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Nuclear Fusion: a possible solution to future energy problems?


antiestablishmentarian

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Everyone with a brain recognises the need for a change from use of fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy. One of these forms is nuclear fusion. Compared with Nuclear Fission, this form of energy development has received relatively little attention. This can probably be explained be the fact that fusion development has yet to be fully realised in a commercial and hence is of little interest to most people. However, having looked at some aspects of Fusion I believe that it should be fully looked at as a more efficient and safer form of electricity generation:

1. The materials used to generate Fusion are less damaging to the environment, exist in great abundance and are much safer than both fossil fuels used in conventional power generation and those used in nuclear fission such as uranium. The chief materials used in fusion are Lithium and Deuterium (heavy water) which both exist in abundance in nature and are safe to use.
2. The energy created is similar to that in Nuclear fission, yet the radioactivity is far less and much materials are much safer to dispose of.
3. Fusion plants would not need to be guarded against theft as the materials used would not be viable for use by terrorists or others.

There still exist many problems with development of fusion. Chief among these is the use of the radioactive material tritium, however the half life of this isotope is consideraby less than that of uranium or plutonium. Another important problem is lack of funding; the principles behind fusion are better understood by scientists now and I believe that if funded and researched in a serious fashion fusion could be a good way to change to more renewable and environmentally friendly power generation, yet fusion and other sustainable energy R&D continue to comprise a tiny part of EU and Government budgets when compared to comparatively useless things like the development of armaments and increased funding for armed forces and other 'security' related areas.

Link
http://www.iop.org/activity/policy/Publications/file_31695.pdf
 

fiannafailure

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antiestablishmentarian

When this technology becomes viable as an energy source, it will indeed solve almost all of our energy problems, but don't hold your breath as it will take a while.

The chief problem is designing a vessel that can contain the plasma indefinately at temperatures in excess of 100,000 degrees celsius, the best we can manage is a few minutes.

And $50 billion is a fair amount of resource to throw at the problem
 

cry freedom

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Everyone with a brain recognises the need for a change from use of fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy. One of these forms is nuclear fusion. Compared with Nuclear Fission, this form of energy development has received relatively little attention. This can probably be explained be the fact that fusion development has yet to be fully realised in a commercial and hence is of little interest to most people. However, having looked at some aspects of Fusion I believe that it should be fully looked at as a more efficient and safer form of electricity generation:

1. The materials used to generate Fusion are less damaging to the environment, exist in great abundance and are much safer than both fossil fuels used in conventional power generation and those used in nuclear fission such as uranium. The chief materials used in fusion are Lithium and Deuterium (heavy water) which both exist in abundance in nature and are safe to use.
2. The energy created is similar to that in Nuclear fission, yet the radioactivity is far less and much materials are much safer to dispose of.
3. Fusion plants would not need to be guarded against theft as the materials used would not be viable for use by terrorists or others.

There still exist many problems with development of fusion. Chief among these is the use of the radioactive material tritium, however the half life of this isotope is consideraby less than that of uranium or plutonium. Another important problem is lack of funding; the principles behind fusion are better understood by scientists now and I believe that if funded and researched in a serious fashion fusion could be a good way to change to more renewable and environmentally friendly power generation, yet fusion and other sustainable energy R&D continue to comprise a tiny part of EU and Government budgets when compared to comparatively useless things like the development of armaments and increased funding for armed forces and other 'security' related areas.

Link
http://www.iop.org/activity/policy/Publications/file_31695.pdf
You are looking at 2050 at the earliest and even then they will have to be of such large output [min 1000 MW] that they will be difficult to manage in the Irish context.

Although what Ireland will be like in 2050 is anybodies guess.

One way or another it is a long time to wait for your kettle to boil.

New generation fission on the other hand is already available,
inherently safe, scalable and competitive with fossil fuels.

Pebble bed nuclear reactors are environmental teddy bears.
 

soubresauts

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New generation fission on the other hand is already available,
inherently safe, scalable and competitive with fossil fuels.

Pebble bed nuclear reactors are environmental teddy bears.
You don't do irony very well.

"Inherently safe" my foot. "Competitive" my foot.

Apart from all the other concerns, nuclear never made economic sense, and never will.

