Compact Fusion Reactor: the key to energy independence?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by aaronvan, Oct 23, 2014.

  1. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #1
    This will be a game changer if it pans out. A city of 80,000 people powered by a device that could sit on a flatbed truck is fantastics. However, I am reminded to the cold fusion debacle back in the early 90s. Already, some other fusion physicists say this plan is unworkable. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    http://aviationweek.com/technology/skunk-works-reveals-compact-fusion-reactor-details

    Note: I can't tell if this link is paywalled. Someone let me know if it is, and I'll post the text.
     
  2. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #2
    It's not paywalled.

    I don't have time to read it at the moment, but I'll say this. Skunkworks talking about it makes it, if not more plausible, than at least more interesting than if some random crazy off the internet started talking about being able to solve the worlds energy problems using magnet based perpetual motion machines.
     
  3. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #3
    Skunkworks talking about it means not all that much. 2 years ago, they were saying they expected to have a working prototype by 2017 and production models by 2020. As with most fusion projects, those numbers have slid downstream as they get ever closer to almost achieving ignition.

    I mean, yeah, it sounds darn appealing, to be able to deploy smaller power plants locally instead of having a few huge ones – greater efficiency in transmission and better grid security – but, obviously, they have to make something that works. So far, it looks like working fusion reactors have to be millions of kilometers in size or they will be impractical.
     
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #4
    I grinned at that.
     
  5. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #5
    because, you know, you just have a sunny disposition
     
  6. aaronvan, Oct 23, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2014

    aaronvan thread starter Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #6
    I always loved this song:

    Edit: They Might be Giants.
     
  7. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #7
    Hmmm. A potential game changer for energy systems paid for by American's tax dollars and behind the patent walls of a private corporation.


    Yea. Not going to happen.
     
  8. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #8
    So, The Hermans have been able to generate 31% of their energy using wind and solar. Why should we pour untold billions into tech that is unproven and potentially dangerous when instead we can use proven tech whose efficiency is improving every single day?

    I've never understood the almost messianic fervor that exists amongst those who think nuke power is supreme.
     
  9. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #9
    And lightning. Don't forget lightning.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #10
    This isn't nuclear fission, it's fusion. There's a massive difference between the two. While I'm all for investing in clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, it doesn't come close to solving all our energy needs. It's ultimately a supplemental source set alongside a much more powerful central source, which is the role fusion would be playing.

    Our best bet is to implement and improve upon the best technologies currently available, while planning for the future. It's not an either/or situation. We need both.

    ----------

    Speaking of which, where has Shrink been lately?
     
  11. gkarris macrumors 604

    gkarris

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    #11
    Don't you love it when Sci-Fi becomes reality? :eek:

    Go Lockheed-Martin!!!

    ;)

    [​IMG]
     
  12. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #12
    Well, fusion power is essentially that which makes the entire universe run. And it avoids all the nasty, dangerous and poisonous radioactive elements that make fission power so doomed.

    Wind- and solar power is a nice idea. But, as we all know, the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind is the stereotypical symbol of unreliability. And from a practical standpoint, they need a lot of maintenance to keep running smoothly.

    So the idea of a clean, infinite, and low-cost power source is tremendously appealing. Quite literally what couldn't we do given enough clean, cheap power?

    Philosphically, if not to say scientifically, I'm not a believer in fusion reactors. I just don't think we humans are destined to enjoy something like that.
     
  13. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #13
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power#Waste_management
    The large flux of high-energy neutrons in a reactor will make the structural materials radioactive. The radioactive inventory at shut-down may be comparable to that of a fission reactor, but there are important differences.

    The half-life of the radioisotopes produced by fusion tends to be less than those from fission, so that the inventory decreases more rapidly. Unlike fission reactors, whose waste remains radioactive for thousands of years, most of the radioactive material in a fusion reactor would be the reactor core itself, which would be dangerous for about 50 years, and low-level waste another 100. Although this waste will be considerably more radioactive during those 50 years than fission waste, the very short half-life makes the process very attractive, as the waste management is fairly straightforward. By 500 years the material would have the same radiotoxidity as coal ash.[136]​
    Although 100-500 years is better than 10s of thousands, that doesn't mean it's clean. It certainly isn't non-radioactive.
     
  14. aaronvan thread starter Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #14
    There is only one carbon-free energy source that can realistically replace fossil fuels and still supply the nation's baseload energy requirements, and that is of course nuclear fission (which already provide 21% of America's energy.)

