In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.
Subject: The Future of Fusion
Date: Jan 20, 09:58 am
Poster: Richard Hull
On Jan 20, 09:58 am, Richard Hull wrote:
Those new to Fusion or even nuclear related processes who read and understood Scott Stephen's reposting of the nice synopsis of Fusion fuels will have certainly picked up on certain key issues.
Those familiar with all forms of nuclear power production have probably thought long and hard on many issues.
I had some thoughts which might be of interest to all except the foaming mouth greenpeacers out there.
Barring some space buddy coming down from Zeta Reticuli and dropping some amazing science on us, or a nearly immediate and serendipitous earthly discovery, Nuclear energy, in some form is the only long term, non atmospheric polluting, power source on the horizon.
I say this because we, the entire world, are now a terawatt society. The power demand by developed and developing countries is spiraling upwards at an incredible rate. Earth bound solar, wind and thermal sources are greenpeace folks dreams, but fall in the "drop in the bucket" catagories and are tremendously expensive or nearly impossible to impliment on a global scale.
From Scott's post on Fusion fuels, the old radiation bugaboo rears its ugly head. Many of the fusioneers of past years would have had the public believe that fusion was clean nuclear energy. It is not! It is clean only in the sense that the fuel is consumed and the issue of fuel wastes found in fission energy is elimenated. All curently operated test beds for nuclear fusion would generate neutrons and make radioactive the fusion reactor.
Some of you may have visions of freight car loads of nuclear waste coming from fission plants daily. It just ain't so. Fission is three things that fusion ain't. 1.It is fully developed. 2. It is online and working as I type this. 3. It is incredibly cheap once on line.
Fission power can definitely supply all of our electrical power needs NOW, and FOREVER! Virginia (where I live), is fortunate to have two major nuclear facilities producing power. We have one of the cheapest rates and most reliable power grids in the US. Spliting atoms 75 miles from this computer accelerate the electrons in my CRT to allow me to view this post as it is typed.
Fission's problems are possible accidents and spent fuel disposal. Accidents would be a problem even with fusion facilities, though minimal compared to a worst case fission accident.
The spent fuel is a non-issue if one sweeps away the "political football" issue, and radiation ignorance of the genral public. Yes, there is a lot of spent fuel on hand as all the reactors in current use are storing tens of years of the material on site! The longer we dawdle on the disposal issue, the worse the problem becomes.
Fusion has the problem in that, ideally, we want aneutronic fusion (as noted in the post referenced.) This process uses heavier atoms which are nearly impossible to ignite.
Science has been dinkin' around with D-D and D-T fusion since day one!!! These are the EASY fusions!!! Unfortunately these are neutronic fusion. They turn the entire reactor vessel into a huge radioactive mass just like the fission jobs. Still, and for all their efforts, they can't even figure out how to do the EASY FUSION with continuous ignition after going through countless millions of the money!!!
Aneutronic fusion is a virtual impossiblity for the foreseeable furture!! Hi Z nuclei and the long confinement times needed, boggle the minds of those toying with the idea of aneutonic fusion. Let's get the easy fusion going first guys!
Their tokomaks are jut monuments to failed ideas and millions spent on creating a magnetic bottling plant!
The bottom line is that people hate fission energy because of fear, ignorance, and concern for the environment. As fossil fuels continue to be burned at alarming rates, especially in the unregulated developing countries who want to join the terawatt club, the air gets worse.
The fossil fuels will give out!! This is for sure and for certain. As they give out, the prices for power production will soar, people will have the usual knee jerk response to their little comfy world be screwed with and demand relief. If the power starts goin' off enmass, fission, I predict will be the darling and savior of the moment.
Remember, it is incredibly cheap when on line and doesn't pollute the air at all. It is a fully developed technology and inplace and working NOW! A new realization and increased sense of urgency will smack us in the face. I predict that the disposal issues will virtually disappear overnight.
This is sad, but probably highly likely. A crash fusion program guided by logic reason and dedicated people like the original ITT team or the original atom bomb project team is what we need, not a bunch of theorizing despeptic egg heads suckin' up millions of the money and scrambling to cover there academic asses.
Today's society runs of Terawatts. Tomorrow's world will demand petawatts. There is no going back to the log cabin, wood stove, self sufficent mentality barring nuclear war.
Anyone seeing James Burke's superb TV series "Connections" some years ago, will realize that all I have said can be made moot with just one seemingly UNRELATED discovery or break through.
However, we can't, or at least should not, sit on our hands hoping for some serendipitous discovery!