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View Diary: 100MW net power Polywell fusion reactor. Dr Nebel: "We might as well build the next one " (131 comments)

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  •  Wait, fusion has made progress? Really? (0+ / 0-)

    I thought the CW was that us being able to harness it anytime soon was about as likely as, well, I don't know, something very unlikely.

    •  Yup, the 1st donut shaped plasma research tool (5+ / 0-)

      was built in 1938, 70 yrs later the ITER is getting built for 13 billion. Not a lot of progress with toridial fusion reactors.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:43:44 PM PDT

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    •  polywell is not the conventional wisdom (5+ / 0-)

      The DOE has all of its very expensive eggs in other (complicated) baskets.

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:46:28 PM PDT

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    •  Yes. Big progress, even with Tokamacs (6+ / 0-)
      ITER is going to work and will be the template for a +500MW sustained plasma burn reactor afterward. The physics of Fusion is now pretty much resolved. The engineering is another matter. And there are still issues with finding containment materials within the plasma ring to handle highly energetic neutons. So, the traditional big-science approach looks pretty good on the science. Whether it will be economical scaled up is another issue entirely. Though if +$140bbn oil remains, even a Tokamac reactor should be viable.

      Nebel's approach is quite beautiful in its simplicity though. Given its poor funding over the years, it's no surprise that it's behind the big-science projects in development. But his idea may yet win out on economics and scale.

      Nuclear power is the only solution for sustained baseline power. We'll have to do dirty fission nukes for the next fifty years, but after that we're going to have a might big mess to clean up. Fusion technology should help with that by allowing us to destroy radioactive nuclei within the plasma stream.

      It'll still be touch-and-go for the next fifty years. And that's assuming an all-out effort to cut world-wide carbon emissions via renewables and nukes.

      $170.42, Short Story; ~1400 words; mostly SFW

      by maynard on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:51:56 PM PDT

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      •  If polywell works, it wont be 50 yrs (6+ / 0-)

        9 ft magnetic cores rolling out of factories, shipped by truck or rail. By 2050 you wont be burning much coal or oil.

        In 15 yrs we'll have Polywells on the moon, and powering ships to Mars in 36 days.

        If, If,  If.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 07:01:31 PM PDT

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      •  Reprocessing? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maynard, wader

        We'll have to do dirty fission nukes for the next fifty years, but after that we're going to have a might big mess to clean up.

        What about reprocessing the spent waste so that it can be reused?  Wouldn't that reduce the "mess"?

        What about advanced fission reactor designs "Gen IV" and such designs as Integral Fast Reactor that are more efficient burning most of the loaded fuel and leaving a lower radioactive waste product in terms of half life?

        Maybe the next 50 years don't have to be terribly messy but I am interested in your opinion.  

        Looking over great spreadsheet data available at the Nuclear Energy Institute in the US we currently have an annual demand of 4.1 billion MWh of which 49% is coal supplied.  Going back to 1975, we have added 1 billion MWh in annual electricity demand every 15 years.  With petroleum powered transportation experiencing problems, this will need to shift to electricity in the form of pluggable hybrid and purely electric cars, more urban/suburban light rail and fast trains.  This should lead to a 20% extra increase conservatively.  Therefore the next 15 years will lead to a 2 billion MWh annual demand increase to 6 billion annual MWh.  With the problems with coal (like spewing radioactivity and mercury, in addition to the growing cost of CO2 emissions), additional coal-fired plants won't be easily approved and their numbers will probably diminish over time as will their percentage contribution to our annual electrical supply.  

        There is just no way to reach 6 billion MWh annual production without more nuclear plants as well as a huge push in photovoltaic solar and concentrated thermal solar.

        I have a feeling that I am bringing coal to Newcastle but this is a good link for others.

        •  Reduce: yes. Still lots of P-238 though (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wader, boatjones

          The nice thing about reprocessing is that it extends the life of the nuclear fuel cycle considerably. The downside is that Plutonium has a long half-life and is horribly toxic. So, pick your poison.

          We'll have to go reclamation anyway, as there isn't enough uranium for a sustained world-wide deployment if fission power anyway. Your links are pretty good though and you make an excellent counterargument. Unfortunately, we'll still want to burn away that P-238 once we make the transition to fusion.

          Well, I suppose we could save that P-238 for nuclear bombs though. Weeeee!

          $170.42, Short Story; ~1400 words; mostly SFW

          by maynard on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 07:36:19 PM PDT

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          •  Tell me more (0+ / 0-)

            OK, so Plutonium is present in the nuclear waste as a by-product of the reaction and would therefore be "concentrated" in the reprocessing making the process more toxic?  

            Unfortunately, we'll still want to burn away that P-238 once we make the transition to fusion.

            Can it be burned away now in fission reactors to eliminate the problem before it accumulates?  You couldn't stir in P-238 into a fusion reaction, right?  

            Do you have any good links on reprocessing?

            •  chemical reclamation creates plutionium. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              boatjones

              Wikipedia does a better job than would I:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/...

              But basically, yes. Reclamation - or reprocessing - converts the waste from a typical nuclear power plant in to plutonium. That is then burned once again in a nuclear power plant in order to drive a steam turbine.

              There is still some pretty nasty waste as a final by-product, but much less in volume and mass than simply trying to store typical nuclear waste.

              This is also why I'm against Yucca Mountain. I believe all the nuclear waste sent there for long-term storage will eventually be shipped back to the power plants for reprocessing and then reuse anyway. Seems kind-of dumb to me.

              *shrug*

              $170.42, Short Story; ~1400 words; mostly SFW

              by maynard on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 07:57:16 PM PDT

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        •  More about coal's radioactivity (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          maynard, FishOutofWater

          The electric utility consumption of coal in the US for 2007 was 1,046 million tons.  Based on the emission figures from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, this resulted in the release of 1,360 tons of uranium and 3,348 tons of thorium into the environment.  Further decay of these elements lead to isotopes of radium, radon, polonium, bismuth and lead.  

          So if we want to talk about a mess, the coal emits more uranium into the environment annually than what the entire nuclear industry uses in the same time!

          •  In counterpoint (0+ / 0-)

            Coal emissions are diffused in the atmosphere and of relatively low density throughout the environment, though an environmental problem nonetheless. A serious accident at a nuclear power plant means very high levels of radioactivity in a small geographic location, rendering it unfit for habitation.

            I do not say that to promote so-called clean coal, nor to oppose nuclear power, just in recognition of that fact. Would you buy a house next to Chernobyl?  

            $170.42, Short Story; ~1400 words; mostly SFW

            by maynard on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 08:21:37 PM PDT

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        •  Burn it in a polywell. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          maynard, boatjones

          End of issue.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 07:42:50 PM PDT

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      •  NOTE: I am not a professional physicist (0+ / 0-)
        just an interested layperson

        $170.42, Short Story; ~1400 words; mostly SFW

        by maynard on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 08:26:18 PM PDT

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