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Government Power The Almighty Buck Politics

MIT Used Lobbying, Influence To Restore Nuclear Fusion Dream 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-forgot-to-bury-the-head dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with the story of how MIT's fusion energy experiment is alive and well even though its federal funding was axed. "'In the end, it is about picking a winner and a parochial effort to direct money to MIT,' said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. 'It's certainly a case of lawmakers bucking the president and putting their thumb on the scale for a particular project.' MIT enlisted the support of a wealthy Democratic donor from Concord and the help of an influential Washington think-tank co-founded by John Kerry. These efforts were backed by lobbyists, including a former congressman from Massachusetts, with connections to the right lawmakers on the right committees. The cast also included an alliance of universities, industry and national labs, all invested in the fusion dream. 'It's ground-breaking research that could lead an energy revolution,' [Senator Elizabeth] Warren said. 'This was not about politics. This was about good science.' The revival of MIT's project, whatever its merits, clearly demonstrated what the combination of old-fashioned Washington horse-trading and new-fangled power — both nuclear and political — can do."
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MIT Used Lobbying, Influence To Restore Nuclear Fusion Dream

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:36AM (#47193359) Journal
    The article doesn't go into details about the quality of the program. The Obama administration removed funding, and Obama certainly isn't opposed to alternative energy. According to the article:

    the Obama administration, while sharing the hope that nuclear fusion will one day be harnessed as a power source, concluded that the MIT experiment was a waste of taxpayer money. It deemed MIT’s facility outdated and small, the least scientifically useful of three domestic fusion reactors. Indeed, critics of the experiment said it amounts to a $1.5 million-per-student training program that MIT wants to keep going to protect its turf and prestige.

    It would be interesting to see an analysis of what the program is actually accomplishing. It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

    • I'm pretty sure the Soylents will be against any energy program that isn't in tune with mother gaia though. Fusion doesn't sound like something they'd sign off on does it?

      imagine if we could build big fusion plants that could power cities... would they be all over that?

      I honestly don't know but given their attitude toward the nuclear programs I don't think they'd like it. I think fusion is tolerated mostly because they don't think its viable or worth worrying about right now. But if they suddenly made a via

      • I think the general argument is that fusion shouldn't produce any dangerous waste at all. On that basis, I would expect the group you mention to be for it. I've heard that current test reactors produce byproducts that are dangerous, but that these are not strictly necessary for the power generation, so it might be possible to produce a reactor that emits only helium.

        I guess that's part of the reason it needs further research.

        • by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:59AM (#47193609)

          If that's the general argument, then it's wrong. Deuterium-Tritium fusion (the kind that all fusion efforts are currently pursuing) would produce not-insignificant amounts of neutron-irradiated waste. The waste would be just as hard to deal with as current nuclear waste is, although it would be produced in much smaller quantities. Still, though, both fission and fusion are much better than the alternatives (fossil fuels).

          Aneutronic fusion would be virtually waste-free, but it's very hard and in no one's plans for the foreseeable future.

          About us environmentalists, there are many different groups, and not all of us are retarded. People need electrical power, I accept that. Electrical power brings prosperity and higher standard of living, and a happier populace. I've been advocating for years for people to stop building fossil fuel plants and replace them with nuclear plants, and a lot of other environmentalists agree with me. Environmentalism isn't just Greenpeace and hippies.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Karmashock (2415832)

            as to the different groups of environmentalists... I know... every group has that problem.

            But the issue is that to some extent we're all environmentalists. We all live in this environment and we all generally want our planet to be healthy etc.

            So as a political cause or faction, its hard to claim ownership of it unless you're in the extreme radical fringe. Because pretty much everyone agrees with everything BUT that fringe. And its the fringe that causes all the controversy.

            Cut them out and you get no disagr

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Beck_Neard (3612467)

              > The environmental movement that you and I believe in already won. It got everything it was trying to get.

              It had a lot of victories, no doubt about that. Lead-free gas, cleaner water, etc. But there's still a big problem and that's CO2 emissions. It's hard to argue that reducing CO2 is just childish entitlement thinking, when most everyone - environmentalist or not - agrees that it's a problem (except for a small corporate-manipulated fringe). In fact, it's probably the biggest environmental problem.

              If

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Karmashock (2415832)

                that's a half truth. People agree its a problem but they do not agree on the means of solving the problem.

