# Fusion power, economics

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1. Jun 13, 2015

### Stephanus

Wow, what a nice graph you send me. Thanks.
Yes, yes. I just remember that the name sounds like Kim Kardashian, but forget the actual name is.

There's a peak in US graph in 1970's for oil needs but descends later. Why is that? Fission plant?
They say France is 100% fission dependent, yet the oil needs do not descend. Why is that? Transportation?

Yeah, fusion is the energy of the future! And in the future, fusion is STILL the energy of the future

I have this from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power#Waste_management
It looks like the waste is much less dangerous then fission power plant.

Waste management
The large flux of high-energy neutrons in a reactor will make the structural materials radioactive. The radioactive inventory at shut-down may be comparable to that of a fission reactor, but there are important differences.

The half-life of the radioisotopes produced by fusion tends to be less than those from fission, so that the inventory decreases more rapidly. Unlike fission reactors, whose waste remains radioactive for thousands of years, most of the radioactive material in a fusion reactor would be the reactor core itself, which would be dangerous for about 50 years, and low-level waste another 100. Although this waste will be considerably more radioactive during those 50 years than fission waste, the very short half-life makes the process very attractive, as the waste management is fairly straightforward. By 500 years the material would have the same radiotoxidity as coal ash

Additionally, the choice of materials used in a fusion reactor is less constrained than in a fission design, where many materials are required for their specific neutron cross-sections. This allows a fusion reactor to be designed using materials that are selected specifically to be "low activation", materials that do not easily become radioactive.Vanadium, for example, would become much less radioactive than stainless steel. Carbon fiber materials are also low-activation, as well as being strong and light, and are a promising area of study for laser-inertial reactors where a magnetic field is not required.

In general terms, fusion reactors would create far less radioactive material than a fission reactor, the material it would create is less damaging biologically, and the radioactivity "burns off" within a time period that is well within existing engineering capabilities for safe long-term waste storage.

Hmhh...

2. Jun 13, 2015

### Czcibor

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis

USA supported (saved?) Israel during Yom Kippur War, so Arab countries retaliated by slashing production to increase prices.

Later - better technologies and regulations intended to stop CO2 emissions.

My guess is that anyway, regardless of politics the economy would become more fuel efficient, just the demand for energy would not be just flat.

France? Political decision. Plus I think that they had their own nuclear program that was dreamt to stop communist single-handed helped to provide technology and enough engineers.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking here about technological factors, but about psychological ones. In case of fission that was the problem. People who protest against nuclear energy are not good enough at math, to appreciate that according to wiki page that you quoted, nuclear garbage would have shorter half lives.

One more thing - concerning of potential impact on economy of nuclear fussion, you may look about a different one that's now happening in the USA:
politics:
http://chemistrytoenergy.com/sites/chemistrytoenergy.com/files/shale-gas-full-study.pdf

Yes, shale gas. So it might give you rough idea, how such energy driven tech revolution may look like.

3. Jun 13, 2015

### Stephanus

oOo, that's why. Yes, I remember something about oil crisis, and OPEC and Henry Kissinger all in the 70's. The 80's belonged to Reagan, Berlin Wall, Gulf War. I didn't know that Kissinger was the negotiator. So it was all started by "Yom Kippur". Just didn't realize that the peak and drop was caused by this.

Shale gas? Wow that's new, at least for me. Thanks for your article.

4. Jul 7, 2015

### lavinia

Russ a question: I have read that the Chinese are going to mine the Moon for Helium 3 for fusion energy. Why are they doing this? Why don't they just built a bunch of nuclear reactors? Are there other goals to this project?

5. Jul 7, 2015

### Staff: Mentor

That might be a concept, but I doubt they'll do that in the next decades. There are not even the fusion reactors available that could use the helium.

Related discussion

6. Jul 7, 2015

### Stephanus

An interesting puzzle. D-T haven't worked yet, and I hear D-T is the "easiest" way to produce fusion power.

7. Jul 7, 2015

### lavinia

I agree that there are no fusion reactors today which makes the whole thing even more perplexing. Why even plan for it?

here are some stories, maybe apochryphal.

http://www.bbc.com/news/25141597
http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/moon-power-chinas-pursuit-of-lunar-helium-3/
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/408558/mining-the-moon/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...dacious-plan-to-mine-the-surface-of-the-moon/
http://www.mining.com/china-is-taking-lunar-mining-seriously-65595/
http://phys.org/news/2013-12-moon-pie-sky-china-experts.html

Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
8. Jul 27, 2015

### BWV

given that 150K TwH of sunlight hits the earth every day and PV cells are a semiconductor technology that has a Moore's law dynamic there will likely not be much of a need for fusion power in a couple of decades (when it will still be a decade or two away)

fusion is the energy source of the future and always will be. Its a complete waste spending significant resources on it

9. Jul 27, 2015

### rootone

It's not that fusion can't be done, the problem is getting it to be economically viable.
In the end this translates into a problem of scale, we just didn't build a big enough reactor yet.
Plans exist that will try address that problem of scale and which don't need any new physics.
https://www.iter.org/
This is actually under construction btw, more than just a plan.

Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
10. Jul 27, 2015

### BWV

Just corporate welfare for physists. More fruitful to harness the big fusion reactor we are orbiting

11. Jul 27, 2015

### rootone

I agree that ITER might not produce the desired result, and that improved methods of solar energy collection could well be more economically realistic.
However I don't agree with the idea of it being some kind of corporate vanity project, I doubt that the Chinese would be a major player if this were the case.

12. Jul 27, 2015

### Stephanus

But, does Moore's law still have effect on PV cells. For the price perhaps, but not for the energy intake. No matter how much you Moore-ing PV cell, the input energy is still the same as the energy that is received by 1 metre x 1 metre square of rectangular area on soil. While in fossil fuel, it's the concentration of millions of years sun light that is focussed on a single molecule hydrocarbon.

