 times as much as ccgt per kWh might be technically possible? Conceivable, not probable. How much more needs to be wasted on this hopeless, unprofitable dream?

The argument seems eerily familiar. Socialism hasn’t failed, those guys just didn’t do it right.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 13, 2021 5:02 pm

I’m not so sure.

But for sure, we’ve squandered billions thrown down the wrong rabbit hole. But less than wasted on unreliables.

Rich Davis
Reply to  John Tillman
July 14, 2021 1:44 am

Yes, a lesser boondoggle for sure.

Not referring to you here, but I find it curious that so many fusion fans are dead set against fission which actually works and could be deployed starting today.

They seem to be ok with fusion, and oblivious to its radioactive waste, as long as it will be at least ten times as expensive as fossil fuels and still force severe energy austerity.

Philip Rose
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 14, 2021 4:47 am

And tritium is super deadly!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Philip Rose
July 14, 2021 11:47 am

But long used as a radiation source for phosphors for things like night sights and gauges.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 14, 2021 11:39 am

I’m for fission but still think research on alternative approaches to fusion should continue.

Philip Rose
Reply to  John Tillman
July 14, 2021 4:45 am

Are you sure? I recall Zeta from late 50s (?). Hailed as unlimited source of energy from seawater. Many billions spent on upscaled versions of the same since. Or am I for the peanut gallery?

John Tillman
Reply to  Philip Rose
July 14, 2021 11:44 am

I’m sure that more has been wasted on unreliables, despite so many decades of fusion research. Wind turbine and solar array farms have cost trillions.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Tillman
July 14, 2021 11:27 am

I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more said about the Lockheed-Martin fusion program.

Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 2:50 pm

Wrote about the future of both fission and fusion in essay Going Nuclear in ebook Blowing Smoke. With respect to fusion, the essay quotes French physics Nobel laureate Pierre-Gilles Gennes:
”We say we will put the Sun in a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t know how to make the box.”

There are two ‘box’ approaches, inertial confinement (NIF) and magnetic confinement (ITER). With what is now known, neither works technically, let alone economically. With the fusion money already wasted, we could have evaluated, built at pilot scale, and be testing a couple of different Gen 4 fission concepts, as China is now doing. Gen 4 is intrinsically safe, simply fueled, and consumes most of its rad waste. Among the possibilities are travelling wave reactors (Gates TerraPower) , small modular reactors (General Atomics), and either uranium or thorium molten salt reactors. The UMS concept from TransAtomic is particularly intriguing, because it could use as most of its fuel the radioactive spent uranium fuel rods for which there is presently no US permanent storage.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 2:53 pm

China’s work on fusion is spurring the US government to look at alternatives to magnetic and inertial containment:

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2021/06/chinas-fusion-research-heating/174990/

Ebor
Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 5:17 pm

I’m sorry, read that article and it only talked about magnetic and inertial – am I missing something?

John Tillman
Reply to  Ebor
July 13, 2021 5:43 pm

You’re right. I should have linked to other assessments of secret research. But in any case, it’s clear that China hasn’t given up on fusion to concentrate on fission reactors.

c1ue
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 6:22 pm

And to be clear: even “if” net energy output fusion were to be worked out tomorrow – it is still not clear what the medium and long term factors are with either containment approach.
Magnetic – the stress on the field generators is immense. What is the likelihood of some type of physical deterioration of said generators?
Seems high to me.
Inertial seems worse: what happens if parameters get exceeded? How do you tine to recover?
The Sun and other stars don’t have this problem – they are just massive scale.

July 13, 2021 2:55 pm

re: “Robert Hirsch and Roger Bezdek”

Let’s just ‘drive a stake’ through what seems to be the root problem here, and that is QM, or, more precisely, the use of Quantum Mechanics in any meaningful way, IOW, the use of QM to solve practical problems, i.e. nuclear fusion.