As for fusion, it's pie in the sky, pigs might fly...
 

eoinod

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Mar 21, 2008
Messages
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Everyone with a brain recognises the need for a change from use of fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy. One of these forms is nuclear fusion. Compared with Nuclear Fission, this form of energy development has received relatively little attention. This can probably be explained be the fact that fusion development has yet to be fully realised in a commercial and hence is of little interest to most people. However, having looked at some aspects of Fusion I believe that it should be fully looked at as a more efficient and safer form of electricity generation:
Whaaat???
Huge amounts of scientific capital has gone into developing nuclear fusion technologies and will continue to do so.

Fusion power would solve all our energy problems if it was viable and hopefully it will be in the future.
For fusion to take place however massive massive heat is required and to produce such heat, with current technologies, takes more energy than can be produced. The only currently viable fusion energy source is the sun..

Yes fusion would be great but it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It is definatley not an area neglected by government funding and is not the most promising way of meeting our energy needs by a long shot.
 

eoinod

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Mar 21, 2008
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You don't do irony very well.

"Inherently safe" my foot. "Competitive" my foot.

Apart from all the other concerns, nuclear never made economic sense, and never will.

As for fusion, it's pie in the sky, pigs might fly...

Nuclear energy does make economic sense....

and Silicon Pebble Reactors as have been used on the continent are incredibly safe.
 

cry freedom

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Nov 8, 2009
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You don't do irony very well.

"Inherently safe" my foot. "Competitive" my foot.

Apart from all the other concerns, nuclear never made economic sense, and never will.

As for fusion, it's pie in the sky, pigs might fly...
Your foot eh?
Try thinking with your brain for a change!
How about doing some research into modern advances with nuclear reactors and coming back and making a scientific case against them instead of waving your feet in the air.
If you can come up with a strong case against nuclear power then I will allow myself to be persuaded and withdraw gracefully. Wishfull thinking or Tweety Pie engineering willl not wash however.
 

soubresauts

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Jun 2, 2007
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Nuclear energy does make economic sense....

and Silicon Pebble Reactors as have been used on the continent are incredibly safe.
I google "silicon pebble reactors" and the only hit I get is this thread! If they don't exist, I suppose they are incredibly safe...
 

eoinod

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I google "silicon pebble reactors" and the only hit I get is this thread! If they don't exist, I suppose they are incredibly safe...
They do exist and has definatley been used in Germany. A number of other countries are developing the technology as we speak.

Searching "silicon pebble reactors" gave me the wikipedia page for "Pebble Bed Reactor" which would appear to be the conventional term.
 

Earnest

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Jul 30, 2007
Messages
413
Whaaat???
Huge amounts of scientific capital has gone into developing nuclear fusion technologies and will continue to do so.

Fusion power would solve all our energy problems if it was viable and hopefully it will be in the future.
For fusion to take place however massive massive heat is required and to produce such heat, with current technologies, takes more energy than can be produced. The only currently viable fusion energy source is the sun..

Yes fusion would be great but it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It is definatley not an area neglected by government funding and is not the most promising way of meeting our energy needs by a long shot.
The researchers on nuclear fusion say it might take 30 years to get fusion to the commercial stage. I am old enough to remember 30 years ago. 30 years ago they were saying it might take 30 years for fusion to become commercial. Maybe in 30 years' time they will be saying that fusion will be commercial in another 30 years.
 

momoney

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The researchers on nuclear fusion say it might take 30 years to get fusion to the commercial stage. I am old enough to remember 30 years ago. 30 years ago they were saying it might take 30 years for fusion to become commercial. Maybe in 30 years' time they will be saying that fusion will be commercial in another 30 years.
Yeah, fusion is looking like it wont succeed any time soon. Right now they are still trying to get the tokamark reactors to produce as much energy as is input. After that technical hurdle they have to produce a sustained reaction where they can provide a supply of hydrogen to maintain the system. After that they have to find a way to extract all this energy from the system. Billions have already been spent on this and further work just seems to be throwing good money after bad. If ITER doesn't produce promising results they should really give up.

Imho, research should instead be focused on hydrogen energy. Renewable sources could be used to separate hydrogen, which could then be used to power fuel cells in cars and houses.
 

cry freedom

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Yeah, fusion is looking like it wont succeed any time soon. Right now they are still trying to get the tokamark reactors to produce as much energy as is input. After that technical hurdle they have to produce a sustained reaction where they can provide a supply of hydrogen to maintain the system. After that they have to find a way to extract all this energy from the system. Billions have already been spent on this and further work just seems to be throwing good money after bad. If ITER doesn't produce promising results they should really give up.

