How far exactly are we from breakeven?
In the October 2010 issue of Physics Today, I noticed a call to support heavy-ion fusion which piqued my curiosity once again - every once in a while, I make it a little effort to google how close we are to breakeven in fusion energy. I don't know much in this area, but it always interests me.
I also came across this interesting article, which was written in 2000, but still holds water to this day:
As pointed out on the PT article, most of the funding is going into the drivers to date - to find that laser or accelerator design that can meet the fusion conditions. How far is the effort in securing a steady source of tritium, or are we still living in 2000 where the proposed means of acquiring tritium from Li6 is far too insufficient judging from the global production of lithium? How far are we from a safe, long-term means of neutron capture for a fusion plant that could actually make fusion 'cleaner' than conventional fission reactors?
ITER is expected to commence operation of its demonstration power plant in 2033. With the billions that are being poured into fusion research (at losses) each year, multiply that by the duration of the next half of my lifetime until it is promised to breakeven... It must be quite magical to recuperate the opportunity cost accumulated over the years, that could otherwise have gone into generating energy per se, or improving the efficiency of tested means of energy production. It brings to question, how long more do you think this dream will take? I don't forsee it happening in my lifetime, and I agree that this is one huge economical mistake - we're still too far from maximizing the utility of our present means of energy production to start exploring this.
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