Succinctly it can be stated: The success [and failure] of quantum mechanics can be attributed to

1.) the lack of rigor and unlimited tolerance to ad hoc assumptions in violation of physical laws,

2.) fantastical experimentally immeasurable corrections such as virtual particles, vacuum polarizations, effective nuclear charge, shielding, ionic character, compactified dimensions, and renormalization, and

3.) curve fitting parameters that are justified solely on the basis that they force the theory to match the data.

Quantum mechanics is now in a state of crisis with constantly modified versions of matter represented as undetectable minuscule vibrating strings that exist in many unobservable hyperdimensions, that can travel back and forth between undetectable interconnected parallel universes.

Last edited 16 days ago by _Jim
John Tillman
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 3:09 pm

QM is confirmed by the fact that Max Born’s granddaughter is Olivia Newton-John.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 4:23 pm

Her quantum mechanics involve some massive particles and phenomenal wave functions:

Scissor
Reply to  John Tillman
July 13, 2021 5:16 pm

The same Born developed the Born-Haber cycle (with Haber in case you’re part of the peanut gallery), which tells us about energy of reaction in certain systems.

commieBob
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 4:53 pm

There are parts of quantum physics that are so reliable they have become engineering.

The basic idea is that at small sizes, things exist in discrete sizes. link For instance, electrons can exist at particular distances from their atom’s nucleus. Those are called orbits or energy levels. When an electron transitions between two orbits, a certain amount of energy is absorbed or emitted. When an electron falls from a higher level to a lower level, a photon is emitted at a particular wavelength according to the energy difference between the orbits. It’s why a red LED or laser always emits red and not some random color.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  commieBob
July 13, 2021 5:48 pm

It is also why CMOS transistors operate.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  _Jim
July 13, 2021 5:45 pm

Jim, a suggestion. Rather than handwaves, make specific replies to my above referenced posts. Quantum mechanics is among the few most experimentally proven true physics ‘theorems’. Others include Einstein’s special and general relativity (without which GPS would not work), and G (the gravitational constant).

Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 8:06 pm

No scientific theory is ever ‘experimentally proven’. At best we can say that it hasn’t been experimentally disproven – yet.

Science is not characterised by truth content, but by utility.

commieBob
Reply to  Leo Smith
July 14, 2021 1:27 am

Not really.

Newtonian mechanics is so solid that you bet your life on it many times every day without knowing it. It’s one of the foundations of engineering.

Similarly, quantum mechanics is the foundation of much of the technological wizardry we rely on.

Quantum mechanics did not supplant Newtonian mechanics. It describes an area where Newtonian mechanics doesn’t apply. They are both tools that can be employed in their own particular domains.

The bottom line is that nobody is going to do an experiment that invalidates Newtonian mechanics in a general sense. What may happen is that the domains in which it does, or does not, apply are more clearly delineated.

William Ward
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 12:40 pm

Others include Einstein’s special and general relativity (without which GPS would not work)

 
This is an often-made claim that is not true. This paper from the company that developed GPS for the DOD (The Aerospace Corporation) states:
 
“The Operational Control System of the Global Positioning System does not include the rigorous transformations between coordinate systems that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity would seem to require… There is a very good reason for the omission: the effects of relativity, where they are different from the effects predicted by classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, are too small to matter – less than 1cm, for users on or near the Earth.”
 
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1997ptti.conf..189F
 
The paper does explain what changes would be needed to account for relativity.

If you run through the calculations, relativistic error amounts to < 15cm/day for any satellite track. This error does not accumulate beyond one day because of how the Global Positioning System is architected. On a daily basis, ground stations track and upload to the SV (space vehicle) ephemeris data – updating the SV’s exact location. Location on Earth is determined by calculating the difference in the time of reception and reported time of packet transmission that is in the timestamp added by the SV. The transmission delay time is on the order of a few milliseconds. It is based upon time difference – not absolute time. So it does not matter if SV’s clock is adjusted for GR or not. Other atmospheric effects account for meters of error in position. There are clever ways to compensate for these to reduce error. Relativistic effects can account for only a few inches max over a day for any SV track. Since GPS location is determined by the intersection of reported positions from > 4 SVs, this error averages much lower than an inch.

