Major Electronics Magazine Picks Up On Polywell

Point out news stories, on the net or in mainstream media, related to polywell fusion.

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Art Carlson
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Post by Art Carlson »

It is quite amazing that the fundamental physics of fusion (cross section and energy), and the not so fundamental physics of plasma transport in tokamaks, turn out to have values that lead to a power plant within an order of magnitude in power rating and cost of electricity of those we have now, using completely different (chemical) processes.

We would all be happier if the size needed to test and develop the economics of tokamaks had turned out to be 50 MW_fus instead of 500 MW_fus, but that's what nature gave us.

jmc
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Post by jmc »

ITER is 500MW that will (hopefully) achieve Q=10.

20GW sounds like hearsay pure and simple.

At 500MW a plasma disruption would cripple the reactor, at 20GW a disruption would probably take out the rest of the plant aswell.

1-2GW sounds about right. I certainly haven't heard anything like the 20GW figure myself and I am situated in a tokamak research centre.

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

JLawson,

I'm out of copies myself. It was available on Fictionwise for a while in e-book format. Sometimes copies show up on e-bay or Amazon.

But I could make a .pdf available for forum participants who promise not to publish it or post it on the internet.

kurt9
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Re: Major Electronics Magazine Picks Up On Polywell

Post by kurt9 »

Art Carlson wrote:
MSimon wrote:And you will get to see what I look like. LOL.
My god! This is worse than anything I could have imagined! :shock:
Plus the power output [of a full scale power reactor]would be on the order of 20 GW.
About the power output of the Three Gorges Dam. And just 3 or 4 times larger than the largest existing nuclear power sites. If the price were right, the utilities could handle the rest. But where does this number come from? I know it's been tossed out before, but IIRC the actual designs I have seen (whether or not you think they are realistic) have all been well below 2 GW.
MSimon, you look like the liberal scientist type!

10-20 GW is what I have heard for a commercial Tokamak reactor from the guys at Los Alamos (who are all ex-fusion people). Grand Coulee Dam in the Pacific Northwest generates 12 GW of power. You could build commercial tokamaks at Hanford, which is centrally located in the Pacific Northwest and run the power lines to all of the cities in the area. Same for a desert location equidistant from SoCal, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. The output of such a reactor is not too far out of line.

Nonetheless, the utility people I know tell me that ideal output of a power plant is in the 100-500 MW range. You build multiple plants through out a region and have lots of redundancy if one of them falls off line.

In any case, nice brief article.

TallDave
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Post by TallDave »

kurt9,

Hydropower is as close to free as it gets. When your production costs are that low, you can afford more distribution and still be competitive.

Regarding the plant size: it isn't just a question of what the physics allow you to do, it's also a question of what makes economic sense. I got the feeling 20GW was chosen as being friendliest to production cost per kilowatt hour.

The other distribution problem is that when your power comes in units of 20GW, it's more difficult to manage downtime. Most places, people expect the power to be on close to 100% of the time. In a hydro plant, you could offline one turbine at a time for maintenance. In a tokamak, you need the plasma burning to make power.
Last edited by TallDave on Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

At the Philcon SF convention a couple of years back I found myself on a fusion panel with a guy whose job it was to estimate the performance of ITER. He projects it could have a margin of about 8, which would be respectable.

I had him confirm the scaling is sort of like Polywell, B^4 times volume I think. Either one would theoretically have the property of increasing power dramatically with size. The difference is a tokamak needs to be huge compared to a Polywell, but a little huger should be dramatically better.

But imagine the hole in your power grid when you take a 20 GWe tokamak off-line. And you will have to take it off line, for prolonged periods, every couple of years.

kurt9
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Post by kurt9 »

Thats right. Grand Coolie has 20-25 generators. They take them down for maintenance one at a time while the rest of them continue to generate power. The problem with a 20GW tokamak is that we're talking about a single reactor generating all of the power. Since the utilities like to group multiple reactors together, like Palo Verde in Arizona, since this allows you to take one down while having the others generate power. Thus, 2-3 reactors gives you 40-60 GW of power, which is too much to handle economically from a single facility.

Maybe Art is right that the actual size of a commercial tokamak would be 2 GW, a much more practical size. However, the guys I met with at Los Alamos 10 years ago (who used to work in fusion) told me that a commercial tokamak would have to put out at least 10 GW of power at optimal capacity and would be the size of an NLF stadium. The utility people they discussed this with actually laughed in their faces.

A typical coal fired plant generates 1 GW and most nuclear reactors are in the 750 MW to 1.4 GW regime.

