A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
kcdodd
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by kcdodd » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:03 am

Im not sure, maybe I made it up. Its kind of besides the point though. Going with a 1000yr power supply with fusion or fission because we see it as more economical then solar only means we bought another 1000yrs to figure out how to make solar economical.

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Steven Sesselmann
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Steven Sesselmann » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:29 am

Hi Guys,

I have been following this post in the background, and it is clear that the world faces a problem, what is even more clear is that most people think it is merely a temporary issue and that someone will soon fix it. Companies are investing in growth and prosperity will return, I see no less than 5 building cranes on the horizon, building office towers with lifts and air-conditioning systems, and those pretty windows that can't be opened, because it makes more sense to pump cold air through the building than to open the window...doh!

In the office next to mine, resides a consulting company, who are busy advising the Sydney Airport Corporation on how to improve the airport for increased capacity.....

Okay, a small group of informed people are beginning to ask where will it end, but what if anything is being done about it?

Not much at the moment, but if we re-engineered our world, and used the remaining resources to rebuild the obsolete infrastructure, we might stand a chance.

With communication through the internet, change can happen fast, so we need to reserve enough energy to run the internet, fortunately with the fiber optic roll out around the world, and more efficient processors, the net will consume a little less.

People need to live close to where they work, walk or ride a bike, offices need fresh air ventilation, go back to using fans and natural draft to ventilate in hot countries, cold countries need to redesign buildings to take advantage of light and build on the sunny side of the hill, animals have known this all along.

Grow food where people live, If you are a Golfer, I apologise in advance, but you simply can't have all that fertile irrigated land, just for walking around in funny pants hitting a 1" ball, this land, usually located in urban areas, can easily be turned into food growing areas.

Business people, don't need to fly all over the place to do business, try having virtual meetings using Skype or similar technology, it works and it will dramatically reduce your costs.

Solar energy is available now, and in Australia at least the average home can supply around 7kWh per day, just about enough for home consumption, but not enough for industry.

So we have a problem, too many people, with no way to access the energy required to feed them.

To conclude, I link to a recent page by Paul Chefurka, where he talks about the 5 stages of awareness, and how he believes 90% of the worlds population is in stage 1.

http://www.paulchefurka.ca/LadderOfAwareness.html

Steven
http://www.gammaspectacular.com - Gamma Spectrometry Systems
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Steven_Sesselmann - Various papers and patents on RG

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Frank Sanns
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:28 am

High density cities are the most efficient. The most energy efficient structure for heating and cooling is a cube because it gives the greatest volume for a given surface area. Bigger cubes are even better so those high density living spaces are great. For solar living in a mega cube, 15 m^2 to 20 m^2 is sufficient for a family of 4 to have virtually unlimited energy available for all but the most hungry of appliances. It also puts the workers and families closer together thus requiring no cars. This is a typical feature in big cities where a car is not an asset but a costly liability.

In many of the world's largest cities, cars are already being eliminated by legislation. Often certain license plates can enter the city on certain days and not on others. Park and rides outside of the city with high efficiency rail predominates. The least energy efficient living space by far is a single family home. It uses the most energy and the materials to build. It also requires a car to commute to the store and to work and often it is significant distances on roads with no traffic light control strategy so it is stop and go. The future is here in some places of the world but unfortunately not in most.

Frank Sanns

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Chris Bradley
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Chris Bradley » Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:03 am

Frank, I'd need to see the figures. I just went looking for evidence that this is sustainable and can't find it. One paper ("Assessment of photovoltaic potential in urban areas using open-source solar radiation tools", Hofierka) suggests meeting 2/3rds of electricity needs with solar, but that's not counting heating (a town in Slovakia was used for the study). And that's only a numerical analysis, I'd like to see the practical infrastructure difficulties too of having that much installed capacity.

It's winter here in UK. There's not even enough ambient sunlight to melt the ice on my car all day long if there is cloud cover at the moment (and it's only getting down to zero C, not much lower than that), and we're still a month or two away from the coldest parts of winter! So what chance is there to heat my house all day-and-night long, let alone power it with electricity?

And that's long before dealing with the energy supply to the trucks that have borought me all my provisions from outside my town, and running the factories that have processed and made the stuff.

