The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years.

Well, maybe, and they do make the old joke. But this is nonsense:

The reaction also does not create greenhouse gases or produce hazardous radioactive waste of the sort made by conventional nuclear fission reactors.

You really wouldn’t want to stand around the chunks of steel which make up the reactor after it’s been on for long.

33 thoughts on “Nonsense”

  1. Since when were leftist eco-freak scum, the middle legs of CM , enthusiastic about Western Civilisation having limitless energy?

    Womiccumalobus cunts who daily try their rotten best to undermine and destroy that very civilisation?

    Also scientistic bullshiters on the govt gravy train have been making such reassuring noises about fusion since 1950. And as long as taxpayer cash keeps flowing they will still be making the same noises in 2050. It is on a par with promised scientistico cures for baldness.

  2. True, but it’s a known constant amount, whereas once through fission reactors like we have now produce increasing amounts of waste proportional to the time they’ve been running.

    I just wish some government had the balls to try out 4th generation epithermal reactor designs, which could potentially turn “OMG, what do we do with this radioactive waste” to “look, free fuel”.

  3. “The aspiration is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change.” So it’s balls, then. Pity.

  4. You really wouldn’t want to stand around the chunks of steel which make up the reactor after it’s been on for long.

    Not a physicist.


  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Which will arrive first, I wonder: catastrophic global warming or fusion power?”

    Isn’t catastrophic global warming an excess of fusion power?

  6. The usual ‘in 15 years’. LOL
    But not technical nonsense: the problem with conventional nuclear fission reactors is their waste contains a lot of transuranic elements: they are the nasty ones with very long half lives.
    By contrast, a fusion reactor waste is predominantly the neutron-irradiated materials of which it is made. By choosing those materials, the half lives can be kept short and the waste problem becomes short term.
    But there is an easier route: Molten Salt Thorium reactors need no new science and little new engineering: they have been built and tested long ago. With these, you just leave the transuranic waste in them as fuel, indeed, you can dispose of other reactor waste by adding it in. No need to remove and reprocess because you extract the neutron poisons from the liquid (Xenon, principally). Nuclear waste problem solved. Well, almost. Still have the irradiation of the reactor material, see above.
    China and India seem keen on developoing these, particularly because of their Thorium deposits. In the west, no chance.

  7. Should have mentioned: Thorium is (ironically), a major waste product of making windmills and electric cars. It occurs in the rare-earth deposits necessary for the magnets. China has loads. So does the USA, already refined, but they dont know what to do with it, so are burying their stockpile.In best Stephen Fry voice: “Maaaaaaaad!!!”

  8. At least the number of years is reducing. In the nineties, the joke among us fission types was that fusion was always 20 years away. In another 20 years, the joke will be that it is 10 year away.

  9. One amusement is that I once bought some thorium from that stockpile. Actually, it was the only thorium transaction in the US that year. 13 lbs of it…..

  10. “But there is an easier route: Molten Salt Thorium reactors need no new science and little new engineering: they have been built and tested long ago.”

    Absolutely false, and ignorant of nuclear physics.

  11. Iron 57 & 58 are stable, as is carbon 13 (and carbon 14 has a sufficiently long half-life that it’s, well, used for radio-carbon dating.)

    There may be other stuff in the steel that, once it has absorbed neutrons, gives more horrid stuff. Or, with iron, you eventually end up with cobalt as a decay product. You only get to nickel with alpha particle absorption.

    IIRC, cool down for the fission reactor compartments (which have the same neutron bombardment of structural materials issue) was only 3 days?

  12. Paul Ehrlich, IIRC, called the prospect of limitless low cost power for mankind “like giving a child a machine gun”. I think the Greens would prefer to put us all on treadmills – imagine the employment that could be created!

  13. Chris C.

    Fission is getting huge atoms and spliting them. The result is still large atoms with long half lives and radioactive waste for decades.

    Fusion is getting very light atoms (hydrogen, helium, lithium – or isotopes thereof, most notably deuterium) and banging them together. This can only be done at temperatures where the atoms are no longer actually atoms but a fucking hot plasma (the nucleus and electrons parted copy a million degrees ago). Since a plasma is electrically charged it can be contained inside a magnetic field – a doughnut shaped one. When two nuclei bang together fast enough they merge and you get a burst of radiative energy and a neutron. A neutron which the magnetic field has no effect on so it flies into the wall at pretty much light speed.
    When high energy neutrons fly into matter they eventually hit something solid (another nucleus). The wall gets radioactive.

