Nuclear Fusion Power Could Be Here by 2030, One Company Says

Megalith

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Having successfully heated plasma to temperatures hotter than the core of the sun, UK-based Tokamak Energy is foreseeing the ability to produce commercial electricity from fusion power by 2030, over a decade earlier than former predictions. The company will now attempt to push its ST40 reactor within the operating temperatures needed for controlled nuclear fusion: over 180 million degrees F.

Proponents of nuclear fusion say it could make many other types of electricity generation obsolete, by producing large amounts of electricity from relatively small amounts of the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, which are relatively abundant in ordinary seawater. "Fifty kilograms [110 lbs.] of tritium and 33 kilograms [73 lbs.] of deuterium would produce a gigawatt of electricity for a year."
 

Uvaman2

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Fusion will happen, but i don't think for a long time. Also financing the construction of these things, if our economy looks similar, we will have to come up with 1000year loans or something like that.
 

Mega6

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And just like nuclear - we will be stuck with tons of radioactive waste. Ah progress.
 

viscountalpha

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Mankind is not ready to have fusion technology. We would just makes weapons with it and possibly/probably destroy ourselves with it. That is an unacceptable possibility.

Oh 50kg of tritium?





"A gram of tritium costs about $30,000. Four hundred grams of tritium is produced commercially every year." Yeah. Nope. This is not even realistic at all.
 

Wiffle

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I personally feel like they are doing fusion the wrong way. Its like our current approach to Fusion power is pure brute force. The sun works because its so friggin massive relative to the particles that comprise it... the entire solar system sits within the fusion reactor we know as the Sun. I think scientists are simply focusing on the sun part alone and forgetting all the other little pieces. For all we know, how the sun actually works may be far more intricate than we can comprehend simply because we know very little about whats outside the solar system.

Large scale fusion may not be the way to go initially, so far in the last 70 years it hasn't produced any real fruit... every time it is always "another 10 years it may be possible..." another billion dollars invested, and an even larger and bigger reactor that produces nothing is built. We could have fixed world hunger by now with the amount invested into fusion (actually that's false, world hunger has nothing to do with money lol).

Should probably focus on small scale while mainly looking at containment and controlling the reaction.

But then again what do I know, I am neither a Nuclear or Astrophysicists. I just read crap and it sticks in my head... at some point stuff begins to link up to other stuff and a pattern emerges. Wrong or right, either way its fun times.
 

Mega6

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Wiffle, big whiff. We know exactly how the fusion reaction works in the sun, which btw - is in our solar system. Yes, 11 year solar cycle - we are just beginning to understand but the it has no consequence. The main problem is developing more energy from the fusion reaction than the amount of energy it takes to contain the reaction in a magnetic bottle.
 

Croak

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And just like nuclear - we will be stuck with tons of radioactive waste. Ah progress.
Far, FAR less waste than fission. Less dangerous radiation than the tailings from a coal plant, or phosphate mine, or even being in a concrete building, if it's deuterium and tritium powered.

Neither is energetic enough to penetrate even skin, inhalation is the only way to get close to dangerous exposure, and even that is relatively hard to do, since they're far lighter than air (they're just pimped-out hydrogen) and will dissipate quickly if released.

And they're very short-lived radioactive elements. Deuterium and tritium have half-lives of a bit over 12 years, while the uranium waste produced by most fission reactors has a half life of 160 THOUSAND years...

Tritium is so benign we use it to make watch dials glow.
 

Mega6

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it was originally thought of as a pure clean "perfect" energy source but obviously proven false. Deuterium and tritium are actually fusion reaction FUELS. The byproduct waste does have a relatively short half life of about 50 years.

from the wiki -
"Another study concludes that "[..]large fusion reactors – even if not designed for fissile material breeding – could easily produce several hundred kg Pu per year with high weapon quality and very low source material requirements."
 

naib

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I like how someone went to the effort of changing 100,000,000C to 180,000,000F, at these temperatures, to the layman... its hot no matter the unit
 

Croak

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Deuterium and Tritium aren't fuels for fission reactors, they're reaction moderators.

As for your "Another study concludes" quote, keep in mind this isn't a byproduct or waste, it would have to be a deliberate TAILORING of a D-T fusion reactor to produce weapons-grade isotopes.

What they're saying is that if somebody like N. Korea or Iran ran a fusion plant it could let them (if they chose!) more easily produce fissiles, not that that it automatically produced them...it's a worry about proliferation, not contamination.

It's akin to saying a CNC machine could easily produce weapons components. Or a stick could be sharpened to poke people, or a glass of water could be used to drown somebody, or...
 
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Mega6

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You're splitting hairs, they are part of the reaction that release energy.
 

