Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Future - Energy

Lockheed -Martin is announcing that their research into fusion reactors looks like it's about to pay off. They have a small prototype which is working as predicted, and seem to think they can have a scaled up version (100Mw) turned on in about 5 years.

This is the humanities holy grail, in its own way. For physicists, it would be discovering the Hamster-Boson and presenting a jar full as party favors at the big Physics convention. For the rest of us this is taking something the physicists have discovered and turning it into something practical and salable.

Others including Polywell Fusion also claim to be hot on the trail of a working fusion reactor, so perhaps we'll see something actually working in the next 5 years or so.

It's atomic, so the Greens will oppose it.


Brad K. said...

Back in the '70s, I read a book "We Almost Lost Detroit". It chronicled a Fermi fusion reactor, issues during construction, and how it got to licensed, low power startup -- when it ran away from them and reduced most of the core to slag. I still don't know if it was fiction, and it hasn't been in print in a long time. Funny thing, that.

What would make a fusion reactor salable, is if it would accept spent fission reactor rods as "input". And maybe the slag from shale oil and shale gas, and fraccing.


Billll said...

One of the selling points of a fusion reactor is the delicacy of its operation. A certain amount of power is required just to maintain operating conditions in the core, in this case a strong magnetic field for compression and a strong "microwave oven" to preheat the fuel.

Lose the input power and the fire goes out. Immediately.

Fuel consists of hydrogen and/or lithium isotopes heated to gaseous forms. Heavier materials won't work, at least not yet, so the coffee grounds still get dumped in the flower beds.

The part of the current fuel cycles that bugs me is that we can take dirt, suitable for building subdivisions on, remove about half of the naturally occurring Uranium from it, and the remaining dirt somehow becomes toxic waste.