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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MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

chrismb wrote:
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!
Yes. Foolish engineers. They actually have to deal with things like finance.

To give a ridiculous example to make the point.

"Why not build a power producer that has a capital cost of a billion dollars a watt? After all the fuel is free."

Currently the power companies say around $7,000 a KW is maximum and $1,000 a KW is realistic. Under $500 a KW would be ideal.

Because toks use a thermal plant to extract electrical power you also have the problem of cooling. Suppose you don't have "unlimited" water available. You need cooling towers. Fine. If you don't want 40 or 50 cooling towers per plant you can reject the heat at a higher temp. But that lowers the net power which makes your $/w worse.

Well any way. The reason engineers as a rule make more money than scientists (despite the fact that the math is easier in engineering) is because their decisions affect profitability. Money is why marketing and sales guys make more than engineers. No sales. No money.

Two things engineers have over scientists - they get logistics and know the value of time. Of course some scientists make very good engineers. But in general the demands are different.

Take the computer industry which I have worked in from time to time. Typically it takes two years to produce a new design. At two years and six months you are out of the money. For decent profitability the margin for error is one month.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

Concentrated power in the multi GW range is not a bad thing if you can use that power on site. If it has to go off site you have transmission line costs to add to the mix. One thing that makes dams feasible (economically) is that the $/w are low so that putting the "saved" money into transmission lines makes sense.

What utilities look at is the $/w of getting the power to the customer.

So let us look at what the customer pays for:

1. Fuel
2. Plant capital costs
3. Grid capital costs
4. Maintenance

Adding together all the above what you want is a total cost in the 10 cent to 20 cent a KWh range. Lower being better. Take electric or plug in hybrid cars. Roughly - 10 cents a KWh is equivalent to $1.00 a gallon for gasoline. So the maximum in America for electricity for transportation is around 40 cents a KWh delivered. Wind and solar with costs on the order of 40 cents a KWh (at the bus bar) are break even if the additional vehicle costs for the electric portion is zero. And that is at $4 a gallon for fuel.

To give another stupid example:

Suppose the fuel is free and the capital cost for power production is also zero, but the plant must be located in a body of water 1,000 miles from the shore. Not going to happen.

Engineering may in fact be much harder than research because there are so many more elements to keep track of.

Suppose a researcher is working on a project and picks the wrong screw for something. To keep the experiment going the screw needs replacement every 100 hours. No problem. Assign a graduate student to the problem.

A device for use commercially with such a mistake is not going to be salable where the customer expects a MTBF of 1,000 hours.

It is one of the reasons engineers are conservative (it spills over into politics). If you don't get ALL the details right it can be the difference between profit and loss. So engineers like to go with what is known to work. i.e. you make some parts of the design sub-optimum (design margin) to give you the life you need for profit. But not too sub-optimum. That affects profitability. It is a problem of balancing 10,000 factors. Politics is in fact the same only there are millions of factors. What do you do in a case like that? Change very slowly and watch carefully how the change affects the total system.

Just to inject some economics into the equation:

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/econ ... cture.html
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

kurt9
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Post by kurt9 »

chrismb wrote:
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!
It was not just the huge power output that made them laugh. It was many other issues as well. The complexity of the proposed fusion plant, the large number of scientific staff needed to run it, not to mention the large capital outlay to build it to begin with. Yes, the per Watt cost is low, but the initial capital cost of such a plant is very, very high. Its a similar economics to that of leading edge 300mm semiconductor plants. The per device cost is very low, but the initial outlay is 2-4 billion dollars. Lastly, the availability of cooling water was a consideration as well. They figured such a plant would need to be next to a large river with the cooling capacity of Niagara Falls. This limits location options for such a plant.

The utilities like to build two kinds of plants. 1GW baseline plants and 100 MW "peaker" plants. These tend to offer the best economic trade-offs between capital investment and rate of return.

