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Nuclear Fusion Electricity Generation. Where is it at currently?


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#1 Cosmo_Ken

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 05:58 AM

What have been the problems along the way and what are they currently working on?


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#2 Bender

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 09:54 AM

ITER is currently being built and should be ready for experiments by 2025. It will be the first nuclear fusion facility to produce more energy than it consumes.

 

As is usual for such big projects, I guess you can probably add a couple of years before it is actually ready :-).

 

After that, the road should be clear to build another which can actually generate electricity, which will probably take another decade or two.


Edited by Bender, 16 January 2017 - 09:57 AM.

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#3 Strange

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 10:15 AM

So, 50 years away. As always.


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#4 Bender

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 01:16 PM

Well, my prediction is more like 30-35 years, so we seem to be closing in slightly.


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#5 Klaynos

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 01:54 PM

Well, my prediction is more like 30-35 years, so we seem to be closing in slightly.


That seems to suggest useful outcomes from ITER in a very short time though. JET became operational in 1984, ITER its spiritual successor is still being built. It took years to even agree where ITER should be built.
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#6 Bender

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 06:09 PM

It may be wishful thinking from me. Perhaps as fossile fuels run out, political hurdles might get easier to overcome.
If ITER is a success, I wouldn't be surprised if e.g. China decides to build one in a very short time.
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#7 Danijel Gorupec

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 08:11 PM

Nuclear fusion technology is in terrible situation. I will be positively surprised if ITER ever gets finished. Enormous technical problems seem easiest part here. There is no public support and no government can make any political benefit from promoting nuclear fusion technology... Ironically, what keeps ITER project still in motion, I would say, is the low profile they keep wisely.... The ITER already spent as much as the Manhattan project. Until now it only spent 1/4 as much as the Apollo program, but the Apollo was enthusiastically received by public. (I think that ITER is potentially more important than both Apollo and Manhattan and I am not regretting money spent. I will regret the money spent if the project gets closed after spending 30 billion without a chance to provide any result.)

 

The European Union might not last long enough. The DEMO project is unlikely to even start, imho.

 

There are no concurrent projects which is always a bad sign.

 

My only hope is China. Maybe they will realize that nuclear fusion is the one thing where they can still outrun others. Being the first to put fusion under control is so much better than being the second on the Moon.


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#8 swansont

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 08:16 PM

ITER is not going to be a source of usable energy.

 

"ITER will not capture the energy it produces as electricity, but—as first of all fusion experiments in history to produce net energy gain—it will prepare the way for the machine that can."

 

The goal is to produce net power, not to generate usable power. The latter is a whole new engineering problem that will have to be solved. They will have to hit their 500 MW goal, and show that it can happen on a sustained basis before the issue of electricity generation gets tackled. And then the can start to address the questions: how much usable energy can be generated, and is this cost-effective?


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#9 Ken Fabian

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 10:29 PM

Perhaps as fossile fuels run out, political hurdles might get easier to overcome.

 

 

If we reach the point where fossil fuels are running out, rather than being left in situ because we are using low emissions energy alternatives then we are going to be in serious trouble. As a solution to our current and accumulating climate problem fusion isn't a viable option and if it's as extremely difficult to do as seems apparent the likelihood it will become a cheap, mass produced, reliable and ubiquitous energy technology is doubtful.


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#10 Ophiolite

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 02:45 AM

So, 50 years away. As always.

Damn! You beat me to it. (As always.)


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#11 Bender

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 08:52 AM

 

If we reach the point where fossil fuels are running out, rather than being left in situ because we are using low emissions energy alternatives then we are going to be in serious trouble. As a solution to our current and accumulating climate problem fusion isn't a viable option and if it's as extremely difficult to do as seems apparent the likelihood it will become a cheap, mass produced, reliable and ubiquitous energy technology is doubtful

Perhaps. However, energy demand of India and China will increase dramatically in the future. China has already proven to be quite efficient in building massive infrastructure very quickly. If they decide to go for it, they can do it on their own. They also don't suffer from politics or public opinion.

 

An important question will be whether the human race will be able to limit their energy consumption in the future in such a way that it can all be produced with renewable sources. If e.g. the entire world population decides to buy an electric car, including those in developing countries that don't currently own a car, then we would need quite a lot more electricity.

 

I guess we'll see in 50 years.


Edited by Bender, 17 January 2017 - 08:53 AM.

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#12 DrP

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 09:53 AM

JET had a break even event in 1997. The Russians seem confident that they have some new tricks up their sleeves too, but we will have to see if it is more than just boasting. I still cannot find the videos I saw last year which stated that the Russians had some kind of working mini tokomak with some new funky magnetic shielding - maybe they were a hoax, otherwise ITER might be out of date before it's built.


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#13 MigL

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 01:55 AM

" As a solution to our current and accumulating climate problem fusion isn't a viable option "

 

WHY NOT ?

 

The only source of 'renewable' energy available to us IS a fusion reactor.

It is that bright ball in the sky 93 mil miles away.


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#14 DrP

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 09:39 AM

Agreed! Why Not?  We had our first break even event with a tokomak 20 years ago - that was real progress. We can build on that...  maybe not right now, but it HAS to come. Or at least I really hope it does. Would love to see it happen in my lifetime - I have longed for it to be a success my whole life and I will die happy if it is achieved.


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#15 Bender

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 11:57 AM

Hopefully, you won't die unhappy when it isn't ;)


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#16 Sensei

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 12:48 PM

One of the largest energy possible to get from fusion is from reaction between Deuterium and Tritium:

 

^2_1H + ^3_1H \rightarrow ^4_2He + n^0 + 17.6 MeV

 

But Deuterium is hard to get (115 ppm of Hydrogen, so there is needed to waste a lot of energy to extract it),

and Tritium is million times even harder to get.. As you have to make it in.. nuclear reactors..


Edited by Sensei, 18 January 2017 - 12:50 PM.

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#17 Bender

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 08:49 PM

Could you source how much energy you need to get the D and T compared to the energy output? How big a concern is this?


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#18 MigL

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 07:24 AM

The D-T reaction is just one of the possible mechanisms.

But I agree, they all have very large hurdles to overcome.


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#19 RiceAWay

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 12:13 AM

It may be wishful thinking from me. Perhaps as fossile fuels run out, political hurdles might get easier to overcome.
If ITER is a success, I wouldn't be surprised if e.g. China decides to build one in a very short time.

In order for it to produce energy it has to have self sustaining reactions. And that will not happen with any known containment chamber. The ONLY containment for fusion reactions is gravity.


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#20 MigL

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 01:26 AM

Gravity doesn't 'contain' the fusion reaction.

It provides the pressure and heat needed.

Most accelerators can provide the needed energies to a couple of particles to fuse them.

The only problem to overcome is getting to economies of scale.

( lots of fused particles for little cost )


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