JLawson
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Post by JLawson »

Tom Ligon wrote:JLawson,

I'm out of copies myself. It was available on Fictionwise for a while in e-book format. Sometimes copies show up on e-bay or Amazon.

But I could make a .pdf available for forum participants who promise not to publish it or post it on the internet.
I'd greatly appreciate it. I've got the issue with the sequel - but not the one with El Dorado itself. Are you planning on doing more in that series?
When opinion and reality conflict - guess which one is going to win in the long run.

chrismb
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Post by chrismb »

kurt9 wrote:The utility people they discussed this with actually laughed in their faces.
Well, that's dim-witted, shortsightedness for you! You can tell the engineers who are stuck in their ways... you just can't tell 'em much. As I've said above (but will repeat - because of my personal insecurities over not making my point well!) if someone said "hey, I've just found a 20GW power source that needs [essentially] no fuel" you can be damned sure people will find a way to tap it - what! d'you they'll just say "err, sorry, too much power for us, better leave it. We'll stick with coal, thanks..." yeah! sure..... This thread question, over whether there is some limiting ceiling on the amout of power that can be made use of, is completely daft!

TallDave
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Post by TallDave »

if someone said "hey, I've just found a 20GW power source that needs [essentially] no fuel" you can be damned sure people will find a way to tap it - what! d'you they'll just say "err, sorry, too much power for us, better leave it. We'll stick with coal, thanks..." yeah! sure.....
It would depend how much the power source cost to operate. A free 20GW source, sure.
This thread question, over whether there is some limiting ceiling on the amout of power that can be made use of, is completely daft!
It's a question of practicality and economics. It only seems daft if you don't understand the practical considerations.

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

JLawson,

There are a few people bugging me for a sequel, but trying to write about a war that would take generations, with essentially no communication between the participants but one-way insults, seems boring to me.

One could make a career out of the premise that we move out into the galaxy and encounter them once they realize they must do the same, but that would take away from my main future history I've neglected too long already.

Any forum participant wanting a .pdf of "El Dorado", if you make tom ligon one word, you can e-mail me at that name at that name dot com and it should get to me. Be sure to include your screen name so I know who you are.

chrismb
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Post by chrismb »

TallDave wrote: It's a question of practicality and economics. It only seems daft if you don't understand the practical considerations.
Of course, I've not argued otherwise. But the 'debate' seems to be hinging around the suggestion that "20GW isn't a useful power output", which is daft. The only way to figure out how much a real 20GW fusion plant costs is either to get down on and design/build it, or at least build its predecessor so as to give you idea of what changes need to be made to the budget to upgrade it. So the posit, or the [MSimon's]* implied tone, that progessing towards a 20GW power plant is somehow fundamentally a-bad-idea is, well, clearly in error.

*[MSimon: "Plus the power output would be on the order of 20 GW. Utilities have no use for that much power in one spot." - perhaps should have been "Utilities do not currently have the technology to make use of that much power in one spot" but the obvious repost is "nor do we have the current technology to make a 20GW fusion reactor... so what?!"]

The other points in the thread I agree with, though, is that for that much power from one unit has networking flaws - if one unit goes down, you've just lost 20GW. OK, so you add some multiple redundancy and before you know it we've now got a 80GW plant with quadruple redundancy, whereas if you've got 100 units all of 200MW then you only need, say, 110 units (22GW max capacity) [or whatever the requirement for the reliability/availability calc] for the same 20GW availability target.

chrismb
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Post by chrismb »

Tom Ligon wrote:but trying to write about a war that would take generations, with essentially no communication between the participants but one-way insults, seems boring to me.
I thought for a moment you were talking about 'tokamak research' versus 'other fusion' then!!... :lol:

JLawson
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Post by JLawson »

chrismb wrote:
Tom Ligon wrote:but trying to write about a war that would take generations, with essentially no communication between the participants but one-way insults, seems boring to me.
I thought for a moment you were talking about 'tokamak research' versus 'other fusion' then!!... :lol:
Fits either way, doesn't it?

I'll be sending you an email, Tom. Thank you!
When opinion and reality conflict - guess which one is going to win in the long run.

Stoney3K
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Post by Stoney3K »

jmc wrote:At 500MW a plasma disruption would cripple the reactor, at 20GW a disruption would probably take out the rest of the plant aswell.
Don´t forget the result of cascade failures from damage to the SC magnets, vacuum chamber and cryogenic units.

Even a catastrophic 500MW plasma disruption would probably result in a pretty big boom, throwing red hot, radioactive pieces of the blanket all over the place.

I hope the ITER guys have got some serious security measures. I don't really want to imagine terrorists hitting this one.
Because we can.

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