The industry has a bad track record with financing ultra-large generating capacity. The WPPSS (we call it "whoops") 5 nuclear plants that were supposed to be built in the Pacific Northwest in the late 70's and early 80's. This resulted in the largest utility bankruptcy in the U.S., one which rate payers are still paying for today (to pay off the defunct bonds that were sold to pay for the project). We got only one of the 5 nuclear power plants that were supposed to be built. We could certainly use an additional two today. But the WPPSS debacle put a foul taste in the mouths of Pacific Northwest people with regards to nuclear power, in addition to that the region is home to many anti-nuclear "greens"

gblaze42
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Post by gblaze42 »

MSimon wrote:
Yes. Foolish engineers. They actually have to deal with things like finance.

To give a ridiculous example to make the point.

"Why not build a power producer that has a capital cost of a billion dollars a watt? After all the fuel is free."

Currently the power companies say around $7,000 a KW is maximum and $1,000 a KW is realistic. Under $500 a KW would be ideal.

Because toks use a thermal plant to extract electrical power you also have the problem of cooling. Suppose you don't have "unlimited" water available. You need cooling towers. Fine. If you don't want 40 or 50 cooling towers per plant you can reject the heat at a higher temp. But that lowers the net power which makes your $/w worse.
That's very true! If you take into consideration the efficiency in converting heat to electricity in typical steam turbines, 50-60% efficiency at most, your dealing with 18 to 20 GW of waste heat. To my understanding that isn't easy to manage.

jmc
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Post by jmc »

MSimon wrote: Because toks use a thermal plant to extract electrical power you also have the problem of cooling. Suppose you don't have "unlimited" water available. You need cooling towers. Fine. If you don't want 40 or 50 cooling towers per plant you can reject the heat at a higher temp. But that lowers the net power which makes your $/w worse.
It's worse than that, even at 50% efficiency you have to pour 1/3 of the electricity you generate back into the neutral beams to keep the plasma current going to maintain the equilibrium in a tokamak. So a 20GW tokamak would need every one of those 50 cooling towers.

I still think you could build a 2GW DEMO, progress has been made on ITBs, H-mode etc. field strengths of superconductors etc. in the last 10 years.

In addition to that there's talk that a zero recyling liquid lithium wall could dramatically reduce the minimum size of a tokamak.

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

jmc wrote:
MSimon wrote: Because toks use a thermal plant to extract electrical power you also have the problem of cooling. Suppose you don't have "unlimited" water available. You need cooling towers. Fine. If you don't want 40 or 50 cooling towers per plant you can reject the heat at a higher temp. But that lowers the net power which makes your $/w worse.
It's worse than that, even at 50% efficiency you have to pour 1/3 of the electricity you generate back into the neutral beams to keep the plasma current going to maintain the equilibrium in a tokamak. So a 20GW tokamak would need every one of those 50 cooling towers.

I still think you could build a 2GW DEMO, progress has been made on ITBs, H-mode etc. field strengths of superconductors etc. in the last 10 years.

In addition to that there's talk that a zero recyling liquid lithium wall could dramatically reduce the minimum size of a tokamak.
For a Naval Nuke Plant about 10% of the electricity generated goes into the pumps etc at full power. You can do better than that at reduced power. So there are design trade offs. i.e. spend more on the reactor and make it larger in order to reduce pumping power required. There are limits because a larger core (more surface area) may also increase pumping power. The trade offs are complicated.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

jmc wrote:
MSimon wrote: Because toks use a thermal plant to extract electrical power you also have the problem of cooling. Suppose you don't have "unlimited" water available. You need cooling towers. Fine. If you don't want 40 or 50 cooling towers per plant you can reject the heat at a higher temp. But that lowers the net power which makes your $/w worse.
It's worse than that, even at 50% efficiency you have to pour 1/3 of the electricity you generate back into the neutral beams to keep the plasma current going to maintain the equilibrium in a tokamak. So a 20GW tokamak would need every one of those 50 cooling towers.

I still think you could build a 2GW DEMO, progress has been made on ITBs, H-mode etc. field strengths of superconductors etc. in the last 10 years.

In addition to that there's talk that a zero recyling liquid lithium wall could dramatically reduce the minimum size of a tokamak.
I didn't realize that (1/3 of the electricity for beam heating). That is just horrible. It means operation of the steam plant at very high temps to get net power. And the lithium blanket must be even hotter. That is a very big materials problem.