AlphaAtlas

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Mankind is not ready to have fusion technology. We would just makes weapons with it and possibly/probably destroy ourselves with it. That is an unacceptable possibility.
Nuclear weapons design already uses fusion. And it's already much easier to engineer than these fusion reactor designs, which aren't really suited to making bombs anyway.

If you're talking about pure fusion weapons, tokemak reactors don't bring us much closer to that, other than making tritium more readily available.
Should probably focus on small scale while mainly looking at containment and controlling the reaction.
This IS small scale, and that's exactly what they're doing.

Fusion is all about squishing some really hot hydrogen into a really small space. You can only scale that down so much, for a number of reasons. For example, the gamma radiation produced by it is always going to require feet of concrete shielding, and you're always going to need those insane temperatures/pressures to sustain any fusion at all.
 

Croak

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You're splitting hairs, they are part of the reaction that release energy.
No, I'm not, nor am I splitting atoms. It's like saying motor oil or water in an internal combustion engine is part of the reaction that releases energy. They're not, they're there to offset some of the effects of that reaction.

I suspect you're confusing fission power with fusion weapons.
 
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Al Capwn

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Mankind is not ready to have fusion technology. We would just makes weapons with it and possibly/probably destroy ourselves with it. That is an unacceptable possibility.
Nuclear Fusion as a weapon is nothing new, it's been around since 1952; Thermonuclear bombs are fusion weapons.

Harnessing pure fusion as a means for energy is what the challenge is.
 

Dead Parrot

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Looks like they have a long way to go. From TFA, they have managed to get 15 million degrees C. The new target is 100 million degrees C. A little over 6 times hotter. Not exactly a trivial upgrade. Be nice if they pull it off, but even if they manage to make a reactor that can produce more power out then goes in, there is sure to be someone that will file years worth of lawsuits and environmental challenges before a commercial power plant will be allowed to start. "Think of the polka-dotted poison ivy plant!"
 

Mega6

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No, I'm not, nor am I splitting atoms. It's like saying motor oil or water in an internal combustion engine is part of the reaction that releases energy. They're not, they're there to offset some of the effects of that reaction.

I suspect you're confusing fission power with fusion weapons.

Deuterium and tritium are actually fusion reaction FUELS for the most common fusion reactor types. OF course there are several types of fusion reactions that can be used.

220px-Deuterium-tritium_fusion.svg.png
 
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naib

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Deuterium and Tritium aren't fuels for fission reactors, they're reaction moderators..
Who is talking about those isotopes as fuel for fission (splitting heavy atoms), we are talking about fusion (fusing lighter atoms) where Deuterium and Tritium are fuels
 

viscountalpha

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Nuclear Fusion as a weapon is nothing new, it's been around since 1952; Thermonuclear bombs are fusion weapons.

Harnessing pure fusion as a means for energy is what the challenge is.
No, Sustaining the reaction is the hard part. Fusion as a power source it still not there and it's not allowed to be there.

Yet.
 

Al Capwn

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No, Sustaining the reaction is the hard part. Fusion as a power source it still not there and it's not allowed to be there.

Yet.
Yes that is my point, if the reaction is not sustainable you're not harnessing anything for energy, you're just proving a concept which they have done many times.
 
D

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Yup, fusion power cannot be sustained for more than a second or so in todays tokamaks.

They are in the process of building a new one, think its a uk european thing, cant recall 100%, but even with a new one, we are still decades maybe even centuries away from a safe’ish and sustainable fusion reactor if it is even possible in the first place.

However, it will still produce toxic radioactive waste as todays nuclear power stations, but its much less and relatively short lived if I remember.

So, in the future, guns will have uranium bullets just like todays tanks, just think of all the bullets the chinese will save in a capitol punishment murder session that happens every x months.

I cant really blame them though, as the price of copper nowadays is fucked up.
 

The Cobra

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And just like nuclear - we will be stuck with tons of radioactive waste. Ah progress.
Fusion doesn't produce radioactive waste the way a fission reactor does. No nuclear fuel rods and such. If there is a meltdown, it is only contained within the fusion reactor itself and not spread over a massive area.
 

The Cobra

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Instead of putting Trillions of wasted dollars in the DOD/Pentagon budget, why not siphon off around $20 Billion per year for 10 years and have a breakout in Fusion research?
 

BSmith

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And just like nuclear - we will be stuck with tons of radioactive waste. Ah progress.
You do not understand fusion versus fission.

The waste products of fussion is Helium-4 (harmless) as direct waste and a neutron which will depend on what it strikes as to what indrect waste will be left behind. It would be very difficult for a fusion process to produce the harmful waste of a fission process.

The half life will be very short and mostly harmless for fusion waste as it is being designed today.
 
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The Mad Atheist

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Fusion will happen, but i don't think for a long time. Also financing the construction of these things, if our economy looks similar, we will have to come up with 1000year loans or something like that.
Be like Duke Energy leaving customers the bill for their cancelled nuclear plant......
 