                The radical environmental fringe wants radical action. The majority want a slow and measured response that doesn't upset things too much.

                the other side of the radical coin wants to do nothing at all.

                Every time either radical fringe encounters anyone that doesn't want to everything they want right away the exact way they want they accuse them of belonging to the rival fringe when of course 95 percent of

                • A lot of wisdom I do agree with. Regarding the storage problem - which I also agree to be the main bottleneck toward adoption of cleaner energy: why not use that energy at the point of production, to crack other hydrocarbons (biomass, corn husks, dirty coal, other carbon-rich waste), into liquid fuels using that energy, and store/transport these liquid fuels to the point where they will be used? I realize the process is not yet optimally efficient and not quite carbon-neutral, but it seems to me no worse
                  • Your idea about using green energy to make portable chemical fuel at the source is very reasonable. But the Soylent won't accept it.

                    They shut down the programs to burn garbage even though it's carbon neutral since the garbage will release CO2 as it decomposes either way. And the burning of garbage at 6000 degrees removes all toxic chemicals, kills all germs, radically reduces the volume of the trash, and leaves you with inert ash.

                    They're doing it in northern Europe... The Germans tried to sell us some of th

                • > The radical environmental fringe wants radical action. The majority want a slow and measured response that doesn't upset things too much.

                  Who cares what various groups want. The important thing here is what the most rational solution is. You speak of curbing CO2 emissions as if it's something we can choose not to do. That's a conservative fallacy. We're going to have to reduce CO2 emissions at some point, whether we like it or not. That's a fact that's dictated to us by the economics of fossil fuel powe

                  • We already curbing CO2 emissions and have been for many years. If the US kept all its coal power plants going we'd still be curbing emissions.

                    As to what various groups want... again, most people agree with the moderate policy. Only the radicals on either side propose otherwise.

                    As to the cost on future generations, so far as I can see most of that is junk science. There is no way to know what that impact will be and most of the extreme damage predictions involve the seas rising to levels that are not support

              • We have a solution to CO2. The environmentalists, acting as useful idiots for the coal industry, have layered defenses against implementing it.

          • > Still, though, both fission and fusion are much better than the alternatives (fossil fuels).

            Fallacy of the excluded middle. There is no way fusion will ever compete with this:

            http://gallery.mailchimp.com/ce17780900c3d223633ecfa59/files/Lazard_Levelized_Cost_of_Energy_v7.0.1.pdf

          • by radtea (464814)

            The waste would be just as hard to deal with as current nuclear waste is, although it would be produced in much smaller quantities.

            Not quite. Because fusion reactors will contain mostly light elements, the waste produced will be almost all relatively short-lived (decades or years or less, not centuries). This is a huge benefit over fission, which necessarily creates a great deal of long-lived waste simply by virtue of neutron irradiation of heavy elements.

            I do agree that fission (today) and fusion (in the future) are far better alternatives to base-load coal than anything else going, and get frustrated no end with self-proclaimed "envi

      • > I'm pretty sure the Soylents will be against any energy program

        So you're worried that a group of people you don't even know will scupper this effort?

        > imagine if we could build big fusion plants that could power cities... would they be all over that?

        Imagine if there were unicorns...

        It's quite a bit more likely that someone will DNA-soup you a unicorn before you die than fusion will be in commercial use.

        • then who cares... either way... your argument is that the tech is so far beyond our ken that we're just wasting our time with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

      Most of the major scientific achievement are not doing anything useful at their time of discovery.

      What was the usefulness of general relativity in the early 20th century ? Nothing before artificial satellite (i.e. GPS).
      What was the usefulness of galois theory in the 19th century ? Nothing. Now we have got major applications (coding theory...).
      What was the usefulness of Fast Fourier Transform (know

      • Eh, in the science world, if it's even interesting, then that's close enough to count as 'useful.' Most people understand that fundamental research is still valuable even if it doesn't yield practical results immediately; that's why we have a government science funding program. So what interesting things are they working on?
      • It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

        Most of the major scientific achievement are not doing anything useful at their time of discovery.

        What you fail to realize though is the things you list as basic theoretical breakthroughs. Alcator C-Mod is not a basic theoretical breakthrough. Nor is it a major scientific achievement. (At least not any more.) It's not even the first tokomak, nor the latest, nor of unusual design or... or pretty much

      • > What was the usefulness of general relativity in the early 20th century ? Nothing before artificial satellite (i.e. GPS).

