Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Technology

Laser Fusion's Brightest Hope 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-together dept.
First time accepted submitter szotz writes "The National Ignition Facility has one foot in national defense and another in the future of commercial energy generation. That makes understanding the basic justification for the facility, which boasts the world's most powerful laser system, more than a little tricky. This article in IEEE Spectrum looks at NIF's recent missed deadline, what scientists think it will take for the facility to live up to its middle name, and all of the controversy and uncertainty that comes from a project that aspires to jumpstart commercial fusion energy but that also does a lot of classified work. NIF's national defense work is often glossed over in the press. This article pulls in some more detail and, in some cases, some very serious criticism. Physicist Richard Garwin, one of the designers of the hydrogen bomb, doesn't mince words. When it comes to nuclear weapons, he says in the article, '[NIF] has no relevance at all to primaries. It doesn't do a good job of mimicking secondaries...it validates the codes in regions that are not relevant to nuclear weapons.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Laser Fusion's Brightest Hope

Comments Filter:
  • Dots definitely something to focus on.

  • Totally unworkable (Score:5, Informative)

    by PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) on Friday March 29, 2013 @06:56AM (#43310353)

    Even if it was igniting and had good fusion gain, there are such a huge array of serious engineering issues that they have got no economic answers for that it is never going to work commercially. High precision optics in close proximity to nuclear blasts?? High precision targets that cost $10k (but would have to reduce to $0.25 to be commercial) being introduced into a plasma filled chamber at 15Hz that must be positioned with sub mm precision? May as well keep it running now for the materials side of things, but as much as possible fusion R&D budgets should be directed away from NIF and ITER (tokomaks are too big and too expensive to be commercially viable) and towards fusion options with at least some potential for commercial viability like:
    General fusion (liquid metal implosion on plasma target), Tri-Alpha, Helion (electromagnetic compression of plasma toroids), Polywell (Inertial electrostatic confinement in a magnetised 'wiffleball' trap).

    Also Fission in fast breeders provides a far more certain short term payoff, cheap, managable engineering issues, no nasty tritium to deal with and massively reducing radioactive waste compared to current non-breeding reactors. There is enough accessible Thorium and Uranium to power our civilisation at current levels until the sun kills the earth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You have to start somewhere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lxs (131946)

      There is enough accessible Thorium and Uranium to power our civilisation at current levels until the sun kills the earth.

      Care to back up that claim with solid data? because many experts would disagree with that assessment on uranium. [wikipedia.org] and thorium reactors are still experimental.

      • Even if we only have a hundred years worth of viable uranium, I would expect us to work out Thorium reactors (and viable fusion) long before then.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Even if we only have a hundred years worth of viable uranium"

          Current estimates are that if we had a "uranium economy" where any sort of significant amount of power came from fission, is that there's enough fuel for about 12 years. Seriously, look it up.

          Pointless anyway, nuclear is clearly dead. Last year they installed 31 GW of wind, about 25 (27?) of natgas, and 21 of solar PV. In that same year the "installed" -14 GW of nuclear. At the current rates, the US will be nuclear free by 2050. Seriously, look i

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Current estimates are that if we had a "uranium economy" where any sort of significant amount of power came from fission, is that there's enough fuel for about 12 years. Seriously, look it up.

            That assumes no reprocessing. The whole point of breeders is that they make more fuel than they consume.

            You are right that there is currently a flood of fossil fuel that crowds out nuclear, but people have such short memories...

            • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Friday March 29, 2013 @09:23AM (#43310863) Homepage

              "That assumes no reprocessing. The whole point of breeders is that they make more fuel than they consume."

              Breeder reactors have a 100% economic failure rate. Every study on the economics of a breeder economy is quick to point this out, and outline why they are extremely unlikely to be able to fix this problem.

              "You are right that there is currently a flood of fossil fuel that crowds out nuclear,"

              2/3rds of all new generation installed in the last year is renewable. Spin that any way you want.

              • The fact is we have enough Thorium to power the US for a 1000 years from ONE mountain PASS. That's right ONE mountain pass will supply the US with 100% of it's needs for 1000 years! There is enough Thorium in that mountain pass to shovel it into a bin and nearly use it without processing (when compared with conventional reactor refining) to supply us with 1000 years at current energy consumption for every last WATT [rawcell.com] we use. That link points to facts about Thorium as a fuel.
              • by wjwlsn (94460)

                2/3rds of all new generation installed in the last year is renewable. Spin that any way you want.

