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Fusion reactors, here we come!

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, has officially been approved by seven international parties during a meeting in Belgium. The list of international parties includes the United States, European Union, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and India.  The project will cost an estimated $5.9B USD, and is also the world's biggest scientific collaboration. 

reports "We represent more than half of the world's population, and recognize that by working together today we stand a much better chance of tackling the challenges of tomorrow, so energy is an issue of concern for all of us," according to the  EU science and research commissioner, Janez Potocnik.

The end result of the experimental fusion project should be a cheaper, cleaner and safer source of energy.  Global oil demand and greenhouse gas emissions will also theoretically drop if the nuclear fusion reactor is successful.  Fusion is a viable energy source because of natural abundance and availability, while no greenhouse gas emissions will be present.  Another advantage of fusion is that it will not produce any radioactive waste. 

But not everyone is pleased with the news.  Several environmental groups are against the project.  For example, one of the members of the Friends of the Earth group believes it would be a wiser choice to invest in renewable energy and energy conservation.

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RE: Holy grail?
By Hypernova on 5/26/2006 8:29:45 AM , Rating: 3
"It is incredibly difficult to get a sustainable fusion reaction: no one has yet achieved it."

Fusion isn't stable enough now because the containment is too small, hence the bigger 3MW ITER. I don't see how stability can be an issus for multy giga watt commercial reactors.

As for the waste, compared to the billions upon billions of tonnes to CO2 and radio active spent fuel a few thousand tonnes of irradiated steel is trivial.

RE: Holy grail?
By nrb on 5/26/2006 10:36:34 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see how stability can be an issus for multy giga watt commercial reactors.
Clearly if there ever is a commercial fusion reactor, the stability problem will have to have been solved by then. But that doesn't necessarily mean it will be solved. The purpose of this project is not to build a commercial fusion reactor, it is to find out whether a commercial fusion reactor actually can be built: the conclusion may very well be that it can't.

RE: Holy grail?
By stephenbrooks on 5/26/2006 2:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
Technically, you don't need stability, you can run the machine in pulsed operation. Inertial confinement fusion with lasers is a 2nd option that doesn't get mentioned very often, and it entirely generates its energy in the transient regime when a small deuterium target is crushed into a high temperature and density plasma.

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