GPS does not rely upon special or general relativity to work.

Europe’s new Galileo (GPS alternative system) does appear to include relativistic effects in their calculations. But it must be noted that to account for GR fully, the altitude & speed of the receiver must similarly be accounted for (example: aircraft). Receivers do not have atomic clocks on-board, and the relativistic effects of altitude & speed are not accounted for in any current system.

William Ward
Reply to  William Ward
July 14, 2021 5:00 pm

The link didn’t work above. Trying again:

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1997ptti.conf..189F

William Ward
Reply to  William Ward
July 14, 2021 5:01 pm

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1997ptti.conf..189F

The ..189F is a part of the address. For some reason its not getting formatted correctly when I post.

Curious George
July 13, 2021 2:58 pm

The post concentrates on “the easiest fusion fuel combination”, but ITER is certainly not limited to that. Other options that could be experimented with are listed in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion.

Michael E McHenry
July 13, 2021 3:00 pm

I have been hearing that viable fusion technology is just 30 years away since the early 1960’s.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Michael E McHenry
July 13, 2021 3:53 pm

And the quip reply is:
—and always will be.

HotScot
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 4:18 pm
commieBob
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 7:23 pm

Indeed.

The trick is to make your predictions far enough into the future that you won’t be held to account when they fail.

If you predicted the world would end on July 11, 2021, you are toast. If you insist that we have only twelve years to save the planet from irreversible climate catastrophe, you’re good to go. For whatever reason you won’t be held to account for that failed prediction.

Scissor
Reply to  Michael E McHenry
July 13, 2021 5:17 pm

Hydrogen bomb technology is viable depending on your definition of is.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Scissor
July 13, 2021 10:11 pm

Proven technology. Cheap, reliable, effective.

Last edited 16 days ago by Mike McMillan
Doug Deal
Reply to  Michael E McHenry
July 13, 2021 6:21 pm

And we’ve never been closer.

Steve Case
July 13, 2021 3:00 pm

Tens of billions. Hmmm, you know what? That’s money better spent than what’s spent on the climate change fairy tale.

Scissor
Reply to  Steve Case
July 13, 2021 5:20 pm

For that kind of money, all libraries could be fully staffed with drag queens, and probably post offices too.

Last edited 16 days ago by Scissor
July 13, 2021 3:05 pm

Using lithium for fusion would be a whole lot more useful than using lithium for batteries. From the wiki:

Deuterium – Lithium-6: ²D + ⁶Li → 2 ⁴He + 22.4 MeV

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion

GoatGuy
Reply to  Bruce of Newcastle
July 14, 2021 10:08 am

Yes, with the exception that there are a lot of other parasitic pathways that produce a bunch of neutrons, too, after a while of operation. Just no getting around that.

My contention has been that “so what?” … perhaps a bit cavalier, but in the context that “making nuclear power comes with gotchas, but nothing that cannot be engineered around”

There is even a remarkable possibility that intentionally using HIGH neutron (and frankly much easier) D-T fusion gives a remarkable opportunity to both breed and directly fission the gargantuan stockpiles of depleted uranium for “on-switch-off-switch” style catalyzed fission. We’ve already stockpiled some 70x more depleted 238U than has been delivered to power plants using LEU or HEU 235U, to date.

Think about that! Without mining another metric ton of ore, we have in hand 70x the stockpile uranium than has been used by the entire nuclear power industry, worldwide, to date. Even if we were to decide to “Go all France” and convert most of our petrochemical power to catalyzed fusion-fission, we’d still have approximately 1/10 * 70 * 50 years or 350 years worth of fuel. Sitting in piles. Everywhere.

