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NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:18 pm
by Paul_Schatzkin
There's a big op-ed piece in today's New York Times about "How Seawater Can Power the World." Via fusion, of course.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/opini ... ef=opinion

It describes the two big mainstream approaches to the "how do you bottle a star" quandary: tokamaks and lasers. Time and cost to completion, a mere $30-billion and another 20 years.

No mention of Farnsworth/fusor style IEC.

No suprise there, the article was written by Stewart C. Prager, the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national laboratory.

What does Richard like to say, "Fusion is 20 years in the future and always will be..."? This article would seem to affirm that perspective.

I'll post it to the front of the site later today (time allowing).

--PS

Re: NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 6:37 pm
by Chris Bradley
I think you might find that there are a couple-to-a-few dozen methods, rather than just three, Paul.

see;

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7598#p54279

The thing with mainstream supporting tokamaks is that, notwithstanding that they only operate for a few seconds at a time, they have pumped out a lot more neutrons per dollar than anything else (excepting perhaps for H-bombs - not sure how much those cost!!). JET cost 200 million ECUs to build, let's round it to a $billion for improvements and running costs over the years, but it can put out 1E19 DT neutrons in that time (equiv to 5E16 neuts DD, or 2E16 neuts/s for 2 seconds), which is therefore a piece of kit that can put out equiv 1E7 DD neuts/s, for each dollar spent.

So if you had an option to research a device and you could build a device that puts out 1E7 for each dollar spent....or you could build a fusor that appears to pretty much max out at 1E7 yet cost several $,000 (even with used parts, unless you get lucky).... it's just maths.

ITER was quoted/costed at euro 5 billion. I've always considered that nonsense and figure there will be little change from 30 billion. All the same, if it achieves its target of 500MWt for 400 s then that'd still be of the same order; >1E7 neuts (DD) per dollar.

We love fusors for being accessible to amateurs with a limited budget, that they run continuously, can be run fast enough for interesting activation work, and all without attracting much interest from regulators (precisely because of their limiting reaction rate). But for producing power for the world? 50 years of research on it suggests only that, to produce any power (let alone in useful quantities), it would need to look radically different to any of the many small permutations on it that have been tried over the years to make it look interesting as a power-producing device.

Re: NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:39 am
by Chris Trent
Ok, let's take a closer look at that.

Here's were I'm starting out.
Us: 1E7 Neutrons/s Peak, sustained.
JET: 5E16 Neutrons per pulse. Repeatable once every 45 minutes.

Neither of these systems is really capable of always on performance so I can't factor in failure times or repair outages. I'll just call that a wash for now and fix the JET number for average output.

5E16n / (45min*60)s = 1.85E13n/s

Now let's calculate price:
Us 1E7 / $5,000(est) = 2,000n/s/$
JET 1.85E13 / $1,000,000,000(est) = 18,500n/s/$

Ok, they've got us beat by a factor of 9, but it's still within an order of magnitude.
I would venture a guess that if Fusors were as well as explored as Tokamaks that the cost efficiency might be about the same.

Re: NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:06 am
by Rich Feldman
Chris Bradley wrote:
>> ...The thing with mainstream supporting tokamaks is that, notwithstanding that they only operate for a few seconds at a time, they have pumped out a lot more neutrons per dollar than anything else (excepting perhaps for H-bombs - not sure how much those cost!!).

Might as well run some numbers for the H-bomb.
The biggest one ever fired (Soviet Tsar bomb) produced on the order of 1.0E+29 neutrons (over 100 kg of neutrons) per shot. That's more than JET running for 100 million years, and is comparable to the annual production of a hypothetical 1GWe fusion power plant.

I bet that explosive technology demonstration could be reproduced today for under $100M, including a ton or so of fusion fuel, for yield of 1E21 n/dollar.

Re: NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:27 am
by Edward Miller
My perspective on the article

1. The scientists/engineers can figure out how to make fusion work, they just need more money.
2. Fusion requires a confined plasma at 100 million degrees C.
3. Solutions include confining plasmas with magnets and lasers.
4. Asia is working on fusion and our (US) scientists need a lot more money to make fusion work.
5. Fusion is only about 20 years away even with a lot of money.

There's nothing substantial about the actual fusion problem. Nothing technical to hold on to. This article makes me understand why the public is so negative and skeptical about fusion research in general.

Re: NYTimes Gets Two Out Of Three

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:14 pm
by Richard Hull
Let's really boil it down. This was a feel good article about fusion energy of the future.

Currently

Billions of the money spent on Jet and ITER.
Total number of tokamak neutrons converted to electrical energy = 0.0
A couple of thousand bucks spent on a fusor.
Total number of fusor neutrons converted electrical energy = 0.0

There is always a difference in plans and hopes and dreams and actual useful, finished achievement. In this respect, the fusor and for that matter, all non-explosive fusion efforts are on, more or less, equal footing.

Fission produced its first demonstrated, useful, electrical, multi-kilowatt conversion only 13 years after the discovery of its very existence. Fusion is now entering its 80th year from discovery with zero useful electrical conversion demo'd, in spite of gigawatt pulsed runs and billions of the money spent. All very impressive, until you need some electricity, desparately, right now.

Solutions that work....... a 15,000 ton coal train from West Virginia dropping off at Dutch Gap's Dominion Power station......Mining fresh Uranium to make up two 6 ton fuel assemblies for North Anna Nuclear power station.

God protect us from fusion energy's, "not yet", non-power bills.

I don't mind chokin' on a little extra sulfur dioxide or notching up my AC to offset global warming due to CO2. I also don't mind hiking up my thermostat due to global cooling caused by other unforseen changes due to man made "climate change", (new word, for what we used to call weather). I don't mind spent nuclear fuel waste issues as I fully realize these are true non-issues that are magnified by a voiciferous few who know how to terrorize the ignorant multitudes. I don't mind any of this, just as long as the electricity keeps pourin' outta my wall outlets, as I await the grave or fusion energy's rich, happy, healthy future. I know which I will experience first, for sure and for certain.

Richard Hull