Fusion is coming

Shadow Reaper

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Just fyi, the announcement recently from the US National Ignition Facility that they had a break even event and we’re the first to produce net positive energy, is all propaganda. The NIF is a weapons research facility. Inertial confinement doesn’t have commercial applications for energy production. That’s all DoE propaganda. Yeah, they broke even. Doesn’t matter.

However, the new fusion reactor in Japan actually holds promise to go over unity and produce net energy. Fusion reactors scale in power at the 7th power of their volumetric radius, so the larger you build them, the more likely to be useful.

This new reactor is the largest ever built.

 

Richard Bong

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Just fyi, the announcement recently from the US National Ignition Facility that they had a break even event and we’re the first to produce net positive energy, is all propaganda. The NIF is a weapons research facility. Inertial confinement doesn’t have commercial applications for energy production. That’s all DoE propaganda. Yeah, they broke even. Doesn’t matter.

However, the new fusion reactor in Japan actually holds promise to go over unity and produce net energy. Fusion reactors scale in power at the 7th power of their volumetric radius, so the larger you build them, the more likely to be useful.

This new reactor is the largest ever built.

We've been hearing about nuclear fusion as a power source since the late 40's (Which is well before my time.) It is always just around the corner.

There is only one stable fusion reactor in the entire solar system, and to call it stable just means it isn't likely to explode in the near future.
The sun is stable for a star, not an earth based power source.
I seriously doubt we'll get a stable working Fusion Reactor in our lifetimes.
 

Dirtbag_Leader

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Naw, fusion is just too damn hard not just to contain, but more importantly to MAINTAIN anything remotely close to 'stability,' and THEN try to efficiently convert/extract any usable energy from it. Fission, on the other hand, has well-proven effective methods for all of these challenges. If only we could get our heads out of our asses long enough to spend LESS than 10 years and $8B on said challenges. . . Sigh.
 

Shadow Reaper

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Fission is definitely better for mobile solutions. Even though it’s less energy dense, the proposed fusion reactors are always less energy dense than fission. Fusion is only a big deal because it doesn’t require radioactive fuels and create radioactive by products. I’d love to see Small Modular Reactors make an inroads into the marketplace.

Fusion. . .people have been saying 25-50 years since the 70’s. That’s the result of government work. Those guys at DoE get paid to get no results. However, there are private concerns working on it now, and they know it’s worth billions to trillions if they find a solution, so I remain hopeful. Somehow I think the Japanese effort more likely to succeed than the other current attempts. Lockheed may do it. They’ve been working on it near a decade now.
 

NomadicHavoc

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I personally have high hopes for Fusion. It could really be a game changer and well worth the investment of time and resources. I do think that some of us might be alive as the first iteration is rolled out in say 80 more years. They have been making some real progress over the last couple years.

If anyone can understand how creating a new technology can take some time it's SC fanboys. Clearly, the people working on it think it's possible and worthwhile.
 

Richard Bong

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Fission is definitely better for mobile solutions. Even though it’s less energy dense, the proposed fusion reactors are always less energy dense than fission. Fusion is only a big deal because it doesn’t require radioactive fuels and create radioactive by products. I’d love to see Small Modular Reactors make an inroads into the marketplace.

Fusion. . .people have been saying 25-50 years since the 70’s. That’s the result of government work. Those guys at DoE get paid to get no results. However, there are private concerns working on it now, and they know it’s worth billions to trillions if they find a solution, so I remain hopeful. Somehow I think the Japanese effort more likely to succeed than the other current attempts. Lockheed may do it. They’ve been working on it near a decade now.
25-50 years since the late 40s.
Mobile solutions? USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was launched in 1954 and we've been using fission for mobility ever since.

Fission is fine for mobility, as long as the thing you're moving is big enough. For smaller options see NEPA and ANP. Programs that were abandoned under Ike and JFK.
Satellites have also been nuclear powered.
NASA has been researching nuclear powered interplanetary and interstellar spacecraft since the 50's as well. My personal favorite is an engine that ejected fission or fusion weapons out the back detonared them then rode the resulting explosion.