  14. I earn a crust making remote handling equipment for ITER – the Tokamak interior stays as ‘hot’ as a bog standard fission core for a long time after it’s switched off…

  15. So fusion reactor cores stay radioactive like fission reactors but fuel waste isn’t a problem. This makes it better than fission in my book. Mind you it’ll never happen as th greens have poisoned the debate about nuclear power. Even if the fusion reactor fails safe if the power is cut, plasma escape being a local problem I suppose, and given the thing makes its own power a control failure is the issue, the greens won’t allow it as it stops them controlling our lives which is the true intent.

    @steve. Wow. Small world. I used to work for a firm that made and refurbished reactor fuel rod handling equipment and such like. The drawings for the kit to refurb were, err, less than accurate. Sort of a “as designed, as drawn… not as built” so one contract was to work out how the damn thing worked.

    Not an engineer my self so was never going to rise up the ladder.

  16. Wow. Small world. I used to work for a firm that made and refurbished reactor fuel rod handling equipment and such like.

    And I used to take the designs of those, subject them in a finite element model to earthquake loads, and ensure the stresses were within acceptable limits. Then I figured out the oil industry is awash with money while the nuclear industry has none.

  17. oh Tim, don’t diss fusion. The Greens have pretty much killed of fusion, let’s try to keep them away from fusion!

  18. @BenS I think you have mixed up your i’s and u’s there, but we know what you meant.

    I visited the fusion reactor at Culham a couple of years back. There is obviously something nasty when the reactor runs as it is sealed off with concrete doors weighing two thousand tons each. The feeling there was that they’d pretty much understood all the science with fusion, the real challenge was the materials science to get the proper materials to withstand the temperatures etc. We’ll see.

    One thing for sure though is rationality won’t decide the outcome. A few decades back there was a bumper sticker in America: “More people died at Chappaquidick than Three Mile Island”.

  19. Thanks all, to the class 101 on comment writing. I’ll try and be much clearer in future, and stay on topic.
    As most understood, the news report is truthful in reporting that a postulated fusion reactor would produce far less nuclear waste than current fission reactors, because of the absence of fission products and even more so, no transuranic production. What remains is neutron irradiation of construction that can be tuned to some extent by choice of materials: don’t assume steel is the only choice. Upfront cost versus long term waste disposal cost – on an economics blog? Thre’s also shielding of the structural material with something better for neutrons: most designs propose liquid lithium, partly as heat exchanger, partly as breeder for the tritium. So the steel/whatever gets far less exposure. Not zero. But then, coal power stations release radioactivity, and so does building windmills! (Whatever did you do with that Thorium TimW?)
    To the commenter that took such humourless offence to my OT reference, I can recomment ISBN 9780132764575 (post grad) or ISBN 9781478161295 (popular). There’s also the Wikipedia article on Molten Salt Reactors, which has the 50year old tale of Oak Ridge’s MSRE. The article looks sensible, though like everything on Wikipedia, take with a pinch of salt (molten, naturally).

  20. You said, “Molten Salt Thorium reactors.”

    It’s still there to see.

    You didn’t say, “Molten Salt Reactors,” which you now say.

    What you said was “Absolutely false, and ignorant of nuclear physics.”

  21. Thorium? A bar of the metal was sent off to the peeps who make charges for light bulbs. Specifically, halogens etc. Add a bit of nameofmetalhereiodide to the mercury charge and get a slightly different spectrum of light coming out. Th brightens it I think?

  22. Fission or fusion, splitting or banging together. Doesn’t matter really. Just send it by Ryan Air, marked “Fragile”.

  23. I am a fusion physicist. The problem of getting more energy out than you put in has been solved with the H bomb. What we seek is controlled thermonuclear fusion. The joke that this is 30 years away and always will be is still true.

    There is now a mature startup culture and lots investors hope to do an Elon Musk and overturn the stodgy government led fusion industry. However rocketry was a solved problem. Fusion is not. Readers of this blog who are old enough to remember Cold Fusion (probably all of them) should expect to see more of the same as desperate scientists fake results to get just a bit more funding to hit their goal.

    Personally I think it is now irrelevant commercially. Windmills cost less than coal and work today. Wind + solar + storage (thank you Mr Musk) = job done.

  24. “Personally I think it is now irrelevant commercially. Windmills cost less than coal and work today. Wind + solar + storage (thank you Mr Musk) + kill off 7,000,000,000 people = job done.”


  25. The article brags they are “…a radically different approach to other efforts…” Hogwash. If you’re looking for radical, look up General Fusion. Their design is literally steampunk. Steampunk. Literally. Their design will produce fusion by hammering a ball of plasma with steam hammers. Literally. Now that’s radical. And they are a real thing: Jeff Bezos is one of their investors.

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