Is fusion sh.t?

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wilsontown
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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by wilsontown » Wed Feb 09, 2022 8:33 pm

I would say two things here:

1. There are many very stupid people working in research.

2. What in particular is stupid about shpalman's comment? Maybe it is a stupid comment, I don't know, but it would be helpful to the rest of us to understand why you think so.
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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by KAJ » Wed Feb 09, 2022 9:04 pm

link to an article with some fairly technical (to me :oops: ) content and which doesn't seem to oversell the advance:
To produce net energy—that is, to release more energy than the heatering systems provide—the experimental facility is too small. This will not be possible until the larger-scale ITER experiment in southern France comes online. "The latest experiments at JET are an important step toward ITER," concludes Prof. Sibylle Günter, Scientific Director of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics. "What we have learned in the past months will make it easier for us to plan experiments with fusion plasmas that generate much more energy than is needed to heat them."

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by dyqik » Wed Feb 09, 2022 9:14 pm

IvanV wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 8:10 pm
dyqik wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 6:11 pm
JET is not, and was never supposed to be, a viable power plant. It's currently run as a research experiment for testing materials and technologies for the next generation of experimental reactors. Complaining that it doesn't reach breakeven is like complaining that one of shpalman's semiconductor devices reported in a paper can't run Windows.
Nor was it my intention to suggest so. The billions of pounds I mention is for a future commercial generator based on these principles, not JET itself. I was very aware as I wrote of it of the history of the 0.5W pile, which demonstrated a principle that quickly led to demonstrators of tens of MW, and thence to commercial generators of hundreds of MW. Exponential growth in performance. Whereas in fusion apparently we only achieved a doubling in 25 years, so it would appear by that UKAEA story.

The BBC article, (which I had not read at that point, only the UKAEA that FlammableFlower's linked) suggests that taking 25 years to get from 2s to 5s of operation is in fact a big breakthrough. If you can do 5s, as JET did it, then you should be able to do 5hrs with supercooled magnets. Which apparently the 2s achieved 25 years ago did not suggest. It is unusual for a "breakthrough" to be this non-obvious.

Though getting longer runs is only part of the battle, as the rest of the BBC article explains.
The breakthrough isn't the time. It's the demonstration of a viable material for the diverter in ITER.

The time taken to get from Jet's D-T run in the 90s to ITER is almost entirely down to funding and international politics, not sure to the science and engineering.

The first fission pile got rapidly to a viable power source because reactor engineering was funded by the Manhattan project to produce Pu for atomic bombs.

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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by IvanV » Wed Feb 09, 2022 9:15 pm

wilsontown wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 8:33 pm
What in particular is stupid about shpalman's comment? Maybe it is a stupid comment, I don't know, but it would be helpful to the rest of us to understand why you think so.
Dyqik made the same rather brief point in another thread, and was persuaded to explain himself. viewtopic.php?f=10&t=109&start=1625#p113065

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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by dyqik » Wed Feb 09, 2022 9:18 pm

Funnily enough, a research experiment testing materials choices is not supposed to be a viable power station, or even directly on the pathway to one.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by jimbob » Wed Feb 09, 2022 10:18 pm

bjn wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 8:19 pm
They would still be thermal generation systems, with all the associated capital costs of building all the plumbing to boil water, spin turbines and cool the hot waste water down. There are reasons coal power is becoming increasingly uneconomic, and that’s a main one. The same holds for fission reactors.
This is what I struggle with.

You spend all that engineering effort ensuring you get to millions of Kelvin to sustain fusion and then you use some of that to make steam.

It looks to me that the best place for a fusion reactor is 150 million km away.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by IvanV » Wed Feb 09, 2022 10:56 pm

It is unfortunate then, and hardly surprising that people were misled, given that the reports focused initially on the irrelevant record-breaking, rather than the important and difficult issue of engineering materials, and why that was so important. This has been set out earlier in this thread as one of the big practical engineering challenges.

Though as our recent attempts to build a new generation of fission reactors indicates, even mature technologies can present difficult, costly and unanticipated engineering challenges, when you locate an issue you feel the need to adjust: in this case, the resilience of the plants to externally imposed damage. We can be reasonably sure we will continue to encounter difficult costly and unanticipated engineering challenges with fusion.

Dyqik's arguments about energy density are very relevant. The sheer quantity and size of facilities you need, both generation and storage, are truly enormous when you rely on intermittent renewables. Bio-energy can only play a small part, given its heavy land requirements. We are potentially industrialising extensive areas of land with sufficient wind and solar.

