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Nuclear fusion deal 'victory for humanity' (Reuters/CNN)

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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-21-06 03:17 PM
Original message
Nuclear fusion deal 'victory for humanity' (Reuters/CNN)
PARIS, France (Reuters) -- Representatives of more than 30 countries signed a deal on Tuesday to build the world's most advanced nuclear fusion reactor, aimed at developing a cheap and abundant energy source as the end of fossil fuels looms.

After months of wrangling, France edged out Japan last year in its bid to host the 10 billion euro ($12.8 billion) International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which will be built at Cadarache, near the southern city of Marseille.

At a ceremony hosted by French President Jacques Chirac, representatives of the European Union, the United States, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and China signed the ITER agreement in the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, finalising the project after years of negotiations.
***
The ITER reactor will aim to turn seawater into fuel by mimicking the way the sun produces energy. Its backers say that would be cleaner than existing nuclear reactors, but critics argue it could be at least 50 years before a commercially viable reactor is built, if one is built at all.

Unlike existing fission reactors, which release energy by splitting atoms apart, ITER would generate energy by combining atoms. Despite decades of research, experimental fusion reactors have so far been unable to release more energy than they use.
***
not much more: http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/11/21/nuclear.fusi...

NB: The "E" is for Experimental -- hence a post to Science rather than Environment/Energy. If it takes 30 countries and $13 billion just to build the prototype, don't expect fusion power online anytime soon. This has perhaps been one of the biggest dissapointments of 20th century technology -- that nuclear fission could be harnessed as a power source so quickly after the phenomenon was discovered, but that nuclear fusion did not follow in short order. Now a bigger question looms: will fusion EVER prove practical? If not, future generations will never have the option of using as much energy per capita as we have, except by a sharp reduction in population (which would be a good thing for other reasons as well). It could be that ALL of the science fiction authors got it wrong, and that we'll end up not as spacefaring posthuman cyborgs or postapocalyptic savages, but boring, appropriate-tech homebodies.
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Junkdrawer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-21-06 03:19 PM
Response to Original message
1. And then there's this...
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-21-06 03:31 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks for that link! As I soon as I saw the name 'Bussard' it had my full attention. nt
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-21-06 04:59 PM
Response to Original message
3. And even before it acheives break-even status, it can still be very useful...
You can put any kind of toxic or radioactive waste into a fusion reactor and turn it into plain plasma.

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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-21-06 07:39 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Oh? I didn't know that...
useful indeed!
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HalcyonDays Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-23-06 12:09 PM
Response to Original message
5. Or we can just use Solar power
New Solar Cells using nanotechnology can absorb light in various wavelengths besides visible. This makes them extremely efficient. There are estimates that you could provide power to the entire population of the planet if less than 1% of the earth was covered in these cells. This means placing fields of these things in several deserts in the US and other places. This is the future of energy for humanity. Why bother creating fission reactions when we already have one giant fission reactor in the sky? Just absorb the energy from that one and never worry about power again. At least not for a couple of billion years.
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drm604 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-24-06 02:34 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. The OP is talking about fusion not fission.
Edited on Fri Nov-24-06 02:40 AM by drm604
"Why bother creating fission reactions when we already have one giant fission reactor in the sky?"

The OP is talking about fusion not fission. They are two quite different things. And there is no fission reactor in the sky. The sun runs on fusion.

From here: http://www.princeton.edu/~chm333/2002/spring/Fusion/tou...

The sources of radioactive waste in the fission energy cycle are numerous: From low-level mine-tailings to the high level waste from the burnt out fuel rods, the problem of waste disposal in in the fission cycle is grave and has yet to be solved. The fusion fuel cycle has none of these problems, as the source of fuel doesn't require mining. D is found to a small percentage in sea water and can be separated and T is bred on-site in a reaction with Lithium. The waste product is an inert gas, Helium, which is completely harmless.

As for the dangers of a nuclear accident, this a real concern with fission reactors, meltdowns and runaway reactors are a reality for which Chernobyl serves as an example. This danger is not present in fusion reactions, as fuel is only inserted as needed, in other words, should the reaction become uncontrolled, all it does is go out with no other negative impact than a loss of power.
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Tesha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-29-06 12:45 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Concentrated power sources can be useful.
Solar power could be very useful for a lot of distributed
uses (including supplying most residential power), but having
a large amount of power readily available in one small place
is also very convenient, especially for industrial-scale
processes. If we intend to remain a high-energy-consumption
society, fusion reactors should be very useful indeed.

Tesha
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sakabatou Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-28-06 05:02 AM
Response to Original message
7. We really, really need to find a better source than petroleum
Sure we need plastics, but there's gotta be a way to do it synthetically or something esle.
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