Fusion power (fission welcome too)

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Anaxagoras
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Fusion power (fission welcome too)

Post by Anaxagoras »

I don't know if there's much reason to be excited about this, but there are private efforts to develop nuclear fusion.

A fusion startup backed by Jeff Bezos just raised another $65 million, signaling that investors are still betting on this 'Holy Grail' technology.

For Bezos that's probably like buying a lottery ticket. Odds are it won't pay off, but it's money he can afford to lose, so why not?
A fusion energy startup backed by Jeff Bezos just closed a $65 million funding round, led by the massive Singapore-based investment firm, Temasek.

The company, General Fusion, will use the funds to start building a demonstration power plant to test its fusion technology on a commercially-relevant scale.

"This represents the first effort to build a power-plant scale, power-plant relevant prototype fusion machine," General Fusion's CEO Christofer Mowry told Business Insider. "This is really the springboard for General Fusion and, frankly, for a community of private fusion companies around the world. This is what I call the SpaceX moment for fusion."

General Fusion is among a handful of fusion startups attracting high-profile investors in recent years. Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a competitor backed by a Bill Gates-led fund, closed a $115 million round in June, and Alphabet-backed TAE Technologies raised $375 million in 2016, according to data from PitchBook.

Private investors are betting big because the stakes are so high. If successfully commercialized, fusion could provide a powerful source of clean energy without many of the drawbacks of nuclear fission (typically referred to as "nuclear energy"), such as the production of hazardous waste.
Of course, there's also the ITER Tokamak they're building in France, but that's still years away from completion.

There's pictures of some of these contraptions (prototypes) in the article.
Last edited by Anaxagoras on Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Anaxagoras
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Anaxagoras »

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER
Thermal-to-electric conversion is not included in the design because ITER will not produce sufficient power for net electrical production. The emitted heat from the fusion reaction will be vented to the atmosphere.[5][6]
Thus increasing global warming through waste heat while generating no usable power. :notsure:
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Re: Fusion power

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Great.
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ceptimus
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Re: Fusion power

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ITER was supposed to cost $5 billion and be working by now. So far, it's cost $14 billion. The schedule is currently for the building to be complete in 2025, with full-scale tests beginning in 2035. Expect costs to rise and deadlines to slip as with all such projects.

If Bezos's system or one of the other Gates/Google ones go anywhere, they may make ITER an expensive white elephant.

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Re: Fusion power

Post by Rob Lister »

Anaxagoras wrote:
Wed Dec 18, 2019 6:04 am
I don't know if there's much reason to be excited about this, but there are private efforts to develop nuclear fusion.

A fusion startup backed by Jeff Bezos just raised another $65 million, signaling that investors are still betting on this 'Holy Grail' technology.

For Bezos that's probably like buying a lottery ticket. Odds are it won't pay off, but it's money he can afford to lose, so why not?
To understand what General Fusion is doing different, here's the founder at a TED talk. His explanation starts at 8:45.



I'm skeptical simply because there are so many schemes out there making some progress. Will this one pan out? Shrug.

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Re: Fusion power

Post by sparks »

This one is beyond our current engineering ability.

Too little, too fucking late.
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ceptimus
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Re: Fusion power

Post by ceptimus »

It's like stonemasons and carpenters trying to build a steam engine. They may be the best masons and carpenters in the world and use the highest quality stone and timber available - but if metal hasn't been discovered yet, then the best steam engine they can build will be huge, expensive, unreliable, and will produce little power. The masons and carpenters could make better use of their skill and time by building improved water wheels and windmills.

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Re: Fusion power

Post by Witness »

And all that while we have a free thermonuclear reactor a safe distance away. :P

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Re: Fusion power

Post by Rob Lister »

Wow, and I thought I was skeptical!
For present purposes, we define “voodoo fusion” as those plasma systems that have never produced any fusion neutrons, but whose promoters claim will put net electrical power on the grid or serve as a portable electric power generator within a decade or so. As in Richter’s pioneering fiasco, all the modern voodoo schemes offer perfect examples of one axiom of fusion energy R&D: The Inverse Timescale Axiom states that for any fusion concept, the smaller the achieved fusion neutron production, the shorter the predicted time to a working power reactor.

The total absence of any fusion neutron production has an inexplicable psychological effect: It encourages both promoters to predict and onlookers to believe that tinkering with a tepid plasma can result in commercial fusion electric power generators within a decade.