        Bzzzt. GPS would work perfectly without GR. The only difference would be one less correction factor.

        > What was the usefulness of galois theory in the 19th century ? Nothing. Now we have got major applications (coding theory...).

        Galois theory was invented to solve a well known problem in mathematics of that era.

        > What was the usefulness of Fast Fourier Transform (known since ~18

    • The Obama administrations ability to vet technology is, to say the least, questionable. So far it seems he's using funding like this to pay back major campaign donors. Not that every president doesn't do that, but frankly, I don't trust a word that comes out of the whitehouse.

  • R & D in America (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @02:43AM (#47193365)

    I read a report 2 years ago that said the R&D funding in America has fallen, while at the same time R&D fundings in Korea, Japan, Singapore and in China have gone up

    The report also stated that the number of patents awarded to America has plateaued while patents awarded to other countries, especially those from East Asia, have skyrocketed

    Most importantly the report stated that of the patents awarded to American companies, more and more are not directly resulted from technological advancement, but rather, based on "usage" and/or "methodology", such as the patent as described in following article -

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/11/scheduling_paradigm/

    • The US allows for business method and software patents, most countries do not. That means the bar for patents in the US are set a lot lower. There are a couple of things I could have patented in the US from my inept dabblings*, and I'm just a worthless amateur. Can't patent them here in the UK though.

      *Why can I not find anything on quadtree construction of voronoi diagrams? The idea is so obvious I find it hard to believe I'm the only one to think of it, but I can't find it described anywhere.

      • by HuguesT (84078)

        Quadtree are an approximation technique widely used in imaging and computational geometry. Did you look on Google Scholar/Web of Science or just in patents?

        A light search returned these links:

        http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/3-540-47789-6_106 (sorry paywalled)

        https://diglib.eg.org/EG/DL/Conf/EG2002/short/short90.pdf

        I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for. In discrete geometry (construction of a Voronoi tessellation on pixel data), it is often more efficient to used an Euclidean distance fun

        • No, that paper just discusses quadtrees for accelerated lookup. I had the idea of putting to use the convex property of voronoi cells (In Euclidian metric space, anyway) as a means of high-speed construction of bitmap image representations. It's very rapid when the size of the cells is large relative to the resolution of the desired bitmap image, and a lot simpler than (potentially even faster) scanline techniques.

          This is what I came up with: http://birds-are-nice.me/progr... [birds-are-nice.me]

          As you can tell by the writing s

        • The abstract of the first link looks like exactly what I came up with though, just taken to a far greater depth of mathematical analysis.

    • The patent system has become so screwed that 'number of patents' is not a meaningful measure of anything. Not arguing for or against your point, just pointing out that you'll have to take a more sophisticated approach if you want to meaningfully compare R&D output.

  • Seriously, how many times have I seen outrage at this sort of thing? And now, because it's "our" side (I put it in quotes because MIT and John Kerry would not give me the time of day and any relationship I would attempt to start would quickly end with security being called) suddenly it's OK. Here, try this quick vocabulary game I just made up, just fill in the blank:

    _____________ (n.) The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by guises (2423402)
      You're being a little too vague here. What is "this sort of thing"? Lobbying? Who is "us"? Supporters of fusion research?

      It's true that the Slashdot crowd trends towards opposing lobbyists (unless they're the NRA), but there's also generally pretty strong support for science funding. It's not surprising to me that comments would largely take the attitude that this is positive.
  • by amaurea (2900163) on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:35AM (#47193661) Homepage

    It's common to hear someone say that "fusion power was 30 years away in the seventies, it's 30 years away now, and it will stay 30 years away"" or similar, and sadly, there is some truth to that (though perhaps it's 30 years now (estimated time for the DEMO full power-plant is 2033)). I think one of the reasons is that funding keeps decreasing, far below the optimistic projections of the 70s. The MIT fusion project made this graph to illustrate: https://i.imgur.com/sjH5r.jpg [imgur.com]

    It's a bit like when you're downloading a file, and while the download keeps making progress, the estimated time left stays put because the download speed keeps going down. I've had that happen a few times, and it requires an exponentially falling download speed. With fusion, the situation isn't quite that bad, but when you consider the sort of funding levels people were imagining before, it isn't surprising that they thought we would have fusion power by the year 2000.