If DEMO has no steam plant 2 GWf size is possible. If the plant has to support its own operation you are going to want it to be much larger and the thermal side will have to be operating at near 850K to get reasonable overall efficiency. Typically an "open flow" heat exchanger will have a 100K temp drop (inlet temp vs steam temp). You could do a counter flow design but those are material intensive.

Carnot says that for 50% efficiency while rejecting heat at 300K you need a steam temp of 600K. Go to 325K (air cooling on a hot summer day) and you need 650 K steam. Add in margins for heat transfer losses and turbine efficiency etc and you are at an 800K to 850K operating temp. on the hot side.

Compare that to a direct conversion Polywell machine with 80% conversion efficiency and drive requirements of 5% of the fusion energy (B11 resonance peak). Plus you can reject the waste heat at 400K making the cool side heat exchangers small (except for the cooling of the electronics which would need chilled water (from a heat pump - as in air conditioner) in the summer or at all times if the plant is in the equatorial zone. So you can expect overall a working Polywell should get about 60% net power fusion to electricity. Maybe getting up to 70% with engineering refinements.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

chrismb
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Post by chrismb »

Ok. You've all convinced me. There is absolutely no point in building something if all ya gonna do is go get 20GW out of the thing. What a bloomin' waste of time that would be!

If all a fusion reactor could do is generate 20GW at Q=10, then clearly that route to fusion energy is impossible and we should just give it up!

:roll:

gblaze42
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Post by gblaze42 »

chrismb wrote:Ok. You've all convinced me. There is absolutely no point in building something if all ya gonna do is go get 20GW out of the thing. What a bloomin' waste of time that would be!

If all a fusion reactor could do is generate 20GW at Q=10, then clearly that route to fusion energy is impossible and we should just give it up!

:roll:
I don't think anyone is saying it can't be done, but that the costs to do it, out way the energy produced.
Last edited by gblaze42 on Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TallDave
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Post by TallDave »

chrismb wrote:Ok. You've all convinced me. There is absolutely no point in building something if all ya gonna do is go get 20GW out of the thing. What a bloomin' waste of time that would be!

If all a fusion reactor could do is generate 20GW at Q=10, then clearly that route to fusion energy is impossible and we should just give it up!

:roll:
Well, you certainly beat the snot out of that strawman. A knockout victory.

All you people claiming the moon is made of green cheese don't know what you're talking about! Your plans for a Schabziger-based lunar colony are ridiculous!

KitemanSA
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Post by KitemanSA »

chrismb wrote:Ok. You've all convinced me. There is absolutely no point in building something if all ya gonna do is go get 20GW out of the thing. What a bloomin' waste of time that would be!

If all a fusion reactor could do is generate 20GW at Q=10, then clearly that route to fusion energy is impossible and we should just give it up!

:roll:
To quote a well known movie: "Show me the money!"
That is what everyone is saying. What little we have seen wrt "the money" suggests that 20GW tokamaks are a no go. Show us we are wrong, PLEASE!

D Tibbets
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Post by D Tibbets »

I'm confused. I had thought that ITER was susposed to have a Q of ~ 2, but as pointed out earlier it is actually closer to ~ 8-10. Doesn't all of the input energy, including the neutral beam heating go into figuring Q? I also understand that Q scales with size so a DEMO (2 GW?)plant would presumably have a higher Q (how much higher?). Eventially, a reasonable output/input ratio would be reached. But, I understand that from an economic standpoint this would be very expensive per KWh, even compared to current solar and wind. If clusters of smaller less efficent plants were used the maintainance downtime would be more manageble, but at increased cost. So, from an economic standpoint the Tokamac approach is a last resort after fission, coal, oil, solar, wind, etc.
This assumes the instability concerns are met.

Concerning cooling, if corrosion can be controlled, wouldnt ocean water work for the heat exchanger?