Its definitely the route I’d be following, were I king. Emperor. Savant.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Bruce of Newcastle
July 14, 2021 11:53 am

I can see a possible future need for lithium batteries that have been discarded.

July 13, 2021 3:12 pm

We at Lppfusion are one of the alternatives Dr. Hirsch write about. He and other experts recently urged “much higher funding” for our project. We won’t take 30 years. Check us out at https://wefunder.com/lppfusion. Read about the experts’ report here.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Eric Lerner
July 13, 2021 6:00 pm

I could not resist, because have previously run down so many related nuclear scams.
So clicked on your link and was transported into an amazing wonderland. So, your Bp11 ‘nuclear fuel’ overcomes what? Idiotic Garbage.

Jumento
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 13, 2021 8:09 pm

What is a better way then?

posa
Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 14, 2021 4:34 pm

LPPFusion overcomes the problem of nuclear waste because the method (Dense Plasma Focus) and the fuel (Bp11) creates an aneutronic reaction. Dr Hirsch specifically discusses the issue of nuclear waste in tokamaks and has elsewhere endorsed the work of LPPFusion. I guess your dyslexia got in the way Rud. Or maybe you’re just a superficial windbag.

RickWill
Reply to  Eric Lerner
July 13, 2021 6:11 pm

The linked video from the focus fusion site explains the plasma beam intensification:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ajqD0hoOMw

Very interesting. I am not clear on the performance criteria but gather the system only needs to improve 10,000X to get more energy out than energy in. Not sure if I have interpreted that correctly! Is it theoretically possible using this concept?

It would be interesting to see an investment proposal on this with clear objectives and time frame if such a plan exists.

How well do plasma models predict the beam “knotting”?

Reply to  RickWill
July 13, 2021 8:26 pm

We know 10,000 x (now about 3,000 times) in density sounds like an impossible task, but in physics experiments changes in conditions can lead to orders of magnitude improvement in sudden breakthroughs. If you visit us at https://lppfusion.com/investing-in-lppfusion/ your questions will be answered. The “knotting” or kink instability has been studied a lot by many, but much remains to be learned.

RickWill
Reply to  Eric Lerner
July 13, 2021 11:56 pm

Eric
On re-reading my comment on the 10,000X it could have been interpreted as a cynical comment but I do understand that orders of magnitude gains are possible with new insights.

I am not yet clear on your path forward in terms of the theoretical limits of the materials and benefits of scale as examples but it is clearly interesting work and I encourage your efforts. Not yet decided if I will invest but it is tempting to be a part of.

The team that cracks breakeven fusion should be worth squillions.

posa
Reply to  RickWill
July 14, 2021 4:38 pm

The LPPFusion team has cracked two of three barriers to aneutronic fusion (Temperature and Confinement time)… they’ve made substantial redesigns to hit achieve needed densities to reach breakeven fusion., LPPFusion newsletters and videos document day to day progress. The first shots with these upgrades should occur later this summer.

Curious George
Reply to  Eric Lerner
July 13, 2021 6:24 pm

Your idea of a direct conversion to electricity is fascinating. However, I guess that your alpha particles will be flying in all directions, and a system designed to extract energy from a focused beam may not be adequate. Did you experiment with alpha-sources?

Reply to  Curious George
July 13, 2021 8:22 pm

The dense plasma focus produces a focused beam of ions from its own magnetic fields. This has been observed in hundreds of experiments by many observers, including us.

Curious George
Reply to  Eric Lerner
July 14, 2021 8:06 am

These ions enter the reaction. How can the beam magnetic field contain a reaction product, an alpha particle at 2.5+ MeV?

David Thompson
July 13, 2021 4:04 pm

The question is not whether fusion in a tokamak can be done. The question is whether the sum of all the economies in the world can afford one.

Thomas Gasloli
July 13, 2021 4:27 pm

If something is possible & practical industry will develop it. Government funds boondoggles: hydrogen fusion reactors, wind turbines, solar power…

Ebor
July 13, 2021 5:21 pm

I knew a dude that was actually proud that his postdoc position was the subject of a line item in the federal fusion research budget. That was 25 years ago. SO SAD!

