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More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 4:57 pm
by joedead

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:55 pm
by Skipjack
Ahh, dammit, you beat me to it, Joe ;)

It seems like they have indeed plans to do tritium breeding with the reactor. So that part should be covered, Msimon.

They also seem to confirm what some here have been saying about the feasibility of fission- fusion hybrids.
We will see how that works out.
Personally, I am wondering how well this linear assembly would do for a fusion based space propulsion system. At a first glance sure looks more suitable than a torus, at least to a layman like me.

Posted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:05 pm
by kurt9
I got the fusion-fission hybrid subject going because D-T fusion produces lots of neutrons and it made sense to me that those neutrons ought to be used to do something (like fission). Then I thought about two-stage thermonuclear bombs, where those neutrons are used to fission the U238 surrounding the secondary stage that thought maybe the same process could be implemented in a power plant. About halve of the yield of a thermonuclear explosion comes from the fissioning of the U238 in the secondary. The rest is of course the fusion reactions.

The Tritium breeding process is the key here. This is the real show-stopper with this technology. I do not think this FRC concept can do B11-H fusion.

What is becoming clear to me is that the science of nuclear reactions is very immature and that there is much to be discovered, not only for energy generation, but also to develop industrial-scale transmutation.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:58 am
by Axil
If aneutronic B11-H fusion is not practical from either a technical or economic standpoint anytime in the near future, then D-T fusion is best served by a fusion/fission hybrid concept, and the Hilion reactor topology is well positioned for this approach.

Any big project should be developed in well thought out, mutually supportive and orchestrated phases. The thorium fusion hybrid should conform to this type of development strategy. The first phase should be the development of a U233 fuel factory. The first market would be existing Light Water Reactors and the new AHTR pebble reactors.

The price for the U233 would be well below the current U235 equivalent price. I think that such a fusion/fission fuel factory is very price competitive and is capable of producing U233 very well below this current $70 lbs yellowcake equivalent. The price of yellow cake has varied from $15 to $137 per pound recently and currently it is about $70 per pound. ... 90-JB2FXN/

The best type of fusion/fission hybrid has a very small zone of fusion preferably a point source. The Hilion reactor has this very important feature and because of the small size of the fusion zone it facilitates an all inclosing blanket with almost perfect closure. Because of the ideal efficiency of its almost perfect liquid blanket envelope, I can see this type of subcritical reactor producing about 5500 kgs of pure U232/U233 per year. Very few neutrons would be wasted. Beryllium in the blanket would almost double the production of the fusion neutron flux. To maximize U233 production, no lithium should be included in the blanket. Tritium would come from the waste flow of its dependent parasitic fission reactors; its customers.

The reactor does not need heat exchangers of turboelectric generators; it can dump the heat produced by fusion (typically 10 megawatts) to the air so a thermal power circuit wound not need to be developed or deployed. Because it is subcritical, it would not need a containment structure either.

If the protactinium is removed from the liquid fluoride beryllium/thorium blanket through on-line blanket salt reprocessing immediately after its creation, no fission heat would be produced by U233 fission.

Since this hybrid does not need to produce electric power or connect to the grid, this hybrid can operate intermittingly to allow frequent change out of its first wall. Such a diamond pipe can be replaced in a matter of hours. A coating of lithium hydride on the inside of this first wall diamond pipe might greatly reduce alpha particle damage.

I believe that this is the development strategy currently envisioned for the Helion fusion engine development program.

If the U233 can be produced with a 1% or greater U232 content, then no U238 denaturing would be required by IAEA rules. This highly enriched and proliferation proof U232/U233 nuclear fuel would make light water reactors and AHTR very clean and eliminate the waste problem associated with the uranium fuel cycle. This alone would be a big selling point for the thorium/fusion hybrid and get the thorium fuel cycle off at a run.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:10 pm
by Skipjack
I think that the helion reactor would have to produce at least some electricity in order to keep itself going. Otherwise, what is the point of Q>1 anyway?

