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Construction of French Fusion Reactor Underway 389

Posted by samzenpus
from the limitless-escargot-coming-soon dept.
GarryFre writes "It has been said that fusion is 50 years away for quite a few decades, but now work has actually been started. Digging has begun in the south of France on the planned site for France's first fusion reactor. A tokomak is a torus shaped magnetic confinement device which is necessary to withstand the temperatures associated with fusion that are so high, solid materials can't hold them. As such, the building represents the future core of ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.) It will be interesting to see if it takes 50 years to build it."
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Construction of French Fusion Reactor Underway

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  • Oh well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by KingAlanI (1270538) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:24PM (#33593594) Homepage Journal

    Guess we can't go fusion now either, since that would entail imitating the cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
    (That was sarcasm...I hope. :P)

    • by Starteck81 (917280) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:27PM (#33593628)
      We'll do but we'll call it "Freedom Fusion".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, we're lucky we had a Luddite peanut farmer for President to save us from energy independence by banning nuclear waste reprocessing.

      God bless the retards in Congress in bed with the oil industry (literally). Without them, we wouldn't have the joy of $200 billion drained from the U.S. economy every year to pay for petroleum.

      And hugs to the corpse of President Nixon without whom we wouldn't have the cozy relationship with China that allows us to say goodbye to over $200 billion per year only to borrow it

      • by haruchai (17472)

        That Luddite wanted America to pursue renewable strategies as well as the other nastier alternatives - remember the solar panel on the White House roof? Also, nuclear waste reprocessing sounds wonderful in theory but is not a slamdunk in practice. France still needs to finds a place to bury the stuff that's not worth reprocessing and the greater needs and sprawl of the US would have made for hell of a lot more waste to be dumped in someone else's back yard.
        The thorium reactor might have resolved all these p

  • French? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Freedom Fusion.

  • by drcheap (1897540) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:25PM (#33593610) Journal

    LE DAILY NEWS
    Wednesday, September 15, 2060

    The country formerly known as France has successfully performed its first and last Fusion reaction.

  • Haven't fusion reactors been built already but have simply used more energy than they produced?

    No time to google when shooting for FP.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hpa (7948)

      Quite. ITER follows in the steps of the Joint European Torus (JET), and other research reactor. It is not aimed at achieve power plant break even (that is slated for the followon project, DEMO) nor economical breakeven (that would come after DEMO).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:10PM (#33594020)

        Actually, ITER is intended to demonstrate a useful amount of energy production from fusion. It's baseline design is for Q=10, i.e. 10 times more power out from fusion than put in. This is essentially a feasibility demonstration, and experimental test bed for things like wall modules and blankets. The follow-on (DEMO) will then be a prototype power plant, and actually be connected up to generators etc.

        ps. though AC, also a plasma physicist working on tokamaks

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by martas (1439879)
          quite so - and the cool thing about this is that it's likely to result in a whole bunch of improvements in materials and such, that should bleed through to commercial applications. i hope.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smaddox (928261)

        Quite. ITER follows in the steps of the Joint European Torus (JET), and other research reactor. It is not aimed at achieve power plant break even (that is slated for the followon project, DEMO) nor economical breakeven (that would come after DEMO).

        Or more likely, economical break-even fusion will come in some other form. There is a large sub-population of fusion researchers that don't expect tokomak fusion to ever be economically viable (particularly without a hybrid fusion-fission fuel cycle). However, almost all fusion researchers agree that it is still important to develop, possibly because it is the only one we know will actually work (achieve Q>1, AKA generate more heat-energy than is put in).

        In my opinion, economical fusion will require a co

    • "Haven't fusion reactors been built already but have simply used more energy than they produced?"

      That's correct. Hobbyists have built fusion reactors in their garages, and successfully achieved fusion.

      There are about 30 Tokamak fusion reactors in the world today. All of them produce fusion. None of them produce more power than they require to run. Why do the ITER managers believe theirs will be different? That I don't know.

      Also, there is evidence that the ITER project is badly managed, in my opinio
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:19PM (#33594120)

        There are two main reasons why it is thought that ITER can achieve more power out than in (10 times more in fact)

        1. It is about 8 times the plasma volume of JET (about 2x in each direction). The temperature gradients in tokamaks have limits (things like Ion Temperature Gradient mode-driven turbulence) so the bigger you make the machine the hotter you can make the middle of the plasma and the better your performance. The problem with this is that the power output goes like the volume, but the area this power is deposited on goes like the area. Hence why small fusion plants would be nice, and materials are the biggest issue for ITER and DEMO

        2. They will be using Tritium in ITER. Tokamaks today have only very rarely used tritium (e.g. JET, JT60-U) to produce more power out than in (very briefly 1s). This is because the plasma physics doesn't really change when you add Tritium, so experiments use Deuterium which is much cheaper and less dangerous (e.g. radioactive). At 100 million degrees, the D-D fusion rate is still pretty small and so the amount of fusion energy produced is tiny. The D-T rate is orders of magnitude higher and so significant power can be produced

        p.s. Yes, AC plasma physicist

        • by IICV (652597) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:30PM (#33594760)

          The above AC is clearly lying about being a plasma physicist - he probably just read this book [slashdot.org] over the weekend and now understands everything. Literally.