                OK, I'll bite... here's what I think is going through the head of someone developing a renewable energy project:

                Holy Shit! Have you seen how much over cost these dipshits are willing to pay for renewable power? And, even better, they already assume that we can't be baseload or dispatchable, so we get paid a premium for the power we generate even when they don't need it!!!

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                Every study on the economics of a breeder economy is quick to point this out, and outline why they are extremely unlikely to be able to fix this problem.

                You can still reprocess. The French have always done this.

                2/3rds of all new generation installed in the last year is renewable. Spin that any way you want.

                Does that count all the coal plants that have been converted to natural gas?

              • Currently.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            "Current estimates are that if we had a "uranium economy" where any sort of significant amount of power came from fission, is that there's enough fuel for about 12 years. Seriously, look it up."

            Okay.

            The current uranium reserves are enough for 80 years at current rates [world-nuclear.org] (~5 million tonnes total, and ~68000 tonnes per year), and that's not accounting for any future discoveries of significant deposits or using lower-grade deposits, which would greatly expand that supply if there was demand for it (i.e. if energ

          • by geekmux (1040042)

            ...nuclear is clearly dead. Last year they installed 31 GW of wind, about 25 (27?) of natgas, and 21 of solar PV. In that same year the "installed" -14 GW of nuclear. At the current rates, the US will be nuclear free by 2050. Seriously, look it up.

            Nuclear-free by 2050? That's a laugh.

            Now factor in greed and corruption that is the very basis of why this argument even exists, and wise up.

            • "Nuclear-free by 2050? That's a laugh."

              Ok, be lazy and don't look it up. Here, I'll do it for you:

              The IEA's BLUE Map for 2050 suggests that in order for nuclear to become the force it was predicted to during the nuclear renaissance talks, 20 large reactors would have to be commissioned every year. The current worldwide rate is negative 7 per year. That means nuclear will play an ever shrinking role in the total worldwide energy mix.

              More recently, the SAGE report suggests that new reactors will not replace e

              • by wjwlsn (94460)

                Please provide links to this so-called "SAGE report", because all I can find are self-published opinion pieces by anti-nuclear activists such as Amory Lovins and Peter Bradford... who, despite being a former commissioner of the NRC, has a long record of being anti-nuke.

          • by wjwlsn (94460)

            Here in Ontario-ari-ari-o, we pay our reactors 5.5 cents a kWh flat, when we sell it for about 2.9 cents. What a deal!

            That's the way the Ontario market is set up ... payouts are almost always higher than market price. The difference is made up by the "Global Adjustment", which is generally pretty huge and goes mostly to non-nuclear generators. The sentence that you wrote about "what a deal" nuclear is for Ontario is accurate, but incomplete; its true meaning is not what you intended. Here's what you should have written.

            Here in Ontario-ari-ari-o, we pay our reactors 5.5 cents a kWh flat, when we sell it for about 2.9 cents. What a deal! That's only about 2.5 cents/kWh above market, compared with the 17 cents/kWh above market paid to the non-utility, non-nuclear generators!

            For more info, see the following:

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Known Uranium reserves extractable at current market prices, which is something like $40/lbs, are rouchly 4 million ton, translating to a few decades at current consumption. Obviously, this depends a lot on the current price, which varied between $10/lbs and $100/lbs during the last 30 years. At $100/lbs, extraction from phosphate ore becomes viable, making 22 million tons available. At around $400/lbs, extraction from seawater appears possible, making at least 4 billion tons available. Clearly, Uranium

        • I bet they said that 50 years ago when the first generation nuclear power plants were being built. Right now I'm not expecting that in the next 50 years we'll have thorium worked out either. So how long are we going to keep telling ourselves that thorium is "only 100 years away"?

          Yes, I work in the nuclear industry and read up on this stuff because I find it exciting. But I don't find the rate at which mankind develops technology that could potentially change our civilization for the better too exciting :

      • by khallow (566160)
        It's worth noting many of those experts were wrong in their predictions or that the prediction doesn't mean that much. For example of the latter, Robert Vance merely noted that uranium production peaked about the same time that the US shut down new plant construction. You wouldn't expect supply to keep increasing when demand drops due to factors independent of the cost of extracting uranium.

        And it is known that there is a vast amount of uranium and thorium in the Earth's crust. I don't know whether enoug
      • by JDG1980 (2438906)

        Care to back up that claim with solid data?

