Commercially Feasible Fusion Reactor

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lekh2003

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I read an article: https://mashable.com/2017/12/19/nuclear-fusion-company-plans-to-make-carbon-free-energy/ about a company named General Fusion who aim to use plasma balls and pressurized steam pistons to create a 150 million degrees celsius environment for fusion to occur.

I also found a youtube video by Linus Tech Tips on the same fusion reactor where he tours the facility and gives a run down of the tech at General Fusion.

What are everybody's thoughts?
 

Drakkith

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My understanding was that it's mostly nonsense. The design might turn out to be workable, but not in the near future. Almost certainly not before other types of reactors, such as tokamaks, become operational.
 

lekh2003

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My understanding was that it's mostly nonsense.
That's what I thought as well. Seemed too hopeful. It is trying to solve a problem though. Toroidal fusion reactors use more energy than it produces from fusion.

Some tokamaks have been tested, but only to be a waste of energy. Lets hope we find a neat way to produce energy safely soon.
 

Drakkith

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Some tokamaks have been tested, but only to be a waste of energy.
The difference is that tokamaks have shown a steady improvement over the last few decades, whereas no reactors of this new design have even been built yet.
 

lekh2003

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When ITER is finished it should prove the viability of fusion for commercial use.
 

Drakkith

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Someone who calls ITER a prototype for a (electricity generating) fusion reactor either didn't understand anything or is deliberately misleading readers. Both are good reasons to ignore the article.

The construction images do remind me of some other machine.
 
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maybe not to make a new thread about this since the title of this one perfectly suits my commentary.
I did a few small calculations and please tell me what do you think about this.

say we are speaking about a tokamak fusion idea. looking at the ITER proposed numbers and tokamaks in general they require quite alot of electrical energy input.
So let's say some 100MW of electrical input is necessary for a certain size device, (I am not sure about ITER numbers , they say its 50MW but other sources claim that that number is the proposed future one and actual starting and test input levels will be higher)
so staying with our 100MW input, we then need for the electrical output after thermal to mechanical to electrical conversion to be atleast 200MW correct?
In other words any fusion powerstation would need to output at least twice as it's input consumption is to be commercially feasible.
because if the powerstation say consumes 100MW but outputs 150 then sure that too is 50 more than nothing but from a purely grid perspective you have to have all those extra switch yards and transformers etc just to run the station and the output is kind of little compared to that, so how does this transform into numbers and money terms? Would it be feasible to run a tokamak say that outputs just 1/2 more than it consumes?

I assume if my numbers are correct, fission power plants consume something like 2% to 4% of their total electrical output , or someone can correct these numbers since I have no chart at the moment to illustrate these.

So what are your thoughts
 
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It would have to be much more. 200 MW thermal output could be converted to something like 70 MW to 100 MW electrical power, and the 100 MW going into the plasma need more than 100 MW electrical power to produce them.

The ITER design is 500 MW thermal power from 50 MW heating (ratio Q=10), at this point you could produce more electricity than you have to put in, but it is still not enough to be interesting commercially. A power plant should run at Q=25 or higher. Ideally the fusion itself produces the heat to keep the reactor running.
 
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yes thanks mfb that was my point i just forgot to mentioned that I was talking about MW with regards to electric consumption specifically, although I am not sure of the specific numbers for ITER, I simply assumed based on a simple paper calculation that no matter how much electricity in terms of MW such a power plant consumes it must put out no less than twice as much also in electric MW to the grid to be feasible correct?

now maybe someone knows the specific efficiencies of plasma heating devices like neutral particle injection, ohmic heating and microwave or RF heating? I assume ohmic being resistive is the most efficient one where most of the electricity is converted to heat much like in a regular conductor heater?
well we must also include the cryogenic pumps for the magnets and magnets themselves although I guess that under superconducting state the magnets use very little power?

well it is much easier with the output , if we assume they don't use direct conversion (charged particles striking and anode/cathode then the typical thermodynamic efficiency of water/steam is no more than 35% I guess with some molten salts or gases having a higher efficiency if implemented.

All in all the question is can a tokamak be efficient enough to give out more than it consumes counting away the losses both in input and output conversions.
I suppose that many of the plasma heating techniques are already maximized in their efficiencies and there is not much headroom to grow into?
 
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I think it's a scale thing.
The Sun is a perfect demonstration of a working fusion reactor, fusion works.
Can we make what are in effect tiny Suns though?
I guess it has to be called work in progress.
 

lekh2003

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Can we make what are in effect tiny Suns though?
Yup, the big problem. Can we make balls of plasma with temperatures that could annihilate us. What could be more simple?:nb):-p
 
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I simply assumed based on a simple paper calculation that no matter how much electricity in terms of MW such a power plant consumes it must put out no less than twice as much also in electric MW to the grid to be feasible correct?
If you have a free machine that can output 5% more electricity than you put in it would be commercially feasible to use this machine. The only hard threshold is the obvious one - you need to get more out than you put in (this includes the whole potential power plant - cooling, tritium cycle, ...). After that it is just a matter of cost.
 
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If we do get there, we get Helium as waste.
Helium is quite useful, not stuff you have to bury in the ground and hope it doesn't cause trouble.
 
33,363
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If we do get there, we get Helium as waste.
Helium is quite useful, not stuff you have to bury in the ground and hope it doesn't cause trouble.
Not enough helium to be interesting.
Fusion reactors produce radioactive reactor walls. Fission reactors produce isotopes useful for spaceflight and medicine.
Things are not as black and white as your post suggests.
 
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Reactor walls meaning some outer containment of neutrons and other particles emitted from the reactor core?
Could those walls be constructed in a way that produces useful isotopes when they are worn out so have to be recycled.
 

lekh2003

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After that it is just a matter of cost.
To overcome this cost, you would ultimately require an energy yield of at least 200% of the amount of energy you put in as suggested. Otherwise, it wouldn't be commercially feasible in a reasonable time period, but only energy yielding.
 
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Reactor walls meaning some outer containment of neutrons and other particles emitted from the reactor core?
Yes.
Could those walls be constructed in a way that produces useful isotopes when they are worn out so have to be recycled.
It is challenging enough to find any material that can withstand the intense heat and radiation damage without needing a replacement every year or even every month. It is even more challenging to find a material that doesn't produce too much problematic waste.
Finding a material that can satisfy all this while also producing something useful? Good luck.
To overcome this cost, you would ultimately require an energy yield of at least 200% of the amount of energy you put in as suggested.
Where does that number 200% come from? It looks too low for realistic concepts.
 

lekh2003

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Where does that number 200% come from? It looks too low for realistic concepts.
Just off the top of my head, I didn't put much thought into the number, double seemed like a neat scheme. But it would still be realistically feasible as compared to 5%...
 
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Well, the experts expect that you need much more than a factor of 2.
Be careful with made-up numbers. Ideally don't just make up numbers.
 

lekh2003

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Well, the experts expect that you need much more than a factor of 2.
Be careful with made-up numbers. Ideally don't just make up numbers.
Ok sir.
 

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