Imho, research should instead be focused on hydrogen energy. Renewable sources could be used to separate hydrogen, which could then be used to power fuel cells in cars and houses.
The Hydrogen Society will be impossible, sorry impractical , without nuclear reactors and the only currently available type of reactor is of the fission variety. To generate high purity hydrogen from wind power say, you would have to use the process of electrolysis and in that case it would take something like 76 kw of electricity to produce the hydrogen equivalent of one gallon of diesel. Not a great exchange I think you will agree?

Nuclear power can generate Hydrogen by a far more direct method and with three times the efficiency of electrolysis.

On the solar [photo voltaic] side of things the situation is even worse. To generate 1MW of electricity from a solar farm - using present technology, and allowing for Irish weather conditions - you would have to cover 11 acres of ground.

There is no point in coming on and saying that future developments will improve the performance of these renewables because they both have physical upper limits which cannot be improved upon.
Even at the very peak of these limits hydrogen generation from renewables would still be impractical.

I sincerely wish things were different but in energy production as with most things in life there is no such thing as a free lunch
 

cry freedom

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While nuclear fusion is still a long way in the future, there is an emerging fission technology which, with a little further tweaking, might make the pursuit of fusion redundant.
It involves the initial use of uranium 233 to get the process started, but mainly uses thorium in the reactor process.
Thorium is plentiful, relatively cheap and even if you tried very hard you could not get it to reach anywhere near danger levels in the reactor.
The whole process is called Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor [LFTR] or "Lifter" to its friends.
Some of the most respected names in nuclear engineering hope that President Obama will allot some research money to this technology in his energy Independence program.
At the moment the old technology fission guys are in the ascendant and guarding their turf jealously. They have the ear of the military wing who are also resistant to change.
From what I can make out of this thorium system it would seem to offer a much faster and cheaper return than Fusion as most of the research is already done and it only needs one last push to get it up and running.
What offers for LFTR?

American Ambassador [and embassy staff] please copy ! !
 
Last edited:

Socratus O' Pericles

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Oct 12, 2009
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Any thoughts on the "Fast Ignition" breakthrough?

A new technique to monitor a process called 'fast ignition' has been developed, in what could be a critical step towards a viable method of creating controlled nuclear fusion.

Fusion ignition, the point at which a nuclear reaction becomes self-sustaining, is one of the great hopes for a new generation of clean, cheap energy generation. But while the reactions have been seen in the cores of thermonuclear weapons, it has yet to be achieved in a controlled manner in a reactor.
X-ray breakthrough 'opens door' to controlled nuclear fusion (Wired UK)


 

Black Swan

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Even if it were viable, fusion power would still pump heat into the environment.

It could get us off the planet though.
 

Socratus O' Pericles

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Even if it were viable, fusion power would still pump heat into the environment.

It could get us off the planet though.
Still, Steve Cowley, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, tells PM that the main barrier is getting government funding. "It's expensive research that can only be done at large scales," he says, "and nobody sees the need right now. Every time there's talk about climate change, funding goes up for awhile." But not enough to get the first power plants built.

"For $20 billion in cash," he says, "I could build you a working reactor. It would be big, and maybe not very reliable, but 25 years ago we didn't even know if we'd be able to make fusion work. Now, the only question is whether we'll be able to make it affordable."

Why Don't We Have Fusion Power?


It's all about the money I suppose.
 

Black Swan

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Still, Steve Cowley, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, tells PM that the main barrier is getting government funding. "It's expensive research that can only be done at large scales," he says, "and nobody sees the need right now. Every time there's talk about climate change, funding goes up for awhile." But not enough to get the first power plants built.

"For $20 billion in cash," he says, "I could build you a working reactor. It would be big, and maybe not very reliable, but 25 years ago we didn't even know if we'd be able to make fusion work. Now, the only question is whether we'll be able to make it affordable."

Why Don't We Have Fusion Power?


It's all about the money I suppose.
The potential to synthesise elements would be a pretty cool by-product of a viable, functioning fusion plant.
 

Karloff

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The potential to synthesise elements would be a pretty cool by-product of a viable, functioning fusion plant.
It doesn't really work that way. It can only produce a limited range of new elements and those would all be low molecular weight substances already abundant on Earth and would not be produced in any amounts that would be significant.

But it might get us to the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars where we could probably find anything we would want in terms of metals.
 
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