Nuclear Fusion Nears Efficiency Break-Even

Discussion in 'User Submitted News' started by Gahars, Sep 20, 2012.

Sep 20, 2012
  1. Gahars
    OP

    Member Gahars Bakayaro Banzai

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    So, let's talk about nuclear power. There's a whole lot of risk (as recent events and/or the Godzilla franchise have shown), but the potential is pretty staggering. When you go fission, the energy you harness comes with some reel safety hazards and complications (think: Chernobyl). It's one hell of a nasty catch.

    Because of that, many scientists have begun to shift their focus to nuclear fusion. In a nutshell, fusion plants would use already abundant sources of fuel, produce less waste, and not leak radiation above normal background levels. There's been one major problem so far... efficiency. The input is greater than the output, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose.

    Well, until now anyway.

    [​IMG] TG Daily (Extra information from HowStuffWorks. If you're interested in the subject, give it a read.)

    According to their simulations, the energy released could be a thousand times greater than the energy put in. That's only hypothetically speaking, of course, and we're not even close to reaching that milestone. It's a tantalizing thought, though.

    It's no secret that energy is a pretty big deal. The oil we're so dependent on won't last forever, and unless we can find some practical alternatives, we're going to be screwed. While nuclear fusion isn't necessarily the be-all, end-all solution to this problem, it could serve as a handy stepping stone. In fact, several nations (including the US, Japan, Russia, and others) have already proposed fusing their resources to create a joint plant in France.

    A safer, cleaner, and more convenient nuclear power plant? The atoms may be split, but I'm sure the jury isn't.

    And you know, it may just bring us one step closer to creating our own Liberty Prime. Now that's a worthy cause in my book.
     
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  2. Ergo

    Member Ergo GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    It won't matter, the same scare-mongers will come filing out of the woodwork because there's a buck to be made in opposing, well, just about anything.

    (The world has access to limitless, cheap, power now--it's called fission--and outside of very few countries, nobody uses it because of the chicken littles (and their monied enablers) who would prefer to see us return to the neolithic.)
     
  3. Ammako

    Member Ammako GBAtemp Guru

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    And then there's one little thing failing in the nuclear plant and the entire atmosphere burns down.
    Sounds great.
     
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  4. Gahars
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    Member Gahars Bakayaro Banzai

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    Nuclear fusion plants can't have meltdowns, actually.

    And, Ergo, fission does have its serious faults. Like I mentioned, the waste left behind is a serious issue; it stays radioactive a long, long time, so disposal is a problem. Plus, after the 3 Mile Island accident, the Chernobyl meltdown, and the trouble Japan had, it's understandable to see the risk as outweighing the reward for fission.
     
  5. Magsor

    Member Magsor I am watching you

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    Thats because where there is human, there is human error.
     
  6. Maxternal

    Member Maxternal Peanut Gallery Spokesman

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    Of course, the energy potential for fusion is incredible. Having more energy released than put in is simple. That's what an H-Bomb is. It instantly creates so much energy that there's a 3-mile fireball and everything within 9 miles is either converted to rubble or just vaporized. Anything in a much larger radius is also seriously damaged as well.

    The problem comes in doing this in a controlled situation (as nicely pointed out by the site [member='gahrs'] linked to.) is doing this in small enough amounts that it doesn't just blast away your power plant and the whole city it's in. The ways we've tried so far take a whole lot of energy to get that to happen.
    It also has to be sustainable. It does you no good if you can generate enough energy to power the whole continent but it only lasts about 10 seconds.

    In fission based nuclear power plants they solve this by putting a bunch of control rods in to dampen the reaction and slow it down a whole lot. That just amounts to a really slow nuclear explosion. It takes a long time (sustainable) and at a lot lower temperature (containable) kinda like putting your gunpowder into a fuse and burning it slowly from one end to the other instead of blowing up the whole barrel at once. With Fusion it's harder to do. It's kinda all at once or nothing at all.
     
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  7. IBNobody

    Member IBNobody I try to keep myself amused.

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    I'm all for fusion on paper, but I'm still skeptical as to the safety of it. Sure, the reaction may be clean, but what about the materials needed to enclose or control the reaction?

    I'll hold my judgement until it's working and it is efficient.

    (Gahars, thanks for the link. I didn't realize Tritium required Lithium-6 to make.)
     
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  8. Midna

    Banned Midna Banned

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    Wow I didn't know people actually got their information on fusion reactors from The Dark Knight Rises
    Good job guys, you made me a little bit sad.
     
  9. The Milkman

    Member The Milkman GBATemp's Official Asshat Milkman

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    So wait, is this like the whole Simpsons style Nuclear plant with Reactors and meltdowns or an all or a new thing? If so, its great we finally made nuclear energy more efficient, it releases tons of energy, its just the waste and danger that really screws us over.
     
