Friday, June 08, 2012

Fun Fusion For Friday

TokamakOur fusion fan friends will need to let us know how consequential this is:

UT [University of Tennessee] researchers have successfully developed a key technology in developing an experimental reactor that can demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the power grid. Nuclear fusion promises to supply more energy than the nuclear fission used today but with far fewer risks.

It’s not (just) that I’m automatically dubious about fusion projects – if it’s fusion it’s just around the corner - but this one seems very early:

UT researchers completed a critical step this week for the project by successfully testing their technology this week that will insulate and stabilize the central solenoid—the reactor's backbone.

That feels like step two of a process with many, many steps. Read the rest of the story and decide – break out the champagne or let it get – a little more – aged?

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China Daily offers a little fusion doings:

Russian academic Evgeny Velikhov was in Hefei, East China's Anhui province, to attend the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Training Forum & Second Workshop on Magnetic Fusion Energy (MFE) Development Strategy, which was held on May 30- June 1 at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

But it appears the reporter didn’t have much to report from this meeting.

Velikhov's visit to USTC was significant in promoting the development of Chinese nuclear fusion and strengthening extensive cooperation and thorough exchanges between China and Russia.

I guess that’s something. Velikhov is a founder of ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which is based in France and also involved with the Tennessee work. The world of fusion is fairly tightly knit.

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Here’s the pitch:

Nuclear fusion is a seemingly ideal energy source: carbon-free, fuel derived largely from seawater, no risk of runaway reactors and minimal waste issues.

A lot of good, dedicated people all over the world want to make it work. The problem has always been the amount of energy necessary to achieve fusion – the sun, after all, doesn’t care much about economics – and the joke has always been that it takes a town to power a light bulb.

Even if you can make fusion work – that is, become a net generator of electricity - doing so is only the beginning. You have to scale it up to production level, you have to get reactor designs licensed and you have to generate a model to market it and fund facilities. Those are all time (and money) consuming activities. But – for now – let’s hope - the path to a working fusion reactor may be a little shorter.

From ITER: Work on the Seismic Isolation Pit is finished: the basemat, retaining walls, and seismic plinths and pads are in place. See here for more.

2 comments:

Tom A said...

For those interested in fusion energy, check out what's been going on at Livermore Lab. The National Ignition Facility was commissioned in 2009 and experiments to show energy gain are going on today.

Rather than magnetic confinement, it's laser driven inertial confinement. If it works, it could advance the schedule to fusion energy by at least 15 years; soon enough to make a difference in solving the energy issues that face us today.

Full disclosure: I work on the project, but think that anyone truly interested in this topic should be informed of the alternate path commercial energy production.

Google "LIFE Livermore National Laboratory" to check it out for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

Tom A

jimwg said...

It behooves fusion folks to help support and de-demonize current fission plants because the distrusting public doesn't discriminate anything with the word nuclear in it or has the slightest hint of radioactivity, So if fusion folks want to feather their future nests, better join in in popularizing today's plants right now.

James Greenidge
Queens NY