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 3:33 pm
by Helius
Skipjack wrote:I think that the helion reactor would have to produce at least some electricity in order to keep itself going. Otherwise, what is the point of Q>1 anyway?
I like it. In this case the core mission is not to produce Electrical energy directly. Q doesn't matter so much in that the reactor is only producing U233 feedstock for downstream reactors. The "Q" of Helion Energy reactors including the downstream Fission reactors would be important. Helion Energy's reactor would just be plugged into the grid, like a toaster.

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:19 am
by Solo
Here's a supposedly updated pitch from Helion, they are much more enthusiastic in this, and perhaps the neutron graph is new (no units, unfortunately...). ... n-Web2.pdf

I noticed that they also have a "sponsored link" on Google -- they are advertizing! (I searched "fusion energy sciences fellowship".)

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:22 pm
by Munchausen
Here's a supposedly updated pitch from Helion,

Mission: Develop an Economical Fusion‐Based Electricity Generation System

Decades sooner than leading fusion efforts

Cost competitive with carbon‐based energy generation

Strategy: Exploit Recent Scientific Breakthrough

Advance enables operation at optimal power density

Designed specifically for commercial deployment

Avoids cost and technical barriers impeding current efforts

Status: Fusion Demonstrated in Commercial Configuration

Underlying physics principles validated and key technologies demonstrated

Only a modest investment in additional equipment is required to reach breakeven milestone


But I hear no amen. To good to be true?

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:56 pm
by Aero
Only a modest investment in additional equipment is required to reach breakeven milestone

Only a modest investment in additional ...

That has been the swan song of every research project ever discontinued, except for the few that admitted failure.

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 1:33 am
by mvanwink5
How is it that the DOE will fund Helion, but EMC2 thinks it has to rely only on Navy money?

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 3:03 am
by Skipjack
Because Helions research into materials also has applications in fission reactors, from what I understand.
I for my part am quite excited about this.
Btw, David Kirtley recently said that Helion is not going to persue hybrid reactors in the near term. They want to focus on a pure fusion reactor, at least for now.
Their idea for a hybrid fusion fission reactor would also physically separate the two.

It’s also important to understand the difference between prompt and delayed neutrons. It’s possible to build a subcritical reactor that only takes a small neutron input to initiate temporary criticality. The hybrid thorium reactors seek to remove the nasty startup material that’s required for a thorium reactor. In our view, the most realistic concept is to enrich thorium with a G<1 fusion neutron source and then move it next door to the thorium reactor for startup. Then drive your fusion enrichment machine to the next thorium site.

They have been continuing subsystem engineering and reactor design development.
Unfortunately, the breakeven demo and public release of technical progress will have to wait on more funding.

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 11:33 am
by mvanwink5
Skipjack, It still kind of counters the paranoia that DOE is loaded with ITER turf protectors that will say no to funding any commercial fusion effort other than a Tokomak or Tokamak relative. I am happy to see that there is serious money that Helion can tap into. Maybe polywell is not as promising as I think and hidden dismal performance is their real issue. On the other hand, bureaucracy is known for an overflowing well of stupid, so there is that.

Again, good on Helion. (and thanks for you thoughts)

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 1:31 pm
by Skipjack
Well compared to ITER and NIF it is still peanuts, unfortunately. If it was me, I would spread the funding more equally between the domestic fusion projects.

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 1:52 pm
by mvanwink5
On these small dollar fusion efforts, I wonder if instead of helping that perhaps the good intentions of government is instead acting like a spoiler by increasing risk. Say you spent 20 million and got the polywell proven for commercial electric production, then the government releases the data you risked 20 million for.

I still think private investors would make billions by stealth development and leveraging that to buy undervalued aluminum smelters, or titanium smelters. We just don't have industrialists with balls these days. Just ranting here.

Re: More Helion Energy news....

Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 5:56 pm
by TheRadicalModerate
Does anybody understand the purpose behind the byzantine relationship between Slough, Helion, MSNW, and U-Dub? I assume that there's some sort of funding/intellectual property accounting game going on here, but the whole thing is kinda hinky.

I initially thought that it was as simple as MSNW does propulsion and Helion does power apps, but last I heard Helion had licensed tech from MSNW. Furthermore, a bunch of the test bed work is being done at UW. All very confusing.