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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. 

The BBC
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 nrb on 5/26/2006 10:37:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I love reading how everyone here who ISN'T a nuclear scientist knows exactly everything about nuclear fusion and is full of wonderfully incitefull predictions on the future.
Well, I do at least have a degree in Physics, so I know something about the subject....


RE: Holy grail?
By Sunrise089 on 5/26/2006 12:03:15 PM , Rating: 2
um...this is a PC site. How many of us have degrees in computer science or engeneering? (yes I know some do, but not all or even the majority) How many posters in politics and news have journalism or political science degrees? Gamefaqs.com requiring you to be a game developer to determine whether or not you feel the Half-Life expansion is any good? Didn't think so.

I fully believe most of the above posters are able to realize if fusion power can be made practical it is a better option than solar or wind. I didn't see anyone trying to overstep his/her bounds with technical information we aren't qualified to discuss.

Thanks for playing though.


RE: Holy grail?
By TheDoc9 on 5/26/2006 12:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
Back to the game -

I have a CS degree myself, but I nor does anyone know the future dangers of fusion –they haven't been discovered. Who's to say there won't be new materials used to start the fusion process instead of those scarce few (if they really are scarce) that are mentioned. Isn't that what this project is for, researching and discovering a new, better energy source. To say that fusion is messy now, when we won't see it for 40 years, is ridiculous.

The post earlier about radioactive steel was interesting, how does this poster know this will happen? I say maybe it will, maybe it won’t, maybe there will be new materials in the future to prevent this. Who here works at a fusion plant? Since they don’t exist no-one does.


RE: Holy grail?
By stephenbrooks on 5/26/2006 2:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
There is a parallel experiment called "IFMIF" - the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (hope I got that right), which is designed to see how active certain samples of material get under emulated irradiation that is supposed to model what will happen in close proximity to an operating fusion reactor over the scale of years.

The idea is to find materials whose physical properties won't degrade over time and which will also lack any long-lived isotopes when they are taken out.

So, materials research is an integral part of the activity too. I guess that means we can't fully predict the radioactive footprint of these reactors until IFMIF has published its first results (~2015 it is supposed to operate, so that will be getting on for 2020!).

I suspect parts of ITER (also beginning operation ~2015) will be swapped out as results from IFMIF become known. Actually I've seen a .ppt presentation from Chris Llewellyn-Smith with a project diagram that shows more-or-less that.


RE: Holy grail?
By vingamm on 5/26/2006 12:13:37 PM , Rating: 2
Let me chime in with you NRB. Mine is not in Physics but in electro-engineering and computer science. you are right. this is a feasibility study. It is one that needs to be taken as well. Fossil fuels have almost ruined the enviroment, fission produces highly toxic waste that is active for hundreds of years. A fusion reactor will get "hot" but lets be honest with ourselves. How long can we use the current systems of energy production. To the tree huggers I add, there are over 6 billion people on this planet and the number is not getting smaller. if we dam up all the rivers, where will the fish swim? If well put up a million windmills, where will the trees grow? If the put up solar mirrors we will eventually block out the sun. We could go back to living in caves and just say screw technology all together but I am guessing each and every one of you enjoys your AC from time to time. If this was just a individual choice it would be cool to suggest some of those choices. Fusion is the best choice so far. If you have a viable solution that can serve 6 billion plus people let the WEC know and I think they may consider it.


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