    One interesting way of putting this is to say that fusion power isn't a constant amount of time away, but about 50 billion dollars of funding away. To put those 50 billion dollars in context, fossil fules have received 594 billion dollars in subsidies in the USA since 1950. So partially fusion is difficult, and partially we're not trying very hard.

    • One interesting way of putting this is to say that fusion power isn't a constant amount of time away, but about 50 billion dollars of funding away.

      No matter how many women you impregnate, your first baby is still 9 months away, young grasshopper.

    • by znrt (2424692)

      The MIT fusion project made this graph to illustrate: https://i.imgur.com/sjH5r.jpg [imgur.com]

      wondering what those two circa 5-billion/year spikes mean in the "maximum effective effort" curve. that's about doubling the budget of "accelerated" just for 3 years hurry.

      • was wondering the same thing... perhaps spiking up for major experiments/phases?

        • > was wondering the same thing... perhaps spiking up for major experiments/phases?

          Correct. The assumption in that graph is that applying more money means you need to do less experiments. The super-funded option has an initial series of experiments, followed by a testing phase, followed by a second round of construction and testing. The dot represents commercialization.

          The problem is that all predictions about the "amount of science" left have been wrong, every time. In 1953 Spitzer predicted commercial s

    • by tomhath (637240)

      fossil fules have received 594 billion dollars in subsidies

      Every business gets tax deductions. Those are not subsidies.

      • Really zippy? That's a subsidy. Money that would otherwise go to the US goes to the oil industry. Money they don't need since they make billions in net profits per quarter. The point in providing a subsidy/tax break is to help a industry. The oil industry hasn't needed help in a long time.
        • by PPH (736903)

          Don't bother arguing with these people, tomhath. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, there are people who think the primary purpose of economic activity is to feed the State and its minions.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      That graph shows US government investment. In addition to US government funding, there is European and Asian government funding and private industry. In aggregate, we've probably spent more than $50b in today's dollars already and nothing has come out of it.

      And what these research labs are building are expensive toys. If you're trying to build a commercially viable fusion reactor, spending $10b on a "working" prototype that won't even break even is not the way to do it. Government funding for this "research

    • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Monday June 09, 2014 @09:12AM (#47194343) Homepage

      > there is some truth

      There's *all* truth to that. Let me put this simply; there is almost zero chance that fusion, in its current form, will *ever* be a practical power source.

      Now when people read a statement like that they get their backs up about the future, and progress and science and all that. But that's not the issue. The issue is that *fusion isn't the only power source on the planet*. As long as one of these is "better" that fusion, then fusion won't happen. That's all there is to it.

      So why do I state my conclusion so forcefully? Because math.

      The Levelized Cost of Electricity is the key determinant in telling you whether or not a system will be built. The formula basically tells you what you have to charge for the power coming out of your system in order to break even. Anything above that number is gravy.

      The formula, which you can read in depth here:
      http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/your-own-grid-parity-pv-system/

      basically boils down to five numbers. The first is the amount of money you pay for the plant, and more specifically, the amount of interest you pay on the loans you took out to build it. The second is the cost of fuel to produce a given amount of power. The next is the peak power that the plant can produce, and next is the percentage of time that the plant actually does produce that. Finally there's the lifetime of the plant, which feed into all of the others. It's something like this:

      price of your power = (all the money you put into the plant over its lifetime) / (all the power that you exported to the grid)

      We measure money in dollars and cents. We measure power in kWh. This is why your power bill lists a figure in cents/kWh, and why the grid operators measure in $/MWh.

      Ok, so fusion. So the price of fuel for a fusion reactor is low, about the same as a fission plant. So we can eliminate that figure for a rule-of-thumb calculation, and leaves us with the lifetime cost of the plant, the CAPEX+OPEX. Now we look at the other side, and we see two figures, the peak power and the percentage of time it runs. We can simplify by listing our CAPEX/peak power as a single number, dollars per watt.

      So basically the entire cost structure comes down to the cost of the reactor, and the amount of time it spends running. The rest we can scale out linearly against other power sources.

      So what do we know about these two factors?

      Well in terms of percentage power, or capacity factor as we call it, fusion reactors are not competitive. Because of neutron embrittlement, they need to be shut down all the time so the reactor core liner can be removed and replaced. Newer designs place lithium-infused blocks inside the containment vessel; this means the vessel itself lasts longer but you still need to open it up all the time to get at those blocks. Generally we might expect a fusion plant to have a capacity factor on the order of a good hydro plant, on the order of 60%. For comparison, a fission plant is around 90%, a wind turbine is 30%, a solar panel is about 15%.