Despatchability (the converse of intermittency) is also very important, very very important. Without it, we need enormous and costly storage. Fusion stations would presumably be even more despatchable than fission stations, which are difficult to turn down. But they will only be useful if they are not too expensive. As intermittent renewables demonstrate, even "free energy" (wind, sun, waves, tides, etc) can be too expensive if the harvesting equipment is too costly: which is why wave and tidal energy continue not to get anywhere.

But I can't help feeling that practical fusion power stations, if they ever exist, are a 22nd century technology at the earliest. Maybe our present research is a gift for future generations, in very partial recompense for all the costs we have imposed on them.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Grumble » Wed Feb 09, 2022 10:58 pm

jimbob wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 10:18 pm
bjn wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 8:19 pm
They would still be thermal generation systems, with all the associated capital costs of building all the plumbing to boil water, spin turbines and cool the hot waste water down. There are reasons coal power is becoming increasingly uneconomic, and that’s a main one. The same holds for fission reactors.
This is what I struggle with.

You spend all that engineering effort ensuring you get to millions of Kelvin to sustain fusion and then you use some of that to make steam.

It looks to me that the best place for a fusion reactor is 150 million km away.
We just need someone to come up with a method to convert neutron flux directly to electricity, as if neutrons were photons.
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bjn
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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by bjn » Wed Feb 09, 2022 11:14 pm

Fusion, should it be made to work, will almost certainly have capital costs that dwarf fission, with pretty much fixed operational costs. So making them dispatchable will only drive up the cost of electricity they produce. Run them for 50% of the time and the electricity will cost nearly twice as much because have to cover capex and fixed opex with fewer kWh.

They would be rubbish acting as peakers, just like fission reactors are.

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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by IvanV » Thu Feb 10, 2022 9:45 am

bjn wrote:
Wed Feb 09, 2022 11:14 pm
Fusion, should it be made to work, will almost certainly have capital costs that dwarf fission, with pretty much fixed operational costs. So making them dispatchable will only drive up the cost of electricity they produce. Run them for 50% of the time and the electricity will cost nearly twice as much because have to cover capex and fixed opex with fewer kWh.

They would be rubbish acting as peakers, just like fission reactors are.
If they have capital costs that dwarf fission, then they really won't be worth building at all. Fission will run them out of the market. Hinkley Pt C currently raises the question of whether even fission can cost too much. But that's more about how it was contracted and financed rather than the actual building costs. The Severn Barrage has been rejected on cost grounds, even before you start asking about the difficult environmental issues. It would cost far too much for what it delivered. Free, or nearly free, energy can be too expensive, if it costs too much to harvest.

I have no doubt that early demonstration plants will cost far too much. The question is whether that leads us to be able to bring them down to a cost that is worth paying. If not, then they won't be built. No one will pay for them, except for research purposes. I sometimes wonder this is the point that people who fail to distinguish science fiction from reality most commonly fail to grasp. What it costs.

High capital costs certainly make you want to run something as baseload, as you say. The same comment applies potentially to electrolysis plants. The cost of them is coming down fast, but even with that it seems possible that they will still have a cost that makes you want to run them at high capacity factor. The hydrogen from them will be much more costly if you run them only when renewables are in large surplus. You would need a very large difference in the price of power between surplus and deficit times to make that worthwhile. The only reason that the levelised cost of electricity from wind became cheaper than gas, before the recent gas price hike, is that gas has been forced to run with lower capacity factor because it had to switch off more often because wind and sun were running. Wind hasn't got down to the levelised cost that gas plants had before they were hollowed out like that. Though the recent gas price hike has had a large effect on these comparisons.

Ultimately the question is, what's the cheapest way of levelling out the supply to meet demand. Currently, turning gas plants down, even though it means that they run for rather less than an optimal proportion of the time, is an awful lot cheaper than building storage. If fusion plants are cheap enough to build, I guess they might also be cheap enough to turn down. In comparison with the alternatives. There's a lot of value in despatchability. It's worth paying for. Up to a point. Gas plants and the like are now rewarded for the additional value of their despatchability through "capacity market" payments. It's how they earn money for not running, but being available to run.

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Re: Is fusion sh.t?

Post by Al Capone Junior » Fri Feb 25, 2022 8:47 pm

Seems to me that the Chinese development of molten salt thorium reactors might be a much more immediate and practical energy solution than waiting 30, err, 29 more years for fusion.

However, I am only an armchair nuclear physicist. :roll:

To our credit tho, armchair nuclear physicists, such as myself, aren't in charge of large reactors that spew forth radiation and trans-uranic elements, and can melt down anytime a tepco type corporation runs them.

Instead, we in the US put MUCH bigger morons in charge of those things, ie rick perry. :shock:

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