Fusion experiment smashes record for generating energy, takes us a step closer to a new source of power

Dec 21, 2019
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By definition, people who read these articles are interested in science, and probably more comfortable than the general public with basic concepts like mass. I don't need college-level dissertations, but neither should you dumb things down to irrelevancy. In the future, please don't insult your readers with idiocies like "a pineapple-size amount of hydrogen atoms."
 
Their 5 second run equates to almost 12 Megawatts. That may be less than about 8 large wind turbines (at peak output) but it is a start.

Fusion has always been the dream power source if it could be harnessed reliably and ecconomically. It would change our world on so many levels if this ever works.
 
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The Joint European Torus fusion experiment in the U.K. has set a new record for generating energy.

Fusion experiment smashes record for generating energy, takes us a step closer to a new source of power : Read more
Fusion energy is often touted as a completely safe form of energy that doesn't produce the radiation associated with fission energy. However, we know the sun produces extremely harmful radiation that requires astronauts to protect themselves when they are in space.
My questions are these. If solar radiation can be so harmful, what are the problems with radiation that would be produced by a fusion reactor on Earth, and how do we mitigate those dangers?
Even the Sun's enormously powerful magnetic field can not contain the radiation it constantly emits from the core of the fusion reaction it generates. The radiation travels from the core of the sun, fighting the entire way until it emerges from it's surface to be spewed across the solar system and beyond.
If the sun, as powerful as it is, can not contain the radiation, how are we going to?
 
Containment is always a size issue. The Sun cannot be contained but a relatively small room with a fusion reactor, no doubt, can be properly shielded. Of course, these reactor roms are designed to protect the scientists who need shielding from what are likely gamma rays.

The solar core during fusion produces primarily gamma rays, which get absorbed along the random walk to the surface. The surface energy is very roughly half visible and half IR, but there is some UV, of course.

Astronauts need protection more from the explosions of the Sun, especially flares and CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections). These extremely energetic and high speed particles require greater shield protection than normal, hence the little room on the ISS where astronauts, and others, can go.

I don't know what envrionmental issues a fusion reactor has, but I have to believe it is superior to fission and fossil fuel issues. Perhaps someone will present these issues.
 
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Containment is always a size issue. The Sun cannot be contained but a relatively small room with a fusion reactor, no doubt, can be properly shielded. Of course, these reactor roms are designed to protect the scientists who need shielding from what are likely gamma rays.

The solar core during fusion produces primarily gamma rays, which get absorbed along the random walk to the surface. The surface energy is very roughly half visible and half IR, but there is some UV, of course.

Astronauts need protection more from the explosions of the Sun, especially flares and CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections). These extremely energetic and high speed particles require greater shield protection than normal, hence the little room on the ISS where astronauts, and others, can go.

I don't know what envrionmental issues a fusion reactor has, but I have to believe it is superior to fission and fossil fuel issues. Perhaps someone will present these issues.
Helio, "A relatively small room" when compared to the sun still translates into a massive containment here on Earth. Then the problem of containing 100,000,000 degrees Celsius is truly daunting. In addition, you also mentioned gamma radiation, but there is also massive amounts of x-rays, microwaves, and radio waves produced. The amount of energy needed to produce a magnetic field massive and strong enough to keep these dangers under control is massive on the stellar scale and that is not an understatement.
I'm not saying not to pursue research into nuclear fusion. I am saying that so many people think a nuclear fusion energy solution is practical (because of the hype many scientist build into their research) that when it becomes obvious we may be 100 years or more (or never) in achieving a viable functioning energy producing reactor, the disappointment it will create will result in the discontinuation of future funding for such a massive financial undertaking.
 
Helio, "A relatively small room" when compared to the sun still translates into a massive containment here on Earth. Then the problem of containing 100,000,000 degrees Celsius is truly daunting. In addition, you also mentioned gamma radiation, but there is also massive amounts of x-rays, microwaves, and radio waves produced. The amount of energy needed to produce a magnetic field massive and strong enough to keep these dangers under control is massive on the stellar scale and that is not an understatement.
Yet, they’re doing it, but not yet able to maintain continuous control. The physics and technology may, or maybe not, be known, but the engineering is incredibly challenging.

They originally said it would take 50 years to make fusion practical. This was 50 years ago, IIRC. Each decade they repeated their estimate. This is the first time I’ve noticed they have cut the time frame considerably. That alone is encouraging.