      Ok, now the CAPEX. Any fusion reactor of practical output is going to be one of the most fantastically complicated devices ever made. They are utterly crammed with high-end materials, poisons, huge electrical and magnetic systems, high-end vacuum pumps, etc. Depending on the design, it's also flammable, and the fire will cause radioactive rain, so you still need a complete containment building. Now on top of this all, the energy density of a fusion system is *tiny*, so you need to build *enormous* reactors.

      And that's where it falls apart. There is simply no way, under any reasonable development line, that the cost of building the plant, and servicing its debt, can possibly be made up by the electricity coming out. PV, one of the worst power sources in terms of cents/kWh, is currently running at about 15 to 20 cents/kWh. A fusion reactor almost certainly cannot be built that will produce power at under ten times that cost. And that's assuming it ever "works

      • Your argument appears to be "we haven't solve the technical and practical challenges yet, so we never will." Progress is disappointingly slow; I'll give you that. The challenges are hard. I'll give you that too. However, given what human ingenuity has managed to accomplish just in the past 20 years, I think it is a very, very poor strategy to bet against it in the long term. Part of why we're not solving these challenges is that we're frankly not trying that hard. What we have now is still good enough
        • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:20PM (#47196193) Homepage

          > Your argument appears to be "we haven't solve the technical and practical challenges yet, so we never will."

          What?!? I said the *exact opposite* of that.

          I said that even if they get it working, there's no reason to build it.

          Here, let me put this in crayon for you. Right now I can go and buy a turbine from GE, hook that up to a food dryer system from some hippy store, and use it to dry out peanut butter and feed them into the turbine. I *guarantee* you this will actually work, and produce net energy. What, you don't believe me? Fine, read this:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Turbine_Car

          Better yet, it's carbon neutral, because the CO2 you release by burning it is sucked back into the next tree. Now of course the power coming out would cost ten times what you'd get by burning bunker oil, and bunker oil produces power at ten times the rate of a wind turbine, but *it will work*, for sure. Fusion? Meh, maybe by 2050. Maybe not. And of course, fusion will likely cost even more.

          So what problem does a fusion reactor solve that a peanut turbine doesn't? None. So why isn't anyone racing to built peanut turbines? Because they cost too much. And fusion costs more than that.

          And THAT is my argument.

          "Now wait" you say... what if advancement X causes the price of fusion to fall? Well sure, but what if advancement Y causes the price of peanut turbines to fall? And when you look at all the research in the world, there's a lot more going into making cheaper peanuts than fusion.

          I am being a bit facetious here, but not that much. I've been looking at this problem for three decades now, and it's not getting any better. Quite the opposite, fusion is getting more and more expensive. Its just not going to happen. You need to spend your energy on something that will actually happen, even if it's not as good in theory.

          • by radtea (464814)

            You need to spend your energy on something that will actually happen, even if it's not as good in theory.

            Prediction is hard, especially with regard to the future.

            Anyone posting on /. ought to be well aware of the long, long history of technical prognostications of exactly the kind you are posting here that turned out to be utterly, absolutely wrong.

            I won't fault any of your numbers, but failure to acknowledge the role of serendipity in the history of science and technology is just a statement of your own ignorance, not a convincing argument. This is why public funding for things like fusion power is important:

            • > Anyone posting on /. ought to be well aware of the long, long history of technical prognostications
              > of exactly the kind you are posting here that turned out to be utterly, absolutely wrong.

              Yes, *technically*. But this isn't about the *technical* side. This is about the *economics* side. Fusion reactors will be, forever, more expensive than a fission reactor. There is no way around this. And even today, fission reactors are too expensive to build. And that's that.

              Look, someone might indeed invent a

            • > I won't fault any of your numbers, but failure to acknowledge the role of serendipity in the history of science and technology is just a statement of your own ignorance, not a convincing argument.

              Right in the message you are replying to"

              "'Now wait' you say... what if advancement X causes the price of fusion to fall? Well sure, but what if advancement Y causes the price of peanut turbines to fall."