Show me the numbers. Really, I'd like to see some evidence this is possible so I do not ignorantly blunder my way through life not realising solar is a global energy solution that exists already. From where I am sitting, running the world off of solar panels on rooftops does not look feasible. I'll agree that solar is a work-in-progress, works in some installations very well, and can provide a 'boost' in others. But to cover a wider scope and industrial scale, high-density power sources will still be required and it's the same argument then as other 'renewables' - if we have a base load of power stations that 'underwrites' solar when it's cloudy and cold and demand exceeds installed capacity, then why not use the base load all the time (that is to say, because it will have to be nuclear in the long run, so just leave it running!)?

We need to save our stocks of fossil fuels right, and immediately, now and not hang about hoping mankind will become magically more efficient over night so solar will be sufficient to meet needs. We need to start moving to 100% fast breeders *now*!!!! If it transpires over time that solar is sufficient, then we can turn them off, Great!, and give up funding fusion research (maybe!). If it transpires solar is not sufficient, we have the base-load sorted without fear of energy shortage for a few thousand years, and a plan to get fusion going still for the rest of human life on Earth, and maybe beyond?

I think I've exhausted any points I'd want to make on this subject, except to remind mankind about putting too many eggs in too few baskets!!

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Frank Sanns
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:34 pm

Chris,

Solar voltaics will only be a part of the solution as you say but here are some hard facts and numbers for just that.

Photovoltaic panels do not work only from direct sunlight. They work on photons. If it is light outside, then they work albeit at a reduced capacity. This reduced capacity is also factored in with the seasonal length of day calculations. Maps are produced for the locations of the world that figure in all of this data. They are called solar insolation maps. This map will show the number of hours of equivalent sunshine year round. For where I live in Pittsburgh, PA, the second most cloudy city in the USA, the number of equivalent hours of sunlight year round is 4.5 hours.

This 4.5 hours number means that 1 kw of photovoltaic panels produce for on average, 4,5 hours per day. So 1 kw of panels will produce 4.5 kilo watt hours of power for the day. This is very close to my actual yearly numbers of power production per kw of panels. I happen to have just under 3 kw of solar panels and I made around 4 MWh of electricity so far this year. With the short days for the next 60 days, I am at my production lows for the year for clouds and short days plus my panels get some shadows since the sun is only maximums at 26 degrees above the horizon now at noon. Still it is impressive that I am making on average, a quarter that I am making on a summer's day. Cooler temperatures (better panel efficiency) and clearer winter skies help.

I am connected to the grid so for all but the shortest days of the year, I put excess power into the grid during the day when the demand is the greatest, then I use some of it back at night. Right now this is great because coal fired plants take many hours or days to change power levels and if there is capacity for the day, it then is wasted into the night. Not good for fossil fuel consumption or for the extra pollution that that creates.

Again, just sticking with photovoltaics for this discussion, the question becomes how to manage it longer term. Without going 100 or 200 years, the transition in the US might look like a mix of solar, coal, and natural gas and nuclear and any other sources. Not in any particular order. The nice thing about solar is it is predictable to a significant extent by the weather. If a period of rainy days are coming, it is clear that other sources will have to pick up the slack. It is also clear that on partly cloudy days, a large region will still have a stable energy output as some panels will be in sun while others will be partly shaded. The big swings in solar output on a partly cloudy day when the panels are spread out, is a non issue yet I hear detractors crying this all of the time.

Coal then since it has the longest ramp up and ramp down time is the one that is given the majority of the base load. The load that it can do day after day with no changes so it is running maximum efficiency with as little waste as possible. Add in the nuclear to the capacity that is available and then make up the daily changes with a quick response natural gas plant coupled with the somewhat adjustable nuclear plants (or hydoelectrics or whatever the best adjustable local energy source is) and you have an energy management system. Energy management is already in place for the grid as power companies spend big bucks on systems that will tell them the predicted use of power on any given day of the year along with any other conditions like heating days, big sports days, holidays, etc.. They already do not want to waste their coal and other sources as it is $$$ off of their profits. Solar and all other contributing energy sources will be quickly absorbed into their models.