The Dark Lord
July 13, 2021 5:49 pm

Oh good lord … Stick to fission build a mass produceable low pressure fission reactor and call it a day … What a joke .. Chasing a unicorn to pull the cart when we have a donkey already available …

ScienceABC123
July 13, 2021 5:50 pm

The big issues with fusion reactors still have not been addressed.
1) How to get the energy (i.e. heat) out to convert to electricity?
2) How to get the waste products (Helium) out?
3) How to get additional fuel (deuterium and/or tritium) in?
All while maintaining the fusion process.

Perhaps they should think more in terms of like a jet engine and less like an enclosed reactor???

John Hultquist
July 13, 2021 5:58 pm

The simple solution to this is to get “The Donald” to promote the concept in a speech.
Problem solved. Send my fee to Mr. Watts, he can send me half.

July 13, 2021 6:41 pm

Lars Jorgensen of ThorCon has a thorium molten salts reactor now…I think Indonesia may be his first customer…haven’t checked on the progress recently.

Reply to  Anti-griff
July 13, 2021 8:21 pm

The MSTR’s problem is the materials needed to contain the radioactive molten salt. I’ve worked with several halide systems, including molten salt ones, and the corrosion issues are extremely difficult to overcome.

You can’t use frozen salt the way the Al guys do in Hall-Héroult cells because you have to get the heat out.

And if you spring a leak because of corrosion of a pipe or valve you now have a large pool of intensely radioactive stuff all over your floor. It would kill the project, like sodium leaks did for the Japanese breeder plant.

I strongly favour standard fuel-element designs for thorium fission for this reason. If you have a problem with a fuel element you can pull and replace it without a major catastrophe. The well tried CANDU reactor design can already burn thorium.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Bruce of Newcastle
July 13, 2021 8:40 pm

Thank you

I have been a little voice here in canada calling for an end to all investment in renewable ruinables and focus it all on our nuclear program.
That and LNG

If CO2 is a real problem, and I don’t, then that is the only way we make any noticeable contribution

And get rich in the process

Curious George
Reply to  Anti-griff
July 14, 2021 8:53 am

Thanks for leading me to thorconpower.com. They have nice drawings, but I prefer photographs.

niceguy
July 13, 2021 7:47 pm

Microwave heating is extremely power consuming. Most results are given in term of (big) input thermal power not (bigger) input electric power and are fake news.

David Thompson
Reply to  niceguy
July 13, 2021 8:14 pm

ICRH, ECRH, neutral beams, and poloidal field.

Shoki Kaneda
July 13, 2021 8:08 pm

“It’s only thirty years away. We promise.”

— Fusion Mafia

Craig from Oz
July 13, 2021 8:24 pm

Summary? The technology is STILL 10 years away?

Alcheson
July 13, 2021 8:26 pm

There is also another side to this fusion energy research. Even if commercially fusion energy is not on the near term horizon at an affordable price… a whole lot of physics is being learned. The rather paltry sum, in todays budgets, is money well spent in my opinion even if commercial fusion energy does pan out using the current concepts. We are learning a lot of science and training/educating a lot of physicists. Even if fusion power is still a thousand years away, it is still money well spent. In the mean time, it certainly makes sense to invest money in developing new and/or improved fission sources of energy which are already well known to be economically and commercially viable. We can and should do both!

Paul Redfern
July 13, 2021 8:52 pm

Helium 3 from moon dust can be used in fusion reactors that are safe and more efficient.
ExplainingTheFuture.com : Helium-3 Power

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Paul Redfern
July 14, 2021 11:59 am

It would be a lot more convenient and economic if the He 3 wasn’t 240,000 miles away in a hostile environment with no infrastructure.