    Some people who believe climate change augers the imminent end of civilization contemptuously dismiss nuclear power with "it's too expensive" or "the waste is dangerous." Those people aren't really that concerned about climate change.
     
  15. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #15
    I don't understand why Solar, wind, and geothermal WITH A MODERN GRID (storing energy for nighttime) doesn't suit our needs. The only problem right now is ramping up battery production for the new generation of batteries.

    I don't think nuclear is needed if we mobilize the way we did for WWII. $100 million in DoD funds went to next gen battery technology and even that pittance had enormous breakthroughs in the labs that are just waiting to be adapted to mass manufacturing.

    Combine that with the new anodes (carbon nanotubes), lithium foam, and the new metamaterials that shatter the previous 40% solar panel ceiling (we're seeing 60%-85% in small scale labs, the research that occurs in every industry before investment allows for scaling) and we have far more than enough of the energy needs covered.

    It's not that the technology isn't there, its the investment that's needed. I'd rather take the $1+ billion ever nuclear plant needs and put it to work getting the technologies into production.

    We don't NEED nuclear, it just may be the last dash to complacency before we get serious.
     
  16. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #16
    If you want insight into what's "in the plan," read the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (with projections to 2040).

    Spoiler alert: Here's a graphic illustrating the current energy plan for 2014 through 2040. (Nuclear won't see any growth.)

    Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 2.19.21 PM.png
     
  17. lannister80 macrumors 6502

    lannister80

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    #17
    For real. Pump water up hill/into towers during the day/when it's windy, let gravity make the water run turbines at night/when it's not windy.

    Or in the case of thermal solar, heat up those huge drums of salt to a few thousand degrees F, run steam turbines on them day and night (so much thermal mass they never cool down that much).
     
  18. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #18
    And those are only two solutions. The battery tech exists, it's just no one wants to make the investment in setting up a manufacturing pipeline because business is far too conservative. That's where government investment comes in.
     
  19. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #19
    Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't a battery manufacturing pipeline supposed to be one of things that Elon Musk was investing in? It was partly for the Tesla cars, or maybe even mostly, but I thought one of the intended consequences was to either provide batteries for other storage customers, or act as a business pioneer for others who might want to enter that market but were more risk-averse.
     
  20. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #20
    the battery/energy storage is the key part.
    i am sure they could set up huge wind/solar/wave farms way in the middle of the ocean, if they could then transfer/store the energy efficiently
     
  21. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #21
    That's current era Lithium Ion. It will definitely help as the scale of that factory will drive prices lower, but I'm talking about stuff currently in the labs of RIT, MIT, Stanford, etc.

    ----------

    I refer you to my posts above.

    The solutions are there. We just need to take half of the military budget, and fix the joke of an electrical grid we have now so we can connect all of these upcoming renewable sources.

    I've read that yesterday Obama used his military orders to set up a program to train 50,000 veterans on bases (the GOP has kept him from doing it elsewhere) on installing solar panels. A welcome move from a man who has done more to kill us than his predecessors (fracking releases more than enough methane to completely overwhelm any CO2 cuts that natural gas brings, as well destroying the water supplies, this 100 year of energy independence is a lie straight from the think tanks).
     
  22. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #22
    Yeah, that's what I mean, too. I thought Musk was also investing in bringing some of that research into small-scale production, then leading to large-scale production. In other words, it wasn't just a current-technology big battery factory he was investing in, it was a research-to-production battery improvement pipeline.

    Maybe I'm misremembering, because the only things I've read about battery production and Elon Musk recently is about the big factory. If I read about it at all, it was probably a couple years ago, so I'll try to find a source.
     
  23. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #23
    Re: storage for solar, wind etc. - it seems to me the answer is obvious: compress air and then use the compressed air later to drive generators. Not terribly efficient (suppose it depends on whether one recovers the heat from the compression), but it'd work and one doesn't need a hydroelectric project to do it.

    With respect to fusion, well, Pons & Fleisch.
     
  24. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #24
    But one does need a rather large pneumatic storage container. A "pneumoelectric project", so to speak. And it needs to be airtight, or at least low leakage, otherwise the efficiency goes down pretty quickly.
     
  25. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #25
    Agreed, but there is active work in the area. Sorry to quote Wikipedia, but FYI http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_energy_storage. Seems reasonable to me to try this approach.
     

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