        • by Latent Heat (558884) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:28PM (#33596102)
          As every school child knows, the way you make an H-bomb is that you set an A-bomb next to a bunch of deuterium, and when the A-bomb goes off, the intense heat and radiation fuses the deuterium. I think there was an old Mission Impossible episode where the bad guys built an H-bomb on this principle, where when you see the Mission Impossible folks make their getaway at the end, the H-bomb was kept inside the Caltech Millikan Library.

          Actually, Teller thought for the longest time you could make an H-bomb this way, kind of like making a big high-explosive bomb by putting some dynamite next to a bunch of fertilizer or some such thing. It was known as the Classical Super (bomb). One of the contributions of the early generation computers was showing that the Classical Super would never work, that is, unless you fortified it with gobs of tritium, making it completely impractical. That you could get tritium to fuse with deuterium had already been demonstrated, by boosted A-bombs in the US, by the Layer Cake, known as Sakharaov's First Idea in Russia, but this was hardly what people had in mind for a Super bomb.

          The details of what both the US, Russia, and maybe Britain, France, and China got to work as a staged nuclear bomb are somewhat sketchy, and whether this is truly a fusion bomb or a monster fusion-boosted fission bomb is a matter of controversy, but the actual H-bomb is believed to be out-of-the box thinking from the Classical Super.

          Some engineering intuition tells me the Tokamak is the Classical Super of controlled fusion -- something that will work if you throw enough tritium at it, but the tritium requirement making the Tokamak impractical -- think breeding time and EROEI -- much as the Classical Super was ultimately impractical as a bomb.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Smidge204 (605297)

            One of the contributions of the early generation computers was showing that the Classical Super would never work, that is, unless you fortified it with gobs of tritium, making it completely impractical.

            "Ivy Mike [wikipedia.org]" begs to disagree with you on this point. 10-15 Megaton fusion blast, ignited by a standard fission bomb "next to" (technically above) a huge canister of liquid deuterium, with no tritium used at all.

            "Actually, Teller thought for the longest time you could make an H-bomb this way" - and he was essen

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Ihlosi (895663)
              "Ivy Mike" begs to disagree with you on this point. 10-15 Megaton fusion blast, ignited by a standard fission bomb "next to" (technically above) a huge canister of liquid deuterium, with no tritium used at all.

              77% of the energy released by this bomb came from fissioning the natural uranium tamper (with fast neutrons provided by the fusion reaction).

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Smidge204 (605297)

                There was still sustained, massively-energy-positive fusion without tritium, which the parent was saying was essentially impossible. That was my point.

                =Smidge=

      • by prefect42 (141309) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:58AM (#33597026)

        I went to a talk from a fusion proponent recently who was involved with ITER, and had worked on fusion for most of his career. His view is that the media obsess over break even, and don't understand the reasons they've not hit it. His explanation was that they know how to get to break even now, but that wouldn't make for a usable reactor, as the cost of enegy production would be just too high if you're only just past that threshold. Also the cost of hitting break even now is considerably more than not hitting it. So instead of wasting lots of money hitting break even for a headline, they're trying to sort the issues they know to exist that are stopping them from being considerably more efficient than break even.

        There were people on ITER who wanted it to be connected up to the grid, so that if they surpass break even (which they expect to), they'd be able to get a considerable PR coup. Problem is, hooking it up would have added considerably to the costs, which given how much it's overrun could have ended up killing the project.

  • by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:27PM (#33593626)

    It may well be physically in France, I wouldn't call it French per se. The I in the name most assuredly stands for International, with technical and financial input from around the world (China, the EU, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the USA, in alphabetical order).

    It's a project we all may ultimately depend on as a civilisation, so the International part is important.

    • by tenex (766192) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:29PM (#33594220)

      I can imagine the scientists and technocrats from: China, the EU, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the USA, sitting in a room pondering the question of where to put this new fusion reactor--the biggest and baddest one ever built.

      China: "India is the best place..."
      India: "Heck no, we reckon Russia is better..."
      Russia: "Nyet... How about Texas..."
      (room grows silent)
      In unison: Lets put it in "France"

      France (EU): "Thank you, this quite the compliment..."

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:28PM (#33593634)

    the world's first Fusion Reactor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farnsworth-Hirsch_Fusor

    • by drspliff (652992)

      Professor Farnsworth... hrm...