13. Jul 27, 2015

### BWV

14. Jul 28, 2015

### Staff: Mentor

True -- but it isn't improving with a Moore's law like rate. In fact, it is pretty stagnant.

Furthermore, the cost of the panels themselves is not anymore the largest cost of the solar installation. Other costs, like physical construction, electrical wiring and inverters/switchgear are a greater cost and are mature (not changing much at all).

15. Jul 28, 2015

### Staff: Mentor

Photovoltaics has 100% efficiency as natural absolute upper limit. A more realistic limit is something like 50% for large-scale use - that is a factor 3 compared to current commercial devices. There is still room for improvement, but not that much. Moore's law would help to include more structure into the cells, this is not relevant for solar cells.

Dismissing a possible source of cheap power completely based on incorrect assumptions about photovoltaics is ... questionable.

16. Jul 28, 2015

### BWV

It's a rough and in exact analogy to Moores law, but the thing that really matters is cost per KWh, which is declining rapidly as production scales combined with perhaps a doubling or tripling of efficiency. No one really doubts that 20 years from now, Solar Pv will be far cheaper and more efficient than it is today where it already is at about grid parity. The issue with fusion is no one has any idea if it will be a viable source of energy in 20, 50 or 100 years. No one has come close to generating more power from fusion than is input into the reaction, let alone at an economical cost. The most optimistic projections of working fusion plants 20 or 30 years from now propose capitalized power costs of 2-3 cents per KWh - currently where combined cycle gas is in the U.S. and where solar will be in a few years. There are higher and better uses for the tens of billions of dollars it will take to gamble on these speculative projects.

17. Jul 28, 2015

2012 energy usage for the world was estimated at 424 TWH/day. Current PV cells produce about 18 W/sq ft. To meet that demand would currently require 4.67 1012 sq ft of cells. A current but cheap 135 w 20% efficient panel is about 7.5 sq ft and costs around 200 USD. This gives 622 billion panels at a cost of 124 T USD. (US GDP = $17 T). I think more efficient panel are a ways off and will cost more. Installation cost will increase too. Along with inverters, charge controllers and storage batteries ( the technology of which must also improve). will surely double the cost of materials. So with the installation cost land acquisition cost we're talking about a chunk of change. A typical totally independent household installation with 100% yearly irradiation using about 50 KW H/day would currently require 9 KW array to generate at least 50 KWH of electricity plus at least enough storage capacity for the low light hours. It would use on average 4000 AH per day (12V storage system) and need a battery bank delivering at least 166 A on average for 24 hours . Typical large capacity storage batteries have a max AH rating around 250 AH at cost around 500 USD. You would need twice the capacity to store 4000 Ah to maximize battery like so you would need 32 such batteries almost equal to the cost of the PV array. In real life most would need more PV cells and storage due to clouds, seasonal variation of the declination of the sun and length of the day. One final note the Ivanpah Thermal Electric Solar Generator in California is currently only able to reach about 40% of its one million MWH /yr capacity after 15 month of operation. It cost 2.2B USD and uses 4000 acres of prime solar territory in the Mohave desert. You would have thought estimating the capacity would have been a no brainer, so much for estimates. So I'm thinking efficiency in energy usage. 18. Jul 28, 2015 ### BWV No one energy source will ever generate 100% of global power, but the area requirements you describe are not unachievable - rooftops could be a third or more of the area notwithstanding future increases in efficiency (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60593.pdf) Solar is not ready for prime time yet, it will be another generation before it can generate a meaningful percentage of global electricity, but its problems are dwarfed by those in developing viable fusion reactors 19. Jul 28, 2015 ### rootone As far as I know the ITER project is the first actual attempt so far to build a fusion reactor at an economically viable scale. It is based entirely on known physics and engineering knowledge gleaned as a result of earlier experimental reactors, it's no shot in the dark based on guesswork. We can't say that fusion is not economically viable end-of, because the whole point of the project is to prove that it is (or isn't) viable. Designed to produce 500 megawatts of output power while needing 50 megawatts to operate it's comparable to a small-medium size fission plant. It's not intended as a commercial generating station though, rather as a proven prototype on which commercial designs could be based. I'm certainly not opposed to improving the effectiveness of solar collection methods, but if economically viable fusion reactors are achievable then why not do so? Do both, - each has it's own unique advantages, and best area of applicability, and they both pose less environmental hazard than much of currently existing power plants. Last edited: Jul 28, 2015 20. Jul 29, 2015 ### mfb ### Staff: Mentor Yes it is declining, but in no way comparable to the millionfold increase in number of transistors Moore's law gave in the last decades. You have to make very optimistic calculations to get grid parity today: - assume that solar power is always needs exactly as produced, so storage does not matter. This assumption is highly unrealistic, and storages are expensive - compare the production costs to electricity price households pay, instead of comparing the production costs to production costs of other power sources. This means you have to ignore the costs for the grid infrastructure - exactly the point you need more with photovoltaics to balance load and production. You also ignore taxes. - assume that subsidies continue to flow as they do now but do not account for them. Germany alone (!) invested more than 100 billion euros in photovoltaics already, and commited to invest at least 100 billions more. That is ten times the costs of ITER. That's exactly why we should investigate it. This is speculation. 20 billion euros, distributed over 3 billion people and 10 years, is 60 cents per average person and year.$0.62 per US citizen, taking into account the actual distribution of the costs and the current exchange rate (and the very crude total cost estimate). I'd happily spend twice that amount to have a second ITER.
As comparison: 200 billions over 20 years for 80 million in Germany are 125 euros per year for photovoltaics.