There are three problems with Fusion in a mobile environment. Ionizing the atoms, getting the atoms up to a speed required for collision to generate fusion, the resulting release of neutrons which degrades any container.

Unless Cold Fusion can actually be achieved, you're not going to achieve mobile fusion on anything smaller than an Aircraft Carrier.
 

Shadow Reaper

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NASA had been working on mobile fission called the Prometheus reactor for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) until cost overruns caused Congress to cancel the project in 2005. I was a huge fan of JIMO and when presenting at NASA HQ in 2019, I pitched a replacement at 1/10 the cost by shrinking the antenna systems. (JIMO boasted an impressive, 200kwe ice penetrating radar system). NIAC was interested but didn’t have access to the kind of cash needed for a phase 1 grant (what we were after. NIAC Phase 1 grants only very rarely exceed $150k, which is not enough to do what we proposed.)

NASA restarted their funding for nuclear 3 years ago? We may yet see nuclear electric, if for no other reason than that they need a reactor to build what they want on the Moon. Small Modular Reactors that generate on the order of 300MW electric are a thing terrestrially. GE has one small enough to fit on a tractor trailer (without cooling) and DoE has some nice high temperature radiators first pioneered for Prometheus, so it looks like given an operating Starship, NASA may get its Moonbase.

Fusion, as I said; scales with the 7th power of the confinement radius, so it is very hard to make work small. However, I think Eric Learner at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in NJ is still working on his Dense Plasma Focus Fusion reactor. If that ever works, it’s small enough to build an aerospace fighter—really, tiny. That is super cool tech, boron fusion at many times hotter than the sun in a tiny plasmoid. It’s basically a special take on Robert Brussard’s a-neutronic Polywell reactor the US Navy still funds in secret. Cool tech that avoids the neutron flux issue Richard noted above. I wrote a white paper about it in 2003, encouraging federal funding, and DoE picked them up for a few years afterward. I really hope that work continues. If Learner had 1/100 the funding of Star Citizen this last decade, there’s an excellent chance we’d have fusion powered launch vehicles and aerospace fighters.

I know the head of NASA’s Advanced Power and Propulsion, Dr. Dennis Bushnell; and I know he has thoroughly investigated Cold Fusion. He is not a believer, and those folks have had a lot of time to make their case. I doubt that is in the offering. I also know he fully investigated Brilliant Light and Power (formally “Black Light Power”), and found nothing there. Fact is there are a lot of places pretending they have these solutions, and billions waiting for investment. Despite BLP has had tens of millions in funding for decades, they never show the goods. It’s no wonder Dennis is habitually skeptical.
 
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Raven_King

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JT-60SA, the tokamak fusion reactor in Japan that just came online these past few days is now the biggest in the world, with a plasma radius of 3 m and a plasma volume of 130 m³. It's very exciting.

Another fusion experiment under construction is ITER, based in France and led by the EU with a 45.6% stake in its funding. Other project member countries each with a 9.1% stake are China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. (Most embarrassingly, since Brexit, the UK is trying to do its own thing on fusion which is idiotic). ITER is only 89% built and the project timeline is currently 'under review' since they found some defects in a couple of big components. That'll get sorted, but there's no date at the moment for when it will become operational. When it does, it will have a plasma radius of 6.2 m and a plasma volume of 840 m³.

I would imagine by that point, somewhere in the world an even bigger one will be at the design stage. On an open day two or three years ago at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the researcher leading our tour thought 50 years until widespread commercial power generation from fusion was still the sort of timeframe we were talking about. We're making amazing progress on it, but he thought having your house powered by fusion was still quite some way off.
 

BUTUZ

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You fusion guys are clever remind me not to argue about space jpegs with you in the future.
 
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