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      I like the wiki entry "Fusors have been assembled in low-power forms by hobbyists."
    • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:38PM (#33594292) Journal

      Of course this design has no chance of achieving net power output. It's useful as a source of low-energy neutrons. I've always wondered what kinds of isotopes you could make with one. The next "radioactive boyscout" might use them. If you aren't familiar with that story, google it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rickd77 (1391045)

        Of course this design has no chance of achieving net power output. It's useful as a source of low-energy neutrons. I've always wondered what kinds of isotopes you could make with one. The next "radioactive boyscout" might use them. If you aren't familiar with that story, google it.

        For all "intents and purposes", "whom" remains part of the language. I care about spelling and grammar, particularly when i see either misused.

  • by sayfawa (1099071) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:29PM (#33593652)
    That eternal "Fusion is 50 years away" saying stopped being due to physics and started being due to squabbling countries and their bureaucracies many years ago. ITER could have been started over a decade ago.
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:49PM (#33593834) Homepage

      If the the repulsive force of squabbling bureaucrats could be overcome using conference-room confinement, the resulting release of energy would power the world forever.

      • The problem is, as governments the world over have shown, the repulsive force of bureaucrats can be transmitted through power lines, so if your containment isn't tight enough, the whole world goes to hell.

    • by Prune (557140)
      Compared to the Polywell and General Fusion (as well as other MTF variants studied by LANL) ITER is a huge waste of money.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      That eternal "Fusion is 50 years away" saying stopped being due to physics and started being due to squabbling countries and their bureaucracies many years ago. ITER could have been started over a decade ago.

      But they have to finish it before 21 December 2012.

      --

      He can't be dead, not with this lifeline Jim.

  • As an American.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daemonenwind (178848)

    I'm looking at France and saying, hmm...

    -Leading in important technology to answer the world's problems
    -Pushing for freedom while criticizing the US on its record
    -Building strong military (aircraft carriers, etc)
    -French President pushing US President to avoid Socialism

    It's starting to look like there's a new Leader of the Free World.
    Mr. Sarkozy, I think you're well on your way to earning it.

    • by Zzzoom (780635) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:32PM (#33593686)
      I guess your Free World doesn't have any gypsies in it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "Gypsy" has double meaning: it's an ethnicity, and it's also a culture. As cultures goes, this particular one is deeply rooted in crime, it's practically what it breathes.

        And that crime is, effectively, what is persecuted in Europe. It gives the perception of racism, because it's one of those cases where straightforward application of laws results in a disproportionally large number of representatives of a particular culture (who also happen to be representatives of a particular ethnicity) being targeted. T

    • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:34PM (#33593702)

      Shame about the whole 3 strikes business and kicking the Roma's out of the country...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)

      They just outlawed burqas in public. They are far more socialist than we ever were (A good thing, IMHO, but still, bad example.) Their military is, ah, not very large by any standard, for instance, they have a grand total of one carrier of some 37 kilotons. We have eleven carriers over twice that size. They may have broken ground on an international effort to build a fusion reactor, but until it produces more energy than it consumes, I would hardly call them world leaders in important technology. Sarkozy ha

      • by hitmark (640295)

        About those carriers, what are their value these days?

        • by maeka (518272)

          About those carriers, what are their value these days?

          Same as it ever was.
          Name a better way to project air power to the other side of the world?

        • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          They are very valuable for bringing aid to disaster struck places and for bring bombs and missile to places that are about to be struck by disaster.

      • by iceaxe (18903)

        I wonder, if we USians had nearly limitless energy sources without the use of petrochemicals, would we need 11 humongous aircraft carriers?

        Just a passing thought...

        (And yes, I know that the new reactor is not a nearly limitless energy source, it's a research device. Maybe in 50 years...)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dakameleon (1126377)

        Their military is, ah, not very large by any standard,

        Uh... if Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] is anything to go by, France has almost as many active armed forces per capita as the US (7.3 vs 7.9), and is the largest of the "allied" forces. So no, by many standards they're actually quite a large military.

    • by ClintJCL (264898)
      Too bad about their drug laws, harsher than most of Europe.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Aircraft carrier. They have one and it's a pretty crappy one too, they built it too short for flight ops, something they learned when they tried to conduct flight ops on it, it has a balky reactor, it breaks propellers, etc.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_de_Gaulle_(R_91)#Trials_and_technical_problems [wikipedia.org]

      ITER as others have pointed out, is not a French reactor, it's a reactor being built in France by international partners

      France is also on the leading edge of stifling religious freedom among the Islamic co

    • I had no idea how bad things had become in the USA, but if they're so bad that you look at Sarkozy as an positive role model, then I'm very glad I have no short-term plans to visit.
  • T-O-K-A-M-A-K (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:32PM (#33593680) Homepage Journal
    SPELLING FAIL.
  • Not French (Score:3, Informative)

    by gpig (244284) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:34PM (#33593704)

    It's an international reactor, hence the "I" in ITER.

