Author Topic: Fusion, are we there yet?  (Read 981 times)

yugi

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Fusion, are we there yet?
« on: March 13, 2018, 02:42:11 PM »
A talk from about a year ago. New rapid cycle in innovation. “Not waiting around 40 years for the perfect thing to come”.

It's science, but understandable. The talk is about an 1h long, followed by 40 mins discussion

https://youtu.be/KkpqA8yG9T4?list=WL

Oh! And, just BTW, from last week…

http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-newly-formed-company-launch-novel-approach-fusion-power-0309

Funded by the Italian company ENI (used to be AGIP) it seems.

PonoBill

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Re: Fusion, are we there yet?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2018, 04:06:25 PM »
I enjoyed the video and the article, but fusion has been 20 years away for most of my life.

In a rational world, starting from where we are today and building toward a safer, less polluting future we would be building modular nuclear fission plants in a variety of designs, all much safer than any of the nuclear plants currently online. Some would use fissionable materials from the 50,000 decommissioned nuclear weapons--and ultimately most of the 10,000 remaining. Some would use thorium, some would be fast-fission plants that are extremely stable. We'd stop burning coal and oil to make electricity. We'd build smartgrids, lots of PV and quite a few wind turbines, and we'd work toward fusion.

But we don't live in that world.

Yeah, I know, waste, proliferation, Fukashima, radiation, uncontrolled expense, etc. Note that I'm talking about modular third generation plants that are as different from current BWR and PWR technology as cars from 1956 are from what you drive today. Simpler, much less waste, far more stable, and reduces the amount of Plutonium in existence.

I've worked in a lot of nuke plants. It's 1950's tech, all the way. The alarm computer at the Trojan Nuclear Plant where I was an operator was rebooted by flipping toggle switches to create a word of code, and then saving that word to the massive 16kb of memory, and then flipping switches to write another. My HP calculator was much more powerful.

Some of the characteristics of fusion plants limit the likely output--some of the analysis I've read sets a likely upper limit around 200 megawatts--you'll note that no one is talking about a megawatt fusion plant. If that's true then they better be cheap to build because we're going to need a lot of them. Maybe we can design around that, but we already have designed around the core problems of large slow neutron, uranium235 fission plants.

As much as I love the notion of using little fusion plants to superheat air to replace natural gas in combined cycle gas turbine plants, I note you'd need two at 200mw thermal and maybe 3 to power a typical current GT installation. Natural gas is cheap and abundant and fracking makes it cheaper.

Still sounds like 20 years away, and then another twenty. And then we get our jetpacks. Sorry if that sounds negative, but I see good science, good tech, and even just good ideas stymied by ignorance everywhere.
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yugi

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Re: Fusion, are we there yet?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2018, 10:42:45 PM »

In a rational world, starting from where we are today and building toward a safer, less polluting future we would be building modular nuclear fission plants in a variety of designs, all much safer than any of the nuclear plants currently online.

But we don't live in that world.


Politically, yes, fission is unpopular now in the “west”, committed to retiring fission power.

China and India forging ahead on new huge plants. I’ve seen designs for small fail-safe ones worked on too.


Some of the characteristics of fusion plants limit the likely output--some of the analysis I've read sets a likely upper limit around 200 megawatts--you'll note that no one is talking about a megawatt fusion plant. If that's true then they better be cheap to build because we're going to need a lot of them.
 …

Not a problem but a feature if they are safe and people are not afraid to be near them. There’s a lot of loss transporting electricity distances.

Smaller smarter grids and even off-grid microgrids are trendy. More modular and easier to evolve.


Natural gas is cheap and abundant and fracking makes it cheaper.


Yes. For now. But not low carbon and not limitless.

Now if we could only harness methane from cows …


I see good science, good tech, and even just good ideas stymied by ignorance everywhere.

This is the real revolution in the talk and last weeks announcement. A new paradigm in funding.

A main driver to go small and fast. A way to get around the “old school” [read: oil] mega-corporations controlling government stifling funding for new tech research.

Sniffle in one area and see nimble innovation created in the vacuum.


PonoBill

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Re: Fusion, are we there yet?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2018, 11:35:09 PM »
People aren't afraid to be near them because they don't know anything about them. the intense neutron flux in a fusion generator will transmute any material to radioactive isotopes. The temperature is above 100 million degrees, about 5 times hotter than the core of the sun. The magnetic bottle is containing an explosive force that makes Hiroshima look like a popgun. All true statement and all not really a threat to public safety--but tell that to people who think the amount of thimerosal in a vaccine will give them mercury poisoning.

But we won't have to worry about any of that until 2035 for prototypes and likely 2050 for deployment above a tiny fraction of electrical energy. In the meantime, we'll burn stuff.

I understand that natural gas generates CO2, though it's substantially less per kW than coal or oil. I'm not saying we should burn it, I'm saying it's cheap and plentiful so we will. It might also be inexhaustible, or effectively so. If fusion isn't cheap, it won't replace it. At 200mw per reactor, I doubt it will be cheap. I'd love it if it was, but at this point, counting on fusion feels like counting in Jesus to fix our energy problems.

« Last Edit: March 13, 2018, 11:37:35 PM by PonoBill »
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yugi

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Re: Fusion, are we there yet?
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2018, 04:10:08 AM »
LOL

I find the breakthroughs in superconductors and 3D printing so cool. Some good discussion Re safety in the last 30mins.

Fully agree we need to be as clean as we can with what we have. [hint hint nudge nudge]. Also believe in some funding for a cleaner future.

Re. Jesus: sad but true. I’ll dutifully refrain from making comments involving your leadership.

PonoBill

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Re: Fusion, are we there yet?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2018, 02:37:37 PM »
Chris Rock said (paraphrased)  George W. Bush was so bad that he gave us Obama. Trump is so bad that our next president will be Jesus.

So maybe our energy problems will be well in hand with the next administration.
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