Dan Tibbets
To error is human... and I'm very human.

chrismb
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Post by chrismb »

KitemanSA wrote:
chrismb wrote:Ok. You've all convinced me. There is absolutely no point in building something if all ya gonna do is go get 20GW out of the thing. What a bloomin' waste of time that would be!

If all a fusion reactor could do is generate 20GW at Q=10, then clearly that route to fusion energy is impossible and we should just give it up!

:roll:
To quote a well known movie: "Show me the money!"
That is what everyone is saying. What little we have seen wrt "the money" suggests that 20GW tokamaks are a no go. Show us we are wrong, PLEASE!
I really don't understand the argument.

You humans are still trying to fathom fusion energy itself, and you're already bickering over the cost and the power output!?!?!?!

It's like listening to people debating the existence of God, but missing out the 'existence' part and just moving straight on to how much His house cost and what cubic capacity His pick-up has got under the hood!!

Don't you worry none about the cost and power right now: Once you can stabilise a 10's of keV plasma, and/or maintain a sufficiently focussed 100's keV ion flux with tolerable emittance, then the physicists have mostly finished their bit and the engineers can take over. Once the engineers have turned it into something that works, then the accountants take over and it's at the end of that chain that the tedious number-crunching starts.

Blithering on about whether 2GW is better than 20GW is nonsense. You won't really understand the practical and/or financial implications until the first one is built. This is UNKNOWN technology, and it's always like that for the first build. This isn't some new model of car being built; it's not predictable by the reptilious accountancy species. They should slither off under their slimy rocks for a while and give the golden lights of humanity a chance to shine.

Human's glorious intellectual triumphs over his universe end once the engineers have started down the road of tweaks and efficiency improvements "for commercial reasons". Human's in-glorious meat-headedness starts as the accountants get their calculators out. I'm only interested in the glorious triumphs of humans, so don't bore me with the filthy politico/accountant's business. I have enough of that at work without having to discuss such disgusting matters in the context of great works of intellect; the quest for fusion energy.

One day, you won't have money as you understand it, and those that read these ancient websites will wonder what on earth you're talking about (or rather, 'in the galaxy', as might be said then).

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

I'm with Chris here. Somebody show me a working demonstrator.

gblaze42
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Post by gblaze42 »

chrismb wrote: I really don't understand the argument.

You humans are still trying to fathom fusion energy itself, and you're already bickering over the cost and the power output!?!?!?!

It's like listening to people debating the existence of God, but missing out the 'existence' part and just moving straight on to how much His house cost and what cubic capacity His pick-up has got under the hood!!

Don't you worry none about the cost and power right now: Once you can stabilise a 10's of keV plasma, and/or maintain a sufficiently focussed 100's keV ion flux with tolerable emittance, then the physicists have mostly finished their bit and the engineers can take over. Once the engineers have turned it into something that works, then the accountants take over and it's at the end of that chain that the tedious number-crunching starts.

Blithering on about whether 2GW is better than 20GW is nonsense. You won't really understand the practical and/or financial implications until the first one is built. This is UNKNOWN technology, and it's always like that for the first build. This isn't some new model of car being built; it's not predictable by the reptilious accountancy species. They should slither off under their slimy rocks for a while and give the golden lights of humanity a chance to shine.

Human's glorious intellectual triumphs over his universe end once the engineers have started down the road of tweaks and efficiency improvements "for commercial reasons". Human's in-glorious meat-headedness starts as the accountants get their calculators out. I'm only interested in the glorious triumphs of humans, so don't bore me with the filthy politico/accountant's business. I have enough of that at work without having to discuss such disgusting matters in the context of great works of intellect; the quest for fusion energy.

One day, you won't have money as you understand it, and those that read these ancient websites will wonder what on earth you're talking about (or rather, 'in the galaxy', as might be said then).
Engineers are the realists. If we we're to just revel in the scientific pursuit of knowledge and not worry about the cost, why don't we pursue making antimatter via particle accelerators? it's easier than fusion, since we can already do it.
Could it be the cost that prevents us?

If fusion were to costly to produce a working power plant, there would little point in going for that as well.
Last edited by gblaze42 on Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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