July 13, 2021 9:00 pm

The spherical tokamak might have a better chance:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_Tokamak_for_Energy_Production

Ariadaeus
July 13, 2021 9:09 pm

Too much energy is lost to relativistic neutrons in Deuteron – Tritium fusion to make it worthwhile. So much so that the walls surrounding the Tokamak are built of Boron rich bricks with gaps between them – they actually grow in size and the corridors to the containment vessel zig zag. ITER is just a means of pouring money onto a bonfire.

Last edited 16 days ago by Ariadaeus
Lonnie E. Schubert
July 13, 2021 9:15 pm

Too pessimistic. However, commercial fusion power is still decades away. We must do fission first. We can depend on fission for hundreds of years. It is good enough, and clean enough, and the safest yet conceived. Fusion will come. It is what we will eventually use. The current efforts are worthwhile, not hopeless boondoggles. They may not prove out, but we are learning, nonetheless.

Dan DeLong
Reply to  Lonnie E. Schubert
July 15, 2021 3:18 pm

That estimate of hundreds of years is very conservative. It assumes maintaining the current practice of once-through Uranium fuel. If you add reprocessing, the use of thorium in CANDU reactor fuel and fast neutron breeder reactors, that useful life goes to thousands of years. No molten salt needed. The Russians, Koreans, and Indians are actively working on these. Sadly, the US is not very active here.

July 13, 2021 9:30 pm

Forget the tokomak except as an expensive physicists research tool. Turn and look at “cold fusion” again which has now been rehabilitated by NASA and others.

In recent years there has a been a real flurry of experiments, replications and patents. Atomic processes occurring at the subatomic level have yielded elements that weren’t there before the experiment started, confirming goings on.

The key has been keeping on and, like the early days of computing, world-wide swapping of results and modifications. A 110 cu cm unit, awaiting release, is producing 18.5kw of electricity.

The secret:
The process has been simplified and proven. Hydrogen in a small tube with the right catalysts and a low voltage small plasma as well as a pulsed voltage through the plasma seems to be all it takes to show energy in excess of inputs. The trick is the electrical pulses. Different voltages are yielding different elemental residues.

There are several contenders for production and supply. https://brilliantlightpower.com seem to be the most professionally advanced. Randall Mills has had to produce a new theory of physics to explain his project. He expects to power trains and other large movers as well as most other things. Further, the process is capable of remediation of nuclear power station waste. He believes that the energy produced is derived from a change of the state of hydrogen to what he calls a hydrino. These hydrino are on offer to labs for experimentation. They also have their own unique spectroscopic signature.

Another, out of Africa, is a little different: it has been showing units of 5kw to 500kw producing 220v, 3 phase, 50 Hz clean electricity. Teams from the USA have come and investigated and found no other source of supply than the device itself which has been used to power a small car and domestic housing. Currently a racing car with unlimited km’s is under development and can be seen on their Face Book. The movie showing their 10hp small sedan driving around Harare is a delight to view.

The principle is similar to Tesla. Maxwell Chikumbutsu says God showed him some “frequencies” and has enabled him to produce his Greener Power Machine harvesting some inexhaustible planetary phenomena. See https://saithgroup.com the Face Book pages give more detail.There are currently 12 international manufacturers/sellers signed up to promote this.

I have been watching these alternative energy forms for 10 years and it is thrilling to see them coming to fruition. The patent frenzy is reminiscent of the Edison years. I fully expect to see Airbus using its patent to fly an electric aircraft within 10 years. The world could go off the grid with home-produced electricity. Also, the processes are dangerous radiation free.

There will always be conflicting opinions but the commercial interest being shown speaks of others putting their money where they see reward. It’s well past the fraud stage.

Last edited 16 days ago by Kevin O'Brien
Shanghai Dan
July 13, 2021 10:08 pm

Why don’t we just go get some dilithium crystals? That’ll get us the power we need…

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Shanghai Dan
July 14, 2021 6:12 am

Or a beryllium sphere. (Sorry, watched Galaxy Quest again this past weekend.)