IMO, not having fusion may not be an option. Alternatives all have issues and time will bring heavier and heavier burdens on civilization without it.
 
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Yet, they’re doing it, but not yet able to maintain continuous control. The physics and technology may, or maybe not, be known, but the engineering is incredibly challenging.

They originally said it would take 50 years to make fusion practical. This was 50 years ago, IIRC. Each decade they repeated their estimate. This is the first time I’ve noticed they have cut the time frame considerably. That alone is encouraging.

IMO, not having fusion may not be an option. Alternatives all have issues and time will bring heavier and heavier burdens on civilization without it.
I'm not debating the advantages of a fusion energy source. The key aspect is power consumption minus the output. We're not even close to generating more power than what is being consumed. You proclaimed that they were "doing it," but in reality they're not. They can't control it and they consume much more power than they generate. You said so yourself.
You're correct that they've been saying it was 50 years away for the last 50 years. The same basic challenges that faced man-made fusion energy generation are still present, and have yet to be adequately addressed.
I'm 58 years old. I've been watching scientist give predictions on everything from medicine, to space travel and colonization, to creative energy solutions, global warming, etc. During the 70's, for instance, we were told that the Earth was entering a new ice age. In the 90's that had changed to global warming, Now they just say climate change. All the while politicians are urged by various groups to address issues scientist bring up and demand funding for.
During the late 70's a hole in the ozone layer was discovered. Legislation was passed to address this new "emergency" so that the planet could be saved. They forced changes in propellants and refrigerants. People could no longer repair their HVAC equipment. Instead it had to be replaced. In the 80's they discovered that the "hole" was seasonal and always has been. Unfortunately, laws were not repealed and today new refrigerants and equipment are being made to replace the refrigerants and equipment we were forced to change to.
I love science. I'm an engineer by trade. I want the integrity restored to science and the politics removed from it. Just a casual glance at the news today only highlights the general view point that there is a lack of integrity among the scientific "experts" due to their willingness to use science to push a political agenda which they in turn receive huge grants from government agencies to continue research that supports that political agenda.
I'm sorry it seems like I've gotten off topic and perhaps I have to a certain extent, but this article highlights what I'm talking about. You yourself pointed out that this is the first time in 50 years that they have stopped saying we will have a commercially viable fusion reactor in another 50 years.
The last 20 years we have been told repeatedly that if you question a scientific "expert" then you're some kind of science denier. I've always thought that if you can't question something about science then it's more along the lines of propaganda than it is science. The very essence of science is a relentless unending questioning of what we think we know. It is that questioning that has enabled mankind to look beyond what is accepted and imagine what could be.
I'm a pessimist now, and I question what is asserted by "experts" because the last two decades they have become increasingly unreliable, thus my questions concerning using fusion as an energy source.
 
I'm not debating the advantages of a fusion energy source. The key aspect is power consumption minus the output. We're not even close to generating more power than what is being consumed. You proclaimed that they were "doing it," but in reality they're not.
They have achieved up 2/3 rds. towards break even production.

I'm 58 years old. I've been watching scientist give predictions on everything from medicine, to space travel and colonization, to creative energy solutions, global warming, etc. During the 70's, for instance, we were told that the Earth was entering a new ice age. In the 90's that had changed to global warming, Now they just say climate change. All the while politicians are urged by various groups to address issues scientist bring up and demand funding for.
Don‘t forget cold fusion and a few recent medical hiccups. :). Yes, there are some important variables, unfortunately, that must be known in order to get a handle on the real science. Band wagons, especially ones carrying one or more politicians, are the first clue some will be beating a drum they should not.

But science is self-correcting. The greater scientists will objectively argue for better reasoning. Are there prominent scientists that have reasonable argument fusion is not possible? I doubt it.

The last 20 years we have been told repeatedly that if you question a scientific "expert" then you're some kind of science denier. I've always thought that if you can't question something about science then it's more along the lines of propaganda than it is science. The very essence of science is a relentless unending questioning of what we think we know. It is that questioning that has enabled mankind to look beyond what is accepted and imagine what could be.
Sadly, you’re all too correct. I left a prominent science forum for disallowing a thread addressing science regarding covid. This was to be a separate thread from the main thread that had guidance by experts. A separate thread would’ve allowed what science does best - offer scrutiny to improve itself. But a dark cloud seized control, and no open science would be tolerated, hence it was no longer a real science forum, IMO.

