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View Diary: Big Trouble In Arkansas w/Update (246 comments)

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  •  Depends on what reaction you're using, IIRC (1+ / 0-)
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    The easiest reaction to start & sustain (i.e., the one that ignites at the lowest "temperature" or speed of the plasma nuclei) is D-T, or deuterium-tritium--heavy hydrogen (1 proton + 1 neutron) and superheavy hydrogen (1 proton + 2 neutrons).

    Problem is, when they fuse into a helium nucleus, there's a neutron left over with a lot of kinetic energy. It takes a lot to stop a neutron, & whatever stops it (including power plant materials & human bodies) has probably absorbed it into a nucleus which then becomes radioactive.

    D-D or (best of all) p-Boron11 are much less neutron-intensive but also a lot harder to get going--& since we haven't even been able to sustain a controlled D-T reaction in well over half a century of trying...

    It is true though that (at least for electromagnetic confinement fusion) you're not looking at meltdowns or hydrogen explosions or the like--lose confinement or plasma heat & everything just shuts off.


    by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:33:38 PM PDT

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    •  We haven't been able (2+ / 0-)
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      Uncle Cosmo, DavidMS

      to do a lot of things yet. Sustainable fusion actually could be achieved today, just not economically. It's already been accomplished at lower power density for hours at a time. However, scaling up to the levels required for power generation will require more work and likely some advancements in materials research.

      D-T fusion will likely be the initial fuel cycle, but activated materials are 'low level' radioactive waste, and quite easy to deal with. You pour concrete over the reactor when you're done, and in a couple of decades you don't have anything to worry about. Dealing with neutrons isn't hard, it's dealing with high level waste that is headache-inducing.

      People should be appropriately concerned about radiation, but they should also realize that radioactivity is used everywhere in our society. Heck, you have a radioactive source in your smoke alarms. The radioactivity used for medical procedures and biological research is often fairly 'active'.

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