How many Fusion Power Plants to power humanity?

OK I really see that people are angry with me because of mentioning USS RONALD REAGAN but I didn't know it was not main-stream for you since I saw those people talking on TV and read it in the places like "The Guardian" who won the Pulitzer prize last year, so why is that non mainstream and in the same bucket with UFOs I don't know.

And also let me just comment some more on this:
I don't plan to hold my breath for D-He3 fusion. It would be at least as hard to produce as D-T, maybe harder. And we have not worked out D-T yet.

People talk about p