Voodoo incantations are necessary both to induce a trance in journalists, investors and politicians in order to procure financing, and eventually to command the fusion neutrons to materialize by witchcraft as those neutrons cannot be produced by the touted plasma concepts. Today the messianic incantations of the voodoo priest-promoters invoke the aura of “the energy source that powers the sun and stars” as well as the myth that terrestrial fusion energy is “clean and green” in order to cast a spell over credulous investors and politicians.
https://www.aps.org/units/fps/newslette ... voodoo.cfm

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Rob Lister
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Rob Lister »

ceptimus wrote:
Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:42 am
It's like stonemasons and carpenters trying to build a steam engine. They may be the best masons and carpenters in the world and use the highest quality stone and timber available - but if metal hasn't been discovered yet, then the best steam engine they can build will be huge, expensive, unreliable, and will produce little power. The masons and carpenters could make better use of their skill and time by building improved water wheels and windmills.
I like your analogy but I would refine it a bit; we really are at least close to having the technology, we just need more refinement.

I think it is more like Intel trying to go from 10 µm integration in 1970 to the 5 nm we enjoy today. It took very many slow, iterative gains to get from then to now, but with each gain they realized monumental rewards.

I suppose fusion is more like 1 nm integration ... and their are no rewards until there is actual success ... unless you are a con man so talented that you can fool the likes of Bezos.

I predict 50 years. Not a single year more. :wink:

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Re: Fusion power

Post by Abdul Alhazred »

A great big fusion reactor in the sky?

Sounds like a fairy tale. :BigGrin3:
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Rob Lister »

It's real, but it cuts off for roughly 12 hours in a 24 hour day and barely works for another 8. And in the few hours it would normally work, it has a habit of almost or completely shutting down before, during and after pending rains. It's quite a lot like my car that way.

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Re: Fusion power

Post by Witness »

I'll pollute the fusion thread with some fission:
The Next Nuclear Plants Will Be Small, Svelte, and Safer

A new generation of reactors will start producing power in the next few years. They're comparatively tiny—and may be key to hitting our climate goals.

For the last 20 years, the future of nuclear power has stood in a high bay laboratory tucked away on the Oregon State University campus in the western part of the state. Operated by NuScale Power, an Oregon-based energy startup, this prototype reactor represents a new chapter in the conflict-ridden, politically bedeviled saga of nuclear power plants.

NuScale’s reactor won’t need massive cooling towers or sprawling emergency zones. It can be built in a factory and shipped to any location, no matter how remote. Extensive simulations suggest it can handle almost any emergency without a meltdown. One reason is that it barely uses any nuclear fuel, at least compared with existing reactors. It’s also a fraction of the size of its predecessors.

...

NuScale uses a light water reactor—by far the most common type of reactor in commercial nuclear power plants—but that’s about where the similarities end. NuScale’s reactor is 65 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter, and is housed in a containment vessel only slightly larger. About the size of two school buses stacked end to end, you could fit around 100 of them in the containment chamber of a large conventional reactor. Yet this small reactor can crank out 60 megawatts of energy, which is about one-tenth the smallest operational reactor in the US today.

Going small has big benefits, says Jose Reyes, NuScale’s cofounder and chief technical officer. They’re safer, in part because they are small enough to sit in underground pools of water. If a reactor leaks, the heat can slowly diffuse into the pool. That also means the reactors could be built closer to the places where their power is needed, without the 10-mile safety buffer a conventional plant must have.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been reviewing NuScale’s design since 2016; if the commission gives its blessing, the company can finally start building the first commercial reactor of its kind. The review process is brutal—NuScale submitted a 12,000 page technical application—and will likely stretch on for at least another year. But the company has already secured permission to build its first 12-reactor plant at the Idaho National Laboratory, which may start supplying power to communities in Western states as soon as 2026.
https://www.wired.com/story/the-next-nu ... and-safer/ for more details.

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Re: Fusion power

Post by sparks »

Light water probably means solid fuel.

Solid fuel can and does melt.

Nope.

Making them way smaller is good but only because it makes containment in the event of a melt much easier.
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Anaxagoras »

Witness wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 12:35 am
I'll pollute the fusion thread with some fission:
No problem. Sounds intriguing. I changed the title to broaden the discussion.

With fission it seems to be more of a political will issue than insurmountable technical challenges.

Yeah, meltdowns can and have happened, but nothing is ever 100% risky-free. It's still, on balance, an important (and practical) way to get to a low-carbon energy economy.

BTW, I recently heard about this, which suggests that we're already fucked, and things will get progressively more dire over the next thousand years:

Climate change 'tipping points' too close for comfort

Think of it like a slow-moving domino chain. Once the first one is pushed over, the rest of them will fall. It'll take a long time for them to fall, because there's a lot of ice in Antarctica and Greenland to melt, and that will take centuries, but melt they will.
Loading the atmosphere with five million tonnes of CO2 every hour has pushed Earth dangerously close to a no-return threshold, beyond which lies an unlivable hothouse world, top climate scientists have warned.

There are 15 known tipping points in the planet's complex climate system, and nine of them—including permafrost, the Amazon rainforest, the Greenland icesheet, Arctic sea ice, and the Atlantic Ocean's circulation—are alarmingly "on the move", they reported in the journal Nature.