PCman999
July 13, 2021 11:41 pm

The most aggravating part of the fusion reporting is that the articles make it sound like cheap fusion power is ‘soon’, ‘right around the corner’, etc. ITER is a model that is way too big and is already obsolete in that it doesn’t take advantage of the latest in superconducting materials. At best it’s a fusion lab where they can play around with the physics. A real fusion plant would be 2 or 3 generations of reactors later, which at best might actually take a chronological generation to complete.

Alex
July 13, 2021 11:59 pm

“Talented people and large sums of money are being wasted ”

Wrong.
It’s not about fusion.
It’s all about pileup stuardship.
At some point we will have to start testing again.
You need “talented people”.

Dr. Wolfgang Zernial
Reply to  Alex
July 14, 2021 1:19 am

About 40 years ago we discussed fusion very often at the institute for experimental nuclear physics at the Karlsruhe research center in Germany and one major result was the risk by destroying the molecular structure of the stainless steel compound for the plasma by high energetic neutrons with the result of a necessary replacement of the very large vacuum torus every about three months. I don´t know, if there have been any progress since that. This would result in additional extreme high maintenance costs for a torus structure of 10 m diameter and a height of about 6-8 m. Don´t forget the costs of helium cooled superconducting magnets, which have to be removed for maintenance.
Nevertheless the research must go on.

bonbon
July 14, 2021 2:15 am

The ITER is forging ahead, many tech records will be broken. Who ever said this was easy?
Wendelstein 7-X fusion device at Greifswald, Germany, to be upgraded
https://www.ipp.mpg.de/4828222/01_20

A masterpiece of engineering, a Stellarator :
https://www.ipp.mpg.de/14779/stellarator

The self organizing capability of plasma is being harnessed by LPPFusion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ajqD0hoOMw&t=70s

No money in Biden’s so called infrastructure bondoggle, and even The Donald did nothing.
Looks like the Beltway is still fossilized one would say.

Hubert
July 14, 2021 2:59 am

ITER is just a P.O.C (proof of concept) , costing a huge of money, but even not an industrial prototype which could only come second half of this century …
In the meantime , renewable energy will become enough mature to cover and replace fossil energy for ever …
I don’t think fusion will be competitive enough one day as the complexity is so high so that its price will be always above any other type of energy .
In opposite, in the future, we’ll be able to print solar panels with perovskites as easy as printing wall paper !

griff
July 14, 2021 4:13 am

I hope the authors show as much concern for waste from all existing and decommissioned conventional nuclear reactors, which will be around for a lot, lot longer (and so far we don’t have it safely stored in long term repositories).

I think we should be spending on pushing the frontiers of technology and knowledge, even large sums… space programmes, fusion, supercolliders.

meab
Reply to  griff
July 14, 2021 6:12 am

This may be the first post that you’ve made that isn’t misleading or even an outright lie. However, the Finnish high level radioactive waste repository is currently under construction and is slated to start operations in 2023. So why don’t they already have it? Two reasons; 1) It required a long period of careful study to make sure that it would safely isolate wastes for 10s of thousands of years deep underground, and 2) Interim storage in above ground vaults is completely safe and relatively inexpensive.

In the U.S., nuclear waste disposal is paid for by a tax of 0.1 cents per Kw-hr that goes into a fund that now has $40 billion saved up. That’s all, 0.1 cents. If the U.S. hadn’t wasted so much time and effort on Yucca Mtn., a very bad site to store nuclear waste, they could have had a repository similar to the Finns already.

Curious George
Reply to  griff
July 14, 2021 8:22 am

The waste storage is a political problem, not a technical one.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  griff
July 14, 2021 12:15 pm

… so far we don’t have it safely stored in long term repositories …

Yes, the only way the French have been able to dispose of their nuclear wastes is by compressing it into small paper-weights and requiring all the bureaucrats to use them on their office desks. /sarc

The primary reason the US hasn’t solved the problem of fission waste product disposal is that then-President Carter signed an executive order prohibiting the extraction of fissile materials from the lighter elements with the misguided concern that the recycled materials might be stolen and used by terrorists. There were, and still are, plenty of other sources in the world!

