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Fusion power, economics

  1. Jul 30, 2015 #41
    One wonder how implementation of fusion will unfold. Fission reactors where suppose to provide clean, almost limitless energy when introduced. Not much was talked about the inherent hazards of a fission reactor or waste disposal. We eventually settled on a technology that only used 4% of the fuel in the rods was used before they where "poisoned" and had to be replaced loosing 96% of the promised energy. Reactor safety was (is?) not totally understood.

    What promises for fusion will go unfulfilled, or overstated. Will we just create another "mess" to clean up?
     
  2. Jul 30, 2015 #42
    Apart from the fact they are both 'nuclear', a fusion reactor is an entirely different technology to a fission reactor.
    Fusion reactors produce no appreciable amount of waste by products at all.
    (What it does produce is Helium which is in fact rather useful stuff)
     
  3. Jul 30, 2015 #43
    Not directly but It will make lots of neutrons which will activate the containment vessel. ITER is suppose to obtain data on this issue. ITER is a breeder for tritium so it is not just a simple "Sun in a bottle". How long will the bottle last? Sure I say go for it but don't put all your energy concerns "eggs" in one basket for now. I am doubtful I will see ITER go on line in my lifetime and I am doubtful that most of you will see a viable commercial reactor in yours.
     
  4. Jul 30, 2015 #44

    mfb

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    The vessel will become activated. It is studied how that effect can be mitigated. Medium lifetimes are the most problematic. Anything living shorter than about a year (half-life) can be stored until it is decayed, everything living billions of years has a tiny activity and no relevant heat production, and can be stored underground forever.

    Fusion power plants won't work completely without problematic waste, but they do not produce all the problematic (trans)actinides fission power plants generate and the amount will be significantly smaller.
     
  5. Aug 7, 2015 #45

    mheslep

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    Moore's law derives from ever increasing circuit density and complexity on a given size of semiconductor. PV cells have no such connection. Neither does the storage technology required for when the big fusion reactor in sky lights the other side of our sphere.
     
  6. Aug 7, 2015 #46

    mheslep

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    Not necessarily so for all fission, but for thermal spectrum U235 fission which happens to be the dominate form of fission reactor at the moment. It need not be so. The Russians are currently operation two fast reactors that burn actinides, and the U.S. has a couple startups with low volume waste designs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2015
  7. Dec 5, 2015 #47
    What I see is little to no change from the consumer's point of view. If Fusion were indeed made exceptionally cheap, massive build out effort to ensue, increased efforts to break distribution bottlenecks. All made possible by a wider profit margin. The price for delivered power will remain at what the market will bear. However, much change in the balance of delivered energy as far as point of use fuels vs. grid supplied energy goes. Morale of the story: Investor Benefit. Cleaner environment.
     
  8. Dec 5, 2015 #48

    mheslep

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    In the US, some 2/3 to 3/4 of the price of grid delivered electric power is due to construction and maintenance of the grid. In this sense the promises of "too cheap to meter" was never true. So even zero fuel cost to the utility would not much reduce the cost to deliver residential power.
     
  9. Dec 5, 2015 #49

    mfb

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    The infrastructure price can go down if losses become less important. Probably not a large effect, but large enough to be considered.
     
  10. Jun 16, 2016 #50
    I'm not in a position to critique the pros and cons of competing technologies such as Edit: link removed
    but I would think that there needs to be a shift from the approach that's been used in the past. Large, continental power grids are far too complex and vulnerable, I like the idea of developing power sources that are much smaller and thus much safer. Local generation and consumption makes more sense than multibillion dollar, huge plants, whether conventional or nuclear.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 24, 2016
  11. Jun 16, 2016 #51

    russ_watters

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    I don't agree with any of those statements. The complexity of power grids makes them less vulnerable and more reliable than local power generation because there are multiple pathways for the power to get from one place to another. More, local power plants means more failure points with less back-up and distributed risk (smaller but much more frequent accidents).

    We have the grid that we have for real reasons; it didn't happen by accident.
     
  12. Jun 16, 2016 #52

    mfb

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    In general, larger power plants are also more efficient, cheaper and cleaner. A 1 GW coal power plant produces more electricity per coal than a 1 MW coal power plant, does not require 1000 times the manpower to operate, can afford better filtering of its emissions, and so on. Photovoltaics is probably the only thing where the scaling effects are not that significant.
     
  13. Jun 16, 2016 #53

    Ryan_m_b

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    Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like another advantage of a grid, especially a large continental one, is so that things like PV can be used to power places where it would be less efficient.
     
  14. Jun 16, 2016 #54

    mfb

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    Yes, but I don't see how that is related to my post.

    Building ten 1 MW photovoltaics power plants is not much more expensive than building one 10 MW power plant - the bigger plant is mainly just the same thing 10 times next to each other. That is the scaling I was talking about.
    Building ten 100 MW nuclear power plants is much more expensive than building one 1 GW power plant.
     
  15. Jun 16, 2016 #55

    russ_watters

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    Solar is a bit of an odd duck on this issue. It is very unreliable (second only to wind) and as a result is almost always grid connected. I'm not sure about the economics of local vs centralized because the economics are so heavily manipulated and therefore they aren't really real (in addition to being not well publicized and being variable). The main benefit I see on grid vs distributed for solar is that buildings have roofs, which are somewhat wasted real-estate. .

    [edit: Looks like I went to a different level of "local" than mfb was referring to]
     
  16. Jun 23, 2016 #56
    With all due respect, and I readily acknowledge that you have earned respect, the North American power grid is in grim shape. It is a hodgepodge collection of independent utilities with risks associated with command, control, and communication, aging infrastructure, and growing demand. The initial ideas that were the foundation for the grid were from Edison's time. The lack of adequate network security has been documented widely. I'm sorry, but I don't see how a fragmented, aging system such as the power grid can be considered robust. You make good points regarding the ability to switch loads to deal with outages, however, the record shows that brown-outs and black-outs are becoming quite common, and they are lasting longer. I don't think that the benefits of networking such as those we see in the internet are mirrored in the power grid although efforts are ongoing to emulate that kind of redundancy.
     
  17. Jun 24, 2016 #57

    Evo

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    You say this is all documented widely, yet you failed to post this documentation, please post the sources. Thank you.
     
  18. Jun 24, 2016 #58
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  19. Jun 24, 2016 #59

    Evo

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    Sorry, I forgot to say that you need to also quote the pertinent parts (be careful not to violate copyright laws by quoting too much) as you cannot expect people to read an entire article and try to figure out which part you are referring to. Please quote the pertinent parts. Please be sure that they are current. And just two will be fine. Thank you.

    For example

    ]http://energy.gov/articles/top-9-things-you-didnt-know-about-americas-power-grid
    https://www.smartgrid.gov/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  20. Jun 24, 2016 #60

    dlgoff

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    Something must be working. How do you think over 1100 Gigawatts of energy are getting transported?
    image compliments of http://www.tsp-data-portal.org
    installedpower.jpg
     
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