    Duh.

  • According to sources inside the ITER meeting at Jeju, Korea, the six non-host partners will now contribute 6/11th of the total cost - a little over half - while E.U. will put in the rest.

    Sounds like it's mostly not Frances'.

  • They cost $50,000 and come out in the year 2050!

    yes that from simcity 2000

    • by demonbug (309515)

      F-U-N-D
      F-U-N-D
      F-U-N-D
      F-U-N-D
      F-U-N-D

      ...

      Earthquake!!!!!!

      Stupid Slashdot telling me not to use caps. Doesn't it understand that my humor would make even less sense if it was lower case?

  • Polywell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sunlighter (177996) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:36PM (#33593722)
    The Polywell [emc2fusion.org] will get there first.
    • by Prune (557140)
      General Fusion will beat them with their magnetized target fusion variant. They have been well-reviewed by LANL scientists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Fusion [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dch24 (904899)
        From the wikipedia article:

        In 2009 a consortium led by General Fusion was awarded C$13.9 million by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to conduct a four-year research project on "Acoustically Driven Magnetized Target Fusion"; SDTC is a foundation established by the Canadian government. The other members of the consortium are Los Alamos National Laboratory and Powertech Labs Inc.

        I would hope LANL believes in the project. They're partners in it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by c6gunner (950153)

        Seems unlikely. There's no indication that their machine will ever reach break-even, and the idea of a piston-powered fusion reactor makes me laugh. As for Los-Alamos, their magnetized-target fusion research seems to have stalled - no updates since 2003. Don't hold your breath on this one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      WB-8 was supposed to have been completed earlier this year, yet I note that there aren't any preliminary results or even pretty pictures of it in operation on that site. I'd love to see the Polywell concept work, but they've been very quiet since getting their last bit of funding.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        When some of the early fusion reactor designs were tried they worked great.... until they started trying to increase the temperature and confinement. Tokamaks have been chosen for ITER because they are the most promising and well tested design. When polywells can demonstrate temperatures in excess of 2 keV (many large tokamaks e.g. JET, DIII-D, JT60-U), long operation (e.g. Tore Supra, over an hour), more energy out than in even briefly (JET, JT60-U), then people might become interested.

        I wish the polywell

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      With no real published data, and body of *experimental* and theoretical evidence that say it won't..... I wouldn't hold your breath.
  • ... Gypsy scientists make significant breakthrough in fusion energy. Expect to have commercial reactors ready within 3 years.
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      ... Gypsy scientists make significant breakthrough in fusion energy. Expect to have commercial reactors ready within 3 years.

      I don't think fusing your hand to the stove is what we're talking about here ....

  • by viking80 (697716) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:53PM (#33593860) Journal

    Design parameters for a fusion reactor:
    1. Shielding: 10m of water or similar as well as magnetic shielding
    2. Energy density 10kW/m2
    3. Politics: Not in my backyard

    Conclusion:
    Sun
    1. Atmosphere and earth magnetic field: perfect
    2. perfect almost anywhere
    3. 150 million km away: perfect

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vux984 (928602)

      3. 150 million km away: perfect

      Meh. For you maybe. But what if it explodes? Probably destroy the whole planet from that close. No way I'm going to support this environmental disaster waiting to happen. I'm lobbying to have it shut down or at least moved so that it orbits the earth from further out. ;)

  • 50 Years Away? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:00PM (#33593924)

    I'm sure Fusion was only 20 years away when I was a kid 30 years ago.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      I'm sure Fusion was only 20 years away when I was a kid 30 years ago.

      There was a curse on the reactor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SleazyRidr (1563649)

      See, once you achieve fusion, it messes with the Tachyon fields and sends you back in time. The trick is to reverse the polarity of your own Tachyon fields, so they cancel out with the Tachyon fields of the fusion reactor. You'll probably be killed in the process, but the rest of humanity will get to enjoy fusion power for the rest of eternity.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:18AM (#33597096)
    First, it's "Tokamak". And then this isn't the "first fusion reactor" in France. I'm sure you can find a few Fusors used as neutron sources, as well as these fusion reactors:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tore_Supra [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak_de_Fontenay_aux_Roses [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LULI2000 [wikipedia.org]

  • Not French !! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Liquid Len (739188) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:26AM (#33597118)
    I said it earlier and I'll say it again: this is *not* a French reactor. It may be physically based in France, but it's an international endeavour. There's already a tokamak in operation, located in England and operated by the whole EC: it's called JET, for "Joint European Torus".

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