Without the long-lived fissile isotopes, the disposal problem for fission by-products would be much simpler. It it ultimately a political problem, not a technical one!

Contrary to what meab says, this comment by you isn’t of significantly better quality than what we have come to expect from you.

bonbon
July 14, 2021 4:58 am

An ITER flyover :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIRdKDMhGUQ
France got the contract as the neighbor sought to shut all nuclear down.
Real serious engineering!

Kevin
July 14, 2021 7:00 am

If a modern, science-based R&D program does not achieve it’s objectives in about a decade, it is unlikely to be practical or economical.

Coach Springer
July 14, 2021 7:41 am

Numbers like these and absurd wind sounds better. Coal, gas oil and fission sound better yet..

July 14, 2021 7:49 am

Seems the research here was shallow. The opening assertion was partial and hence wrong. Naturally occurring Tritium is not a problem because we don;t need it. Tritium that is needed can be bred in the Lithium jacket that also extracts the heat. It isn’t simple, but is doable. So that point is wrong in fact. Easy to check as well.

Which is a shame because it detracts from the correct and important core facts. Only nuclear energy, which is more intense, so also much more sustainable and a much better replacement for fossil energy sources, can replace fossil use. But it will need to pass through Gen 3 passive safety and the Fast Fission reactors, which must also solve the 800 deg coolant temperature first. So fusion is 50 and more likely 100 years away, htough 2 generations of new nuclear fission technology.

A Manhattan project is neither appropriate nor necessary. FIssion can last for the life of the human species once fast fission is mastered. The RUssians are already in commercial generation, BTW. .The Fast Fission reactors will help solve the high temperature materials problems for Fusion, though. Whenever. I suspect the general adoption of perfectly safe geological storage of nuclear waste after spent fuel processing will increase the rate of adoption dramatically as fossil supplies really do start to become scarce, relative to demand.

The message is research at Cadarache in the South of France will be on going for a very long time. Well worth considering as a career. It’s very nice there and the International Schools are top rate.
CEng, CPhys

ferdberple
July 14, 2021 8:51 am

The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. That simply rewards the group with the best lobbyists.

Take the $65 billion in public taxes for example spent on ITER. Most of that money comes from low and middle class working people that cannot afford fancy tax lawyers.

Instead announce at $50 billion prize for the first successful fusion power plant. Private companies and investors with deep pockets will be falling all over themselves to build just such a device. There would be no need to take tax dollars from the poor.

Why does this not happen? Because governments take from the poor to give to the rich. This has been going on from day 1.

And yes, fusion is possible. People have made working fusion machines in their garages without any government funding. They didn’t need $65 billion to make it happen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor

Robert of Texas
July 14, 2021 10:44 am

Take existing technology and build more advanced fission reactors. Now you don’t need fusion power for hundreds of years. Problem solved.

Steve Z
July 14, 2021 11:57 am

I disagree with the authors’ contention that “It’s up to Congress and the White House to act.” With slightly over half the House and almost half the Senate wanting to spend trillions of dollars on solar panels and windmills, now is NOT the time for Congress to stop funding a $650 million per year project that could eventually yield some serious energy.

Whether we’re talking about fossil fuels, renewables, or nuclear fission or fusion, the less Congress and (especially this) White House get involved in the energy markets, the more energy we will have.

Pariah Dog
July 14, 2021 2:11 pm

This peanut thinks the best way to do it is to use a Dyson sphere. No need to reinvent the sun.

Björn Eriksson
July 15, 2021 1:07 pm

In 30 years…

TallDave
July 16, 2021 12:59 pm

polywells, FRCs, even the General Atomics steampunk mecha-fusor

but not ITER, waste of time, no future

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