I tried to stay focused only on solar but this post could have turned into a White Paper on energy as a whole but I hope it conveyed more specifics about PV.

Frank Sanns

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Richard Hull
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:47 pm

I think future energy is really more related to human community, technological survival and geo-political issues than some form of new, old or renewable forms of supply. I fear that if the worst happens, solar, hydro and fossil will be the types of surviving real resorces in a post apocolyptic, greatly de-populated world.

If the above is realized, fusion will never be conquered on a time scale that is worth discussion and even fission would lapse for a century or more into that future, if ever to return at all.

Small localized communities with hyper-limited, rationed supplies of electrical and steam energy living in a useful but simpler world circa 1900, but with radio and perhaps even TV and what remains of computing power. Some here might rather die than live in such a world. Others here might welcome it.

Again, the fragility of our society's technology coupled with its tenuous and often strained supply chain to a vast population will certainly be the achille's heel and the ultimate snare to our feet. It wouldn't take much to upset the apple cart, big time.

There is no crystal ball in any of this.

The Boy Scout motto "be prepared" is sage, but the world, as a whole, isn't having any of it. So the motto returns to its original origin, the individual mandate involving accrued skill sets and a sense of purposeful doing.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Jim Kovalchick
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Jim Kovalchick » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:10 pm

By the time that fusion technology is developed to the point that it can be a practical energy source, we will also have the ability to get fusion fuel from off earth. He3 is an excellent fusion fuel and it exists in abundance on the moon.

Also, favorably comparing solar power collection to nuclear fission stations is silly. My plant still runs when it snows and at night. I'm not anti solar, and if I had a few extra bucks I would allow government subsidies to install some cells on my roof. But even with subsidies, the investment cost won't pay back my investment for well beyond the amount of time I plan to own my home. If I thought I could transfer the cost to the buyer when I sold (which won't happen) then okay. Even solar has a NIMBY and negative environmental aspect. Again, not trying to knock solar, but it certainly is no reason to abandon a drive to a clincher energy source such as fusion.

kcdodd
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by kcdodd » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:27 pm

Im not convinced helium 3 fusion is good for energy production, especially if you are talking about having to harvest it from the moon and bring it back. Its really only good for decreasing the neutronicity. My own estimates indicate a reactor at 10-15% neutronicity might be possible with a he3 mix. But the best possible Q of such a reactor is not good. Like 5, definitly less than 10. Power density is not good either. I would only consider it for special applications, like a fusion rocket or something.

Playing this game of economics and fusion versus solar is kind of silly since we don't know how much fusion would cost. If you use iter as a baseline, that would put it at like $60/watt. You would have to convince me that in the time it takes to build fusion power plants, that solar power wont still be the cheaper option per watt anyway. Especially if you want it to be he3. You would have to assume that the cost of solar would decrease way slower than the cost of fusion would.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Chris Bradley » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:43 pm

Jim Kovalchick wrote:
> He3 is an excellent fusion fuel and it exists in abundance on the moon.
'Abundance' is rather relative. It is no more than about 3 times more concentrated in lunar He than it is in terrestrial He. Hardly worth going to the Moon for; see - viewtopic.php?f=22&t=8445#p58648 .

I don't know where this tall tale came from. Someone clearly wanted to try to make a non-existent case to go to the Moon sound plausible, I guess.

At the moment, 'excellent fusion fuel' is a bit misleading too. Sorry.

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Jim Kovalchick
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Re: A discussion on fusion future. - A 'gentle' primer.

Post by Jim Kovalchick » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:29 am

Chris,
I stand by my statement that He 3 would make an excellent fusion fuel and I am not alone in thinking that. The use of the word 'excellent' is subjective enough that I feel safe in using it because how it's measured is my choice. Helium 3 will be harder to fuse than the hydrogen isotopes, but once we figure out how fusion can be managed as a real fuel supply I think that the choice of fuel won't seem as limiting. What is already true is that He 3 is much easier to handle than tritium which is radioactive and a nuisance pollutant. The neutron dynamics seem to be intriguing as well.

It's all fancy right now, but its never too early to look to the future.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26179944/ns ... er-future/

Jim K

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