  10. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

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    I am not sure how well I can cover it Zantigo without going short essay mode but I will try

    Conventional nuclear power uses fission which is to say atoms splitting apart as a result of very specific conditions (you have to get fairly high concentrations of certain isotopes which is far easier said than done and put them into certain conditions) and said splitting releases a fair bit of power (see E=mc^2). By and large the reaction is self sustaining once it starts which is what gives the potential for runaway but there are ways to regulate it (see steam and carbon rods) to allow a safe/steady release of power.

    However this story is about fusion which involves atoms merging together and also has the potential to release energy (see the Sun) with byproducts not always being as unpleasant as fission reactions; traditionally the energy required to kick it all off has been very high and to sustain it has also been high which means it needs more energy to have happen than it produces, but according to this story they might finally have cracked it. Of course the ideal thing here (and something of a sci fi staple) is so called cold fusion which involves atoms merging together (with a net positive of energy from the reaction) more or less at room temperature but physics is a tricky beast and such things are considered impossible by some (treated along the same lines as perpetual motion machines) and quite unlikely by most others.

    Atomic waste is an interesting discussion- the stuff that comes out of the average reactor is pretty nasty but there are ways to recycle it and lessen effects (either volume wise, half life wise or potential negative effects wise). Recycling is frowned upon though by some groups as they consider it akin to the first steps of building weaponry (it kind of is*) so it is not always done not to mention it is a bit more expensive (often cheaper to mine/process more ore and do storage). Said worry is also more problematic for other things (see issues with getting medical grade isotopes for things) but if I go off on one about anti science types I will be here all day.

    *weapons grade nuclear material requires a fairly high concentration to do anything where the average power generation stuff requires a significantly lower concentration/enrichment (this was one of the problems with various countries over the years conducting "power station research") and by recycling it could be said you are enriching further.

    On top of this there are also alternative designs (see Thorium reactors) which overcome several pitfalls (especially in safety and self sustaining parts) although their theoretical power output is not as high, this said several countries (most notably China and India) are putting serious resources into research here (the basics have been around for decades but Uranium is in some ways easier and there is the whole lack of research thing).

    On top of all that there is the fear factor where most people are idiots and will run screaming at the mention of radiation (see why the medical scanning technology now is rarely called NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance [imaging]) and is now often known as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) all despite no radiation in the conventional sense being involved, unlike xrays and CAT scans which are frequently a tradeoff between exposure and benefit) but that is probably a different discussion; different radio nucleotides produce different types of radiation (although there are mainly four to worry about), act in different ways when in the human body (radioactive iodine often appears in the thyroid where others might pass out as urine) and it also depends where you are exposed (eyes are a big worry, feet/skin less worrying, testes/ovaries a different thing again.....) as to what might happen.
     
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  11. Bladexdsl
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    Sep 20, 2012
  12. Gahars
    This message by Gahars has been removed from public view by a moderator, Dec 9, 2016.
    Sep 20, 2012
  13. Coto

    Member Coto GBAtemp Addict

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    Nuclear plants should be prohibited... at least on countries with highly chances of natural disaster (earthquakes, floods, etc).

    "we will be screwed if we don't do this", now that's scare mongering. Heck even in Chile our dear president tried to build one a few months ago. (high earthquake zone).
     
  14. Arras

    Member Arras ★02

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    Could someone change the OP to say "THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF NUCLEAR REACTOR THAT WILL EXPLODE KILLING EVERYTHING IN THE COUNTRY"? People seem to need it. This produces less waste that's easier to deal with and it's safer for the environment. When it breaks down it just shuts down instead of exploding because of the way the reaction works.
     
  15. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

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    That is quite a lot of places struck off depending upon the severity of your cutoff. Likewise it is quite possible to build things to withstand levels of natural disasters (also see some of the Thorium stuff) as indeed most power stations in general (let alone nuclear) are. Granted there is the option for an unprecedented level of natural disaster (arguably what happened in Japan although in many ways that was not bad for an unprecedented disaster) that just depends on what your risk analysis is.

    ""we will be screwed if we don't do this""
    Not an entirely unjustifiable position- energy is needed for a modern technological society to be created (it may have even replaced water and food in certain hierarchies by virtue of it being able to be converted) but if you are dumping a serious amount of the potential GDP down the hole to get enough energy when the net cost of another method, maybe in this case nuclear, is considerably less expensive then who is the fool. Move the slider a bit and what can quite easily become a net loss might instead be a profit/boon.
     
  16. ZAFDeltaForce

    Member ZAFDeltaForce Specialist

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    I hope this will become a very viable alternative to nuclear fission reactors. We've had enough disasters from nuclear fission plants already
     
  17. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

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    You say that ZAFDeltaForce but taken on balance I am struggling to think of one that is truly notable both in terms of things that can not be explained fairly adequately (Chernobyl is usually noted as ancient tech, badly maintained, run badly and then experimented upon rather stupidly) and when considered properly the long term effects (Japan's recent stuff, unprecedented disaster aside, seems to have a residual radiation not that far off background for places with a lot of granite even if we don't get into the specifics of what was leaked and how it plays out- I will need to read back up on it but iodine was a byproduct, which you do not want be guzzling, but can be sorted fairly easily).
     

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