I'm a pessimist now, and I question what is asserted by "experts" because the last two decades they have become increasingly unreliable, thus my questions concerning using fusion as an energy source.
Your questions are welcome by me. That’s just science, after all. I’m optimistic because it seems plausible. I simply know too little to offer much objective evidence other than to note I haven’t seen objective arguments it won’t work.
 
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They have achieved up 2/3 rds. towards break even production.

Don‘t forget cold fusion and a few recent medical hiccups. :). Yes, there are some important variables, unfortunately, that must be known in order to get a handle on the real science. Band wagons, especially ones carrying one or more politicians, are the first clue some will be beating a drum they should not.

But science is self-correcting. The greater scientists will objectively argue for better reasoning. Are there prominent scientists that have reasonable argument fusion is not possible? I doubt it.

Sadly, you’re all too correct. I left a prominent science forum for disallowing a thread addressing science regarding covid. This was to be a separate thread from the main thread that had guidance by experts. A separate thread would’ve allowed what science does best - offer scrutiny to improve itself. But a dark cloud seized control, and no open science would be tolerated, hence it was no longer a real science forum, IMO.

Your questions are welcome by me. That’s just science, after all. I’m optimistic because it seems plausible. I simply know too little to offer much objective evidence other than to note I haven’t seen objective arguments it won’t work.
Well here's an objective argument for it possibly being beyond mankind's capability to produce a sustained fusion reaction.
Due to the minimal ability for mankind to recreate the incredible magnetic field capable within a star, thus mankind's inability to replicate the incredible pressures within a star's core, it is necessary to create temperatures hotter than the sun to excite atomic nuclei to the point fusion can occur. That's approximately 100,000,000 degrees Celsius. We've managed to do that with thermonuclear explosions, but I would hardly call that a contained fusion reaction.
Perhaps the best start would be to figure out exactly how much pressure is in the center of our sun and replicate that. I would suggest doing so off planet since any rupture in such a containment field would be catastrophic...perhaps for the entire planet.
 
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Well here's an objective argument for it possibly being beyond mankind's capability to produce a sustained fusion reaction.
Due to the minimal ability for mankind to recreate the incredible magnetic field capable within a star, thus mankind's inability to replicate the incredible pressures within a star's core, it is necessary to create temperatures hotter than the sun to excite atomic nuclei to the point fusion can occur. That's approximately 100,000,000 degrees Celsius. We've managed to do that with thermonuclear explosions, but I would hardly call that a contained fusion reaction.
Perhaps the best start would be to figure out exactly how much pressure is in the center of our sun and replicate that. I would suggest doing so off planet since any rupture in such a containment field would be catastrophic...perhaps for the entire planet.
Helio, I would like to thank you for not crucifying me like some politically correct fellow workers do at my job. It's refreshing to have a conversation and not be told I'm some kind of science denier while I use science to perform my duties at my job. Please don't ask where I work, but I can tell you I often muzzle myself to stay employed.
 
Well here's an objective argument for it possibly being beyond mankind's capability to produce a sustained fusion reaction.
Due to the minimal ability for mankind to recreate the incredible magnetic field capable within a star, thus mankind's inability to replicate the incredible pressures within a star's core, it is necessary to create temperatures hotter than the sun to excite atomic nuclei to the point fusion can occur. That's approximately 100,000,000 degrees Celsius.
The solar core is only about 15M K because, I assume, of it’s higher pressure. Hence these higher temperatures are needed in our containment.

The physics and engineering on paper may be better than we think. But nothing breaks on paper, as they say. I’ll stay optimistic on this given how far they’ve already come against formidable challenges.
 
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Helio, I would like to thank you for not crucifying me like some politically correct fellow workers do at my job. It's refreshing to have a conversation and not be told I'm some kind of science denier while I use science to perform my duties at my job. Please don't ask where I work, but I can tell you I often muzzle myself to stay employed.
I try to remind others the importance of holding fast to the modern meaning of science. Any claim that cannot be falsified is no scientific hypothesis, it’s just supposition. The multiverse idea is one example.

We all tend to believe what we want to believe, so we, including me, need to be careful that we don’t get pulled into group think, even if there is pecuniary reward for herd mentality.
 
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