MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
Post Reply
Edward Miller
Posts: 266
Joined: Wed Mar 19, 2003 8:50 am
Real name: Edward Miller
Contact:

MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Edward Miller » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:22 pm

"You recently got the chance to ask a group of MIT researchers questions about fusion power, and they've now finished writing some incredibly detailed answers. They discuss the things we've learned about fusion in the past decade, how long it's likely to take for fusion to power your home, the biggest problems fusion researchers are working to solve, and why it's important to continue funding fusion projects. They also delve into the specifics of tokamak operation, like dealing with disruption events and the limitations on reactor size, and provide some insight into fusion as a career. Hit the link below for a wealth of information about fusion."

From the Slashdot post.... some interesting stuff mostly the big takeaway for me though is about publishing in peer reviewed journals.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/0 ... ?sdsrc=rel

User avatar
Richard Hull
Moderator
Posts: 11637
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:44 pm

Nice Q and A with metered and measured responses from folks in th' biz.

What I came away with was that if all goes as currently planned through three iterations of systems, yet to be fired up or even built, then we are looking at an optomistic 2050 time frame for fusion power.

A lot of hopes and dreams hinge on performance milestones being fully met, as planned, over a long period.

Sorta' like the same thing that went on from the 50's up until this current point in time. Of course, with major hurdles having already been overcome and advances made all along the way up until now.

Hmmm.....

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.

User avatar
Chris Bradley
Posts: 2931
Joined: Fri May 02, 2008 11:05 am
Real name:

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:26 pm

Good answers, but, in my opinion, some gravy-training too.

On the one hand they say;

> MIT Researchers: We think that the current approach, in which government-funded labs are not in direct competition, but have to justify their funding to the agency... is the best option for the moment.

Really? No need to get your own project running tip-top to ensure you get the funding instead of a newer, fresher, leaner project that's getting better results out faster and quicker? (Does this begin to have the hallmarks of a gravy train?..... )

Then they claim;

> The current proposals made by the US are threatening the health of fusion in the US. The President’s 2013 budget proposal calls for drastic cuts to the domestic fusion budget to pay for increased funding for the ITER budget.

Now, I think some objectivity is called for, and just look at the real figures here;

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7650#p54331

Just how long have most of these projects been going for, and now they're bemoaning a new project getting some funding instead of for their seemingly never-ending projects? (Looks like a gravy train, sounds like a gravy train.... &c.)

Sure, more money into fusion. I can agree to that. No problem with that given the pennies in comparison with other stuff. But claims of 'slashing' funding and projects having their 'health threatened' by a budget cut of 10%, oh, please!! OK, so Alcator has had a 50% wallop, bigger than any of the others. Just speculating here, but maybe it is something to do with them not feeling they need to be performing as in a 'competition' with other calls from the budget, I don't know, because I can't say I know what significant contribution Alcator made last year. It's not like they have no money to get on with stuff - if they can show better return on $$$ for the research they come up with from that $8 million budget they've been given, then they have a case to ask for more next time - ah, but maybe I forget... they don't think that making out that sort of case is the best way of doing things. Maybe 'getting results per $' doesn't seem to be the best answer for fusion right now, it seems?

Tyler Christensen
Site Admin
Posts: 551
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:08 am
Real name:

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Tyler Christensen » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:48 pm

Alcator is almost inarguably the most important tokamak currently in service, with respect to the success of ITER. Alcator has the highest field of any tokamak, and very closely resembles the conditions that will be in ITER, just on a smaller physical scale. Almost everything currently being worked on at Alcator has direct application to ITER, and huge amounts of active research and discoveries are being made even in the last few years. It is by no means an old stale project that should be replaced.

Also, the budget cut here at Alcator was not 50%, it was 100% and the entire program and tokamak will disappear from existence next year if the plan is passed.

User avatar
Chris Bradley
Posts: 2931
Joined: Fri May 02, 2008 11:05 am
Real name:

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:13 pm

Tyler Christensen wrote:
> Also, the budget cut here at Alcator was not 50%, it was 100% and the entire program and tokamak will disappear from existence next year if the plan is passed.

The .gov document [that I linked to, did you see it?] shows the budget request for Alcator [hardware operating costs, alone] to be $7,848,000, and the 'science' budget to drop by 20%, to $8,396,000. Total specifically for Alcator = $16.244 million.

For my information, if it is as important as you've indicated, may I ask; what is the key research finding Alcator made last year that is ITER-relevant?

User avatar
Chris Bradley
Posts: 2931
Joined: Fri May 02, 2008 11:05 am
Real name:

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:15 pm

Tyler Christensen wrote:
> Alcator is almost inarguably the most important tokamak currently in service, with respect to the success of ITER.

Did you mean; except JET?

Tyler Christensen
Site Admin
Posts: 551
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:08 am
Real name:

Re: MIT Fusion Researchers Answer Your Questions (Slashdot)

Post by Tyler Christensen » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:28 pm

You can look at the more than 150 journal articles published out of Alcator since 2010 at this link: http://www.psfc.mit.edu/library1/catalo ... /2010.html

I have no interest in going through them and point out just how many are directly applicable to ITER, but the number is very, very high. Just in the last few years an entirely new mode of tokamak operation was discovered at Alcator (I-mode).

Read further between the lines. The remaining budget at Alcator for FY'13 is for shut-down costs, not any intention of continued research. "The Alcator C-Mod facility is shut down in FY 2013. No operations will be conducted and the funding will provide for the safe shutdown of the facility." (http://fire.pppl.gov/fy12_budget_fusion_Synakowski.pdf)

Post Reply