              This clearly acknowledges the role of serendipity. It is entirely possible that there will be a technical b

      • Well in terms of percentage power, or capacity factor as we call it, fusion reactors are not competitive. Because of neutron embrittlement, they need to be shut down all the time so the reactor core liner can be removed and replaced.

        [[Citation needed]] - "all the time" is not a mathematical statement and therefore cannot be included in your (pseudo) mathematical reasoning.

        Depending on the design, it's also flammable, and the fire will cause radioactive rain, so you still need a complete containment

        • Hmmm, edit appears to have disappeared. Forgive me if this shows up twice.

          > [[Citation needed]] - "all the time" is not a mathematical statement and therefore cannot be included in your (pseudo) mathematical reasoning.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riggatron - was about 50%
          http://books.google.ca/books?id=KSA_AAAAQBAJ&pg=PA203 - calls for 80%, gives no reasons (maybe dup)
          aries.ucsd.edu/HAPL/MEETINGS/0511.../SheffieldApproachFusion.ppt - 20% first year, 50% after
          http://books.google.ca/books?id=5A51AgAAQ

          • Which you could have shown me up by posting some numbers to show why I'm full of FUD.

            I'm waiting for you to post some numbers showing you aren't. The laughable "sources" you provide merely show the depth of your ignorance. The links that works that is, most don't. ("The magnets are under significant pressure" lead you to believe that a containment building will be required lest there be radioactive rain? That has to be the funniest thing I've read all year.)

      • by ediron2 (246908) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:46PM (#47196403) Journal

        A few moments googling confirms: Maury's Markowitz is up to his elbows in Solar Energy. Given his advocacy for solar, his head would explode if anyone talked about Solar with hyperbole and absolutely-nevers like he's done here.

        Speaking as a degreed engineer and physicist, with childhood classmates, neighbors and professional colleagues now decades into their work in both next-gen fission and current fusion reactor design, I definitely get a bad vibe from all of Maury's hyperbole. They agree that fusion is challenging. But fusion isn't remotely analogous to vacuum tubes, nor is work and progress stalled. Maury's selling the impossibility of fusion, I doubt he's remotely qualified, and he's exaggerating to do so.

        Nice Try, solar guy. IMHO, the worst kind of bad science is advocacy that overreaches your expertise, because it can smell true to other scientists. Next time, start with 'I'm __ with ____ (Solar), and here's why I've bet my career on solar:'

        • > and here's why I've bet my career on solar

          I don't work in solar. I do have panels on my garage roof though.

          > They agree that fusion is challenging

          Of course; just challenging enough that a little more money will definitely, totally fix the problem.

          > with childhood classmates, neighbours and professional colleagues now decades into their work in both next-gen
          > fission and current fusion reactor design

          Excellent, I'd love to debate them. Feel free to set something up.

          > the worst kind of bad sci

        • Found a better link to the one article:

          http://fire.pppl.gov/fusion_science_parkins_031006.pdf

      • by amaurea (2900163)

        Now on top of this all, the energy density of a fusion system is *tiny*, so you need to build *enormous* reactors.

        And that's where it falls apart. There is simply no way, under any reasonable development line, that the cost of building the plant, and servicing its debt, can possibly be made up by the electricity coming out. PV, one of the worst power sources in terms of cents/kWh, is currently running at about 15 to 20 cents/kWh. A fusion reactor almost certainly cannot be built that will produce power at under ten times that cost.

        I think your post as a whole was very interesting, especially the numbers, but this last section suddenly became very handwavy. Do you have numbers for the last part also? Some of what you say there is quite suprising. Especially the energy density part: Am I completely mistaken in remembering that high power vs. low occupied land area was one of the advantages of fusion? By volume, ITER will produduce about 500 MW for 840 m^3 of reactor, or 0.6 MW/m^3. Area-wise, the ITER facilities will cover 40 hectar, w

  • Tens of millions of dollars for decades pay for people's careers.
    With very little to show for.
    Stop fusion research. Give molten salt thorium reactors a chance.
    Big difference, fusion needs scientific breakthrough.
    Molten Salt Thorium reactors are strictly engineering challenges, and not very difficult ones.
    The LFTR reactor enables mainly fissioning Uranium 233 (Th-232 -> Pa-233 -> U-233 -> fission).
    LFTR could run with a 3% blend of spent nuclear fuel for solid uranium reactors (AKA Nuclear Waste).
    LFT

  • Now, practical fusion power is only 25 years away, instead of, well, 25 years away.

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