Locked inside the tundra of Russia, Alaska and Canada, for example, is twice as much CO2 and methane as there is already in the atmosphere. If humanity cannot manage its own carbon pollution, what will we do if Earth turns from sink to source, adding even more?

AFP spoke to two of the authors—Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, and Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Losing control

Q. How has scientific understanding of tipping points changed over the last decade or two?

ROCKSTROM: Today we are reaching a point of unequivocal scientific evidence that these tipping elements are real. The Earth system is an interconnected, self-regulating bio-geophysical system that can exist in different stable states. You can have rainforests, such as in the Amazon, that can tip over and become savannah. You can have stable icesheets, or ice-free conditions.
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Re: Fusion power (fission welcome too)

Post by sparks »

Question then becomes: How many humans will the next 'stable' state sustain?

Any?

And will it be truly stable if we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere? Probably not. One cannot keep shitting where they eat without soon not being able to eat there any longer.
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Anaxagoras »

Witness wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 12:35 am
NuScale uses a light water reactor—by far the most common type of reactor in commercial nuclear power plants—but that’s about where the similarities end. NuScale’s reactor is 65 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter, and is housed in a containment vessel only slightly larger. About the size of two school buses stacked end to end, you could fit around 100 of them in the containment chamber of a large conventional reactor. Yet this small reactor can crank out 60 megawatts of energy, which is about one-tenth the smallest operational reactor in the US today.

Going small has big benefits, says Jose Reyes, NuScale’s cofounder and chief technical officer. They’re safer, in part because they are small enough to sit in underground pools of water. If a reactor leaks, the heat can slowly diffuse into the pool. That also means the reactors could be built closer to the places where their power is needed, without the 10-mile safety buffer a conventional plant must have.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been reviewing NuScale’s design since 2016; if the commission gives its blessing, the company can finally start building the first commercial reactor of its kind. The review process is brutal—NuScale submitted a 12,000 page technical application—and will likely stretch on for at least another year. But the company has already secured permission to build its first 12-reactor plant at the Idaho National Laboratory, which may start supplying power to communities in Western states as soon as 2026.
https://www.wired.com/story/the-next-nu ... and-safer/ for more details.
Thinking about these small sized reactors: the Navy has been using small nuclear reactors to power carriers and subs and some other surface ships for decades now. Seems like a legit technology. Other than political resistance, what's the problem?
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Re: Fusion power (fission welcome too)

Post by Anaxagoras »

sparks wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:21 am
Question then becomes: How many humans will the next 'stable' state sustain?

Any?

And will it be truly stable if we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere? Probably not. One cannot keep shitting where they eat without soon not being able to eat there any longer.
That's the question. It's hard to know. Probably more than zero. At some point though, it will probably reach a new stable state, but that could be thousands of years away. And maybe we can figure something out. There are some crazy ideas, like putting aerosol particulates in the upper atmosphere to reflect away some of the sunlight. If it gets too hot. :notsure:
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Re: Fusion power

Post by Rob Lister »

sparks wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:35 am
Light water probably means solid fuel.

Solid fuel can and does melt.

Nope.
As solid fuel reactors go, this one is pretty cool. :)
  • The Triple Crown for Nuclear Plant Safety™ design safely shuts down and self-cools, indefinitely with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no additional water. It is the first self-protecting reactor.
  • High-pressure containment vessel, redundant passive decay heat removal, and containment heat removal systems.
  • The integrated design of the NuScale Power Module, encompassing the reactor, steam generators, and pressurizer, and its use of natural circulation eliminates the need for large primary piping and reactor coolant pumps.
  • A small nuclear fuel inventory, since each 60 MWe (gross) NuScale Power Module houses approximately 5 percent of the nuclear fuel of a conventional 1,000 MWe nuclear reactor.
  • Containment vessel submerged in an ultimate heat sink for core cooling in a below grade reactor pool structure housed in a Seismic Category 1 reactor building.
https://www.nuscalepower.com/benefits/s ... protection

Let's do a Fuk-up!


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Re: Fusion power (fission welcome too)

Post by sparks »

Sounds promising. But then again, so does the SSR and the LFTR. I still like LFTR the best because fission byproducts (which through decay cause the heat in solid fuel reactors when things go wrong even after the plant has been scrammed) are being constantly removed from the fuel salt. It doesn't appear NuScale or SSR make any attempt at keeping the fuel 'clean' and that has to lead to poisoned fuel and the aforementioned problem from fission product decay heat. And because the fuel is full of fission products after time, all the fuel can't be burnt up. It's got to be removed from the reactor and reprocessed one way or another if one wishes to recover the fuel that couldn't be burnt up the first time around.
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