        I suspect this claim comes from this page [stanford.edu] by the late John J. McCarthy. He summarizes the views of Bernard Cohen, which include specific figures for both the availability and price of uranium. (The cost figures presumably would have changed, as the article is 3 decades old, but the physics would not have.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by careysub (976506)

        There is enough accessible Thorium and Uranium to power our civilisation at current levels until the sun kills the earth.

        Care to back up that claim with solid data? because many experts would disagree with that assessment on uranium. [wikipedia.org] and thorium reactors are still experimental.

        Did you actually read the section of the article you linked to? If you did you would have read this: "If one is willing to pay $300/kg for uranium, there is a vast quantity available in the ocean. It is worth noting that since fuel cost only amounts to a small fraction of nuclear energy total cost per kWh, and raw uranium price also constitutes a small fraction of total fuel costs, such an increase on uranium prices wouldn’t involve a very significant increase in the total cost per kWh produced."

        How m

      • by balsy2001 (941953)
        I am not saying the estimates are wrong, but I take these types of estimates with a grain of salt. People have been warning about the end of oil for decades and saying peak oil is not far off. The problem is that these predictions are inherently based on proven reserves. In oil, as the demand increases (and hence the price and profit), companies start looking harder for more. In oil they historically keep finding it. The same may not be true for Uranium, but there is a decent chance there is more uranium
      • by Dr. Spork (142693)
        Removing uranium from sea water is commercially feasible [ieee.org], and the earth's rivers bring uranium to the sea faster than we could ever use it, even if it accounted for 100% of humanity's energy. So yes, as long as the rivers of Earth keep running, there will be enough accessible uranium.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do understand that breeder reactors can't transmute every fission product, right? A fission product can be very radioactive and still have a small neutron cross section for absorption. And since high level waste, even from current nuclear reactors, is not an enormous size, the benefit isn't great. The problem with high level waste isn't that there is a lot of it. The problem is that there is no permanent location to store it.

      And your statement about tritium is laughable. I don't mean to be an asshole wh

    • There is enough accessible Thorium and Uranium to power our civilisation at current levels until the sun kills the earth.

      Unfortunately, our civilization will kill itself before we start using that Thorium and Uranium.

      The biggest problems with nuclear energy aren't engineering and technology . . . they are political.

      • by Yomers (863527)
        oops, post to unmod. And yes, problems are political and in media - people got scared easy by nuclear incidents and media happily use.
    • Even if it was igniting and had good fusion gain, there are such a huge array of serious engineering issues that they have got no economic answers for that it is never going to work commercially.

      Generally I find it to be better to wait until I know if something will work, before I start wondering about commercial applications.

      In 1900 the idea of visiting the moon would probably have made H. G. Wells somewhat annoyed, as his book wasn't published until 1901 (before powered flight). Humans walked on the Moon

      • by plopez (54068)

        Given the rate of climate change do we have 70 years? How long before it is a *significant* percentage of power produced?

    • That's what I have been trying to tell the Slashdot crowd at every chance I can. I am willing to bet with a 4 year effort similar to the 4 years of the Manhattan project (1942-1945) where we went from ground zero ( No Pun Intended) to a developed nuclear bomb for 23 Billion in 2013 dollars that we could over come the materials problem for such high temperatures (700 degrees Celsius) and high neutron flux. I have actually proposed a workable solution for this problem (although it would be a little expensive
    • by Anonymous Coward

      but as much as possible fusion R&D budgets should be directed away from NIF and ITER (tokomaks are too big and too expensive to be commercially viable) and towards fusion options with at least some potential for commercial viability like:

      The list of alternative fusion devices being funded for research by the DoE (and a couple companies) is much longer than the list you gave and covers a wide range of scales from basic table top work to cheap room sized ones, to tokamak and variation facilities. While many of these designs are making progress, experience has taught that scaling up is not as simple as it may look at the beginning and it will take time for other designs to catch up with the performance of tokamaks (assuming it is even possibl

    • I don't understand why this Skunkworks project presentation [youtube.com] from Google's "Solve for X" program isn't receiving more attention. The presentation is made by a Lockheed Martin Skunkworks scientist (Charles Chase) who claims they will be able to make a 100MW fusion reactor the size of a truck trailer in a few years. Admittedly there aren't that many details given, but that is understandable as Skunkworks does't usually release its projects. To me the above presentation has the ring of authenticity. I have

      • From what I understand, there may have been a non-laws-of-physics-violating explanation for the observed production of neutrons and helium in the cold fusion curiosities of the late 80s, just we didn't know what we were looking at. The objection was "well this must be a chemical reaction because there's no way to overcome the Coulomb barrier!" required to squoosh protons close enough together to fuse into a heavier nucleus. However, recent re-analysis seems to indicate the helium and neutrons may actually h

        • From what I understand, there may have been a non-laws-of-physics-violating explanation for the observed production of neutrons and helium in the cold fusion curiosities of the late 80s

          I am quite aware of the details of "cold fusion". I don't want to talk about that. What I do want to talk about is the presentation by Charles Chase [youtube.com] on using small scale magnetic confinement (a cylinder of about 1 cubic meter volume I think) of plasma to achieve the conditions necessary for fusion. Sheesh. This is a nerds site. Would someone just watch the video I linked to and explain to me why this cannot be real. Because I have a physics background, and what Charles Chase speaks about sounds plausi

          • Small scale fusion isn't that hard. Farnsworth-Hirsch fusors have been built as high-school science fair projects. The hard part is getting the things to output more energy than it takes to run them.
          • by Maritz (1829006)

            Had a look at the video. Definitely very intriguing. Their 5-10 year estimate seems mostly based on the smaller size and lower capital. I would imagine the reason they can talk about it is because it's not a military program.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Even if it was igniting and had good fusion gain, there are such a huge array of serious engineering issues that they have got no economic answers for that it is never going to work commercially.

      But let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that those are all miraculously solved within the next month. Can we start using fusion? No, because it's nuclear fusion, and thus still nuclear, and thus still scary. For example, Greenpeace has already declared [greenpeace.org] that they will oppose fusion plants.

      Not that you can g

      • Wrong, we all just need stationary bikes hooked up to generators. Pedal faster, maggots!

        Crap, that generates CO2 as well, doesn't it?

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Friday March 29, 2013 @08:15AM (#43310595) Homepage

    "That makes understanding the basic justification for the facility, which boasts the world's most powerful laser system, more than a little tricky."

    NIF is a way to keep scientists at LLNL employed. That is its #1 justification, and always has been. Ask any insider.

    Any hope of laser-based fusion is a pipe dream, and always has been. Nuckolls himself, the guy that started all of this, was shown a calculation in the early 1970s that proves this beyond a doubt. The problem is that the price of the target is many many times the value of the electricity it could produce.

    Power on the grid right now is selling for about 3.3 cents a kWh. (see http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/marketdata/markettoday.asp)

    NIF, if it worked, which it doesn't aims to produce about 20 MJ a "shot". Under good conditions you might convert 25% of that to electrical power (don't quote gas peaker efficiencies, they're a different cycle). So we might get 5 MJ per shot.

    If you're not familiar with MJ, it's a measure of energy. kWh is a more common one, so I'll convert 5 MJ = 1.39 kWh.

    So at current prices, each shot might produce about 5 cents worth of power.

    Now simply look at the target. It's a gold-covered cylinder machined to the sixth decimal place accuracy, capped on it's open end by double-pane windows of some incredibly clear optical system, inside of which is an equally perfectly machined plastic sphere containing the fuel that's cryogenically frozen on the inside and then smoothed using an IR laser.

    The targets costs thousands and thousands of dollars per shot. And might (if it ever works) delivers a few cents of power. See the problem?

    When this was first pointed out to Nuckolls in the early 1970s he worried, and then ignored it. He proposed a system with such high gain that the fuel would be delivered from a perfume mister that would self-form through surface tension into a ball that would be close enough for comfort.

    We've spent 40 years learning about the physics of ICF, and what we've learned is that there is absolutely no way this could possibly work. The physics just isn't there. So instead we've pushed ahead with ever less-cost-efficient machines with ever-less-convincing excuses for doing so. Nova, built in the 1980s, was only 2-fold less successful in reaching break-even than NIF. However, NIF costs well over 10 times as much. The price efficiency is *dropping* with every generation.

    • by Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) on Friday March 29, 2013 @08:50AM (#43310701)
      Even when Tokamak was introduced for the first time, it was obvious that idea of using fusion process as a heating element (using steam or other inefficient way to convert heat to electricity) is simply laughable. Laser-based fusion is horrendous even as a concept - it's as barbaric as trying to create mass transit using 19-th century tram carriage propelled by small-scale nuclear blasts. There is absolutely no engineering elegance in it, even less than in the first-generation (fission) nuclear plants.

      I find Focus Fusion or some other non-billion-budget projects much more appealing - not because they have more chances to succeed (most of them don't), but because they represent something new. New technologies, new designs, new way of thinking at least. Compare NASA and SpaceX - yes, latter would not be possible without the former, but for now our real chance to progress towards easily accessible space-travel lies with (comparatively) small private companies, not with some inefficient hulking money-consuming monstrosity. Of course I would be glad to any form of cheap fusion energy, or any form of "consumer-grade" space-travel, but for now my hopes don't lie with NIF or NASA.
      • by trout007 (975317)

        I completely agree. I still don't think we really understand how stars work. I think the Electric Universe people might be on to something that the sun is powered externally and the fusion is taking place near the "surface" as an electromagnetic pinch and not in the interior. The Plasma Focus devices share similar characteristics and from an engineering and economics standpoint will be much better if the tech can be developed.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The Plasma Focus devices share similar characteristics and from an engineering and economics standpoint will be much better if the tech can be developed.

          That has been said about pretty much every fusion concept at the tabletop phase, and then things get complicated and harder as they scale up. There are still several other designs at different development points, some much further along that plasma focus, that think they can scale up better than tokamaks, and others yet that were found to hit brick walls at larger sizes. It is a slow process to sort out such issues for any device, and the larger ones are probably going to be more expensive than hoped. Th

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I completely agree. I still don't think we really understand how stars work.

          We don't really understand how lots of things work that we have right here, but I thought that the sun's gravitational field was what kept it contained.

          • by ultranova (717540) on Friday March 29, 2013 @11:55AM (#43311919)

            We don't really understand how lots of things work that we have right here, but I thought that the sun's gravitational field was what kept it contained.

            Gravity is just a theory. The combeting explanation, Theory of Intelligent Falling, provides an interesting alternative: simply dedicate the building your fusion reactor is housed in as a temple to your local solar deity, and re-title your electric bill as a sacrifice. I'm sure anthropologists can help recover the proper rituals to make it work; perhaps Egypt would be a good place to start, since they had to power their pyramid-building machines somehow.

            Granted, there might be some problems in places like Middle America due to changing cultural mores, but if either the USA or local drug barons would dedicate their victims to the cause, I'm sure that even the most bloodthirsty Aztec god would be more than satisfied. Just imagine it: the entire continent receiving limitless free electricity and all it would take would be for bullet moulds to imprint the text "Victims dedicated to mighty Huitzilopochtli" on their products!

            And this is why we must fight gun control: it's a communist plot to throw America into a Dark Age by stopping the human sacrifices that keep the Sun moving. The Founding Fathers knew this, having learned much wisdom from the natives, and did their best to ensure that the Chaos Gods would never hunger. That's the real reason why Bush so desperately wanted to go to war: the sacrifice reserves from World War II were finally running low, so more had to be made ASAP. Al-Qaida, a cover organization of CIA, was activated to manufacture the reason, and succeeded perfectly.

            Also, Moon landing was a hoax; in reality, the Japanese got there first. They used the Vernian "cannon" method to send first supplies and then an expedition - the USA later covered these up by claiming the blasts to be atomic bombs dropped by them, which is clearly ridiculous since Hiroshima and Nagasaki are habitable today which would be impossible if they'd been nuked. The Imperial Japanese base on the dark side of the Moon has been collaborating with Saurian overlords for years to spread pacifism, so the world would be left defenseless against the coming communist revolution and alien takeover.

            The only question is, what is Hitler's role in all this? Is he hiding in South American jungles, waiting for the coming war to rise once again, or has he already - for example, by receiving plastic surgery and a fake birth certificate and running for US president?

            TL;DR Hydrogen pellets don't work, you have to aim your lasers on still beating human hearts to generate fusion power. Also, communist Saurian overlords, Adolf Hitler, and an Imperial Japanese moon base are about to fight over who'll take over the world, but that's details.

        • by khallow (566160)

          I still don't think we really understand how stars work.

          Based on what? We have models that explain pretty well the distribution of stars we actually see and the energy output from these stars.

          • by trout007 (975317)

            Why is the corona so much hotter than the rest if the sun? There are a few theories but nothing proven.

        • by khallow (566160)

          and the fusion is taking place near the "surface" as an electromagnetic pinch and not in the interior

          If it really were, then why don't we see more variable conditions on the Sun's surface, greater mass escaping from the Sun, or similar fusion events on the gas giants?

      • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Friday March 29, 2013 @10:52AM (#43311509) Homepage

        "I find Focus Fusion or some other non-billion-budget projects much more appealing"

        Certainly, except they don't work, and can't.

        You *are* aware of Rider's work on non-equilibrium plasmas, right? Here, read the last sentence of this abstract

        http://pop.aip.org/resource/1/phpaen/v4/i4/p1039_s1?isAuthorized=no

        It's been out for almost two decades and no one's come up with an answer. He had a follow-up paper that expanded the same principles to a much wider set of potential designs. Almost all of them won't work - not "it will be hard", WON'T.

      • it's as barbaric as trying to create mass transit using 19-th century tram carriage propelled by small-scale nuclear blasts.

        Yeah, but it would be awesome [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Any hope of laser-based fusion is a pipe dream, and always has been

      NIF has a laundry list of problems (although some good research still comes out of it), but it should not be necessarily used as an example of state of the art for laser based inertial confinement fusion. Programs more directed at specifically producing fusion power concepts, like HiPER, are expected to do more with an order of magnitude cheaper price on equipment and much cheaper fueling, while specifically targeting high repetition rates. NIF really made no effort at running at a decent repetition rate,

      • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Friday March 29, 2013 @11:05AM (#43311587) Homepage

        "although some good research still comes out of it"

        What? A little stellar astrophysics and dense matter stuff, but we could get that same data other ways. Everything else is weapons related, and as NIF has demonstrated pretty clearly, wrong.

        "Programs more directed at specifically producing fusion power concepts, like HiPER,"

        I wrote the Wiki article on HiPER so I'm pretty familiar with it. It has no possibility of ever being an economical power producing device. The fast ignition process improves Q by about an order of magnitude, and so would solid-state lasers. So that's two orders of magnitude. We are five orders away from a practical Q. No one has any idea how to bridge that gap.

        Note that Mike Dunne, who almost single-handedly ran HiPER (and a cool guy generally) left the project and is now at NIF. I believe HiPER is basically dead, but I haven't heard much one way or the other recently.

  • by plopez (54068) on Friday March 29, 2013 @09:00AM (#43310747) Journal

    The bad news is that this has been the case since the 50s. Given the track record of fusion power, I wouldn't hold my breath. Given the rate of climate change we better develop other options fast.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      We have the other options. The first one is natural gas. It's still climate-affecting but much less so than coal, and it can actually replace gasoline for motor vehicle use which is very helpful. The next one is nuclear. If it's really actually urgent, we should switch as much energy as possible to these two posthaste, because we can reduce more greenhouse-gas emissions faster than jumping straight to all-renewables solutions (which are more capital-intensive) and fusion doesn't work for us yet.

      The good n

      • by Zyrill (700263)
        It's not only a question of what's more convenient, there's also the question of risk allocation. I'm not familiar with fracking, but I'm sure there's concerns there, just like there are with nuclear fission. I still think fusion is a pretty cool concept. If we're really serious about developing fusion though, how about we stop bitching about a billion dollars and just pour enough money on projects that are worthwhile? We keep saving banks with that money every other day!

        There's the example of W7-X in Ge
  • From an engineering standpoint the Dense Plasma Focus looks like the best option. I have no idea if it will really work but at least it looks like something that can be built and operated.

  • MagLIF is the current front runner in my book. I expect ITER to succeed as well.

  • by Tokolosh (1256448) on Friday March 29, 2013 @09:42AM (#43310997)

    ... and it always will be." - old saying.

    As a counterbalance: Clarke's Three Laws:

    1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      I don't think any distinguished elder scientist is calling fusion impossible, but rather calling the current approach to fusion unworkable and wasteful.
  • "Unlimited fusion power is only five years away"
  • They figured out how to extrude rubies as giant sheets. I saw them when I went to LLNL a few years back. The laser amplification system they developed is very cool, even if otherwise completely useless.
  • Several comments here have criticized the NIF for being a poor candidate for practical fusion power. Ok, fair enough.

    This misses the point. The NIF is not supposed to produce power or even produce a method that will be able to produce power. The NIF's real contribution is research. Achieving ignition is a grand scientific goal, a huge and difficult challenge that drives research and engineering to new heights, much like going to the moon.

    Why did we go to the moon? In JFK's famous speech he said: "We choose

  • Whenever I read into the NIF, I get excited about the potential. And then I read about the science behind it and I see that we dont even have a clear understanding of the amount of power it would actually take to achieve it. I feel like this is a giant expense crap shoot. And we are just hoping to stumble about a success. Despite the flashy homepage and the awsome shots from inside the labrotory, I am not convinced everyone is acting in a responsible manner with all the money that this project is consuming.

Happiness is a positive cash flow.

Working...