Nafensoriel

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Fusion doesn't produce radioactive waste the way a fission reactor does. No nuclear fuel rods and such. If there is a meltdown, it is only contained within the fusion reactor itself and not spread over a massive area.
Just to be technical.. It is just about impossible to force a modern nuclear reactor to "melt down".. Even through terrorist action.
Also to be clear nuclear fusion is never "simple". To make a fusion bomb you need explicit conditions or you simply get a fission reaction with a significant amount of vaporized plutonium dirtying it up at best. Most cases you get a fissle.. A warm radioactive lump of goo. It is actually extremely difficult to get a nuclear reaction to take place explosively. I could hand most of you the parts to make a nuclear bomb and the raw statistics say you would be incapable of making it detonate.

All forms of nuclear power currently envisioned will produce radioactive waste. Expose anything to high energy long enough and you will get radioactive waste. Radioactive waste is not movie waste. Most of it is low level meaning a few years dangerous at best. Fusion reactors will not produce high-level waste in most scenarios. It is also very realistic we will see fusion in our lifetimes. Things nuclear tend to progress on a sharply ending curve. Once the conditions for a reaction are met things tend to progress quickly unless they hit a material physics wall.


As a last note. Modern nuclear plants are cheap. Dirt cheap. For a 50 year lifespan over 65% of their entire operational costs are up front. The myth that nuclear power is expensive really needs to end.
 

KD5ZXG

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This plasma can be nothing like the Sun if you want to make useful power in a reasonable size.
By that, I mean any small volume of Sun makes about as much heat as you do, just sitting there.

The Sun's ginormous radiating surface is tiny by comparison to the total volume trapped within.
Like the 2.08GW Hoover Dam is small compared to the Colorado River, only more so...

Simply bottling a factory sized piece of a normal star isn't going to make power you can sell.
Will have to generate much more heat per reasonable volume, and confine it without gravity,
yet not melt or explode.
 
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D

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Instead of putting Trillions of wasted dollars in the DOD/Pentagon budget, why not siphon off around $20 Billion per year for 10 years and have a breakout in Fusion research?
That will never happen as it will upset the balance of rich fuks who invested into energy producing companies/countries.

Fusion will only happen when the folks in control let it happen and give them the money to do so.

Still faaaaaaaaar too much money to be had in fossil fuels regardless of who you hear saying, it’s nearly all gone, they totally full of shit.

Just think, 60 years ago on the brink of nuclear power, the slogan was “Nuclear energy, too cheap to meter”.

Well, I am looking at my meter now and I have come to the conclusion that, shit aint cheap.
 

DocNo

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I don't think ' people ' ever really stopped the disaster that is pressure cooker nuclear energy.. Money did.
There are plenty of "pressure cooker" reactor designs that are perfectly viable (and we would be burning waste instead of trying to bury it in the desert). Politics and gawd-awful policy decisions have pretty much froze advancement of nuclear tech here in the US and in the meantime China is sprinting ahead with LFTR designs we pioneered and then left just sitting there unrealized.

We'll be OK until the dead dino juice runs out. Good thing we have lots.
 

DocNo

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And just like nuclear - we will be stuck with tons of radioactive waste. Ah progress.
Not all waste is the same level of risk. And we should be burning our really nasty stuff instead of trying to bury it (talk about stupid).

As an aside, Coal plans produce more radioactive waste than our nuclear plants - it's lower levels but we burn so much coal it adds up.

Sadly we are here because people love to focus on one or two talking points instead of looking at all the variables at play.
 
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Mega6

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Well Economical Fusion is not here, and when and if it does ever get here - we will screw it up just like we did Nuclear @ 3 mi. Island and Chernobyl. Does that get us back on track?
 

motomonkey

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Well Economical Fusion is not here, and when and if it does ever get here - we will screw it up just like we did Nuclear @ 3 mi. Island and Chernobyl. Does that get us back on track?
It's not even possible to get an event on the scale of Chernobyl or even Three mile island with a Tokamak fusion reactor.

When a Tokamak reactor containment (The magnetic bottle) fails, the fusion reaction stops. simple as that. A catastrophic failure would be contained in the reactor housing. any radiation hazard would be minimal.

A fission reactor has the exact opposite problem of a fusion reactor. unless you moderate the reaction in some way, once the reaction starts the reaction will continue until the fuel is exhausted. all it requires is enough fissile material piled up and presto, reaction. There are natural low grade fission reactors that have been found in areas with sufficiently pure Uranium deposits.

EDIT: Forgot that mention you require some sort of moderator (water) to slow the fast neutrons down in a natural reactor, with the lower percentage of u235 unrefined Uranium has

Even starting a sustained fusion reaction is extremely difficult, much less one that produces more power than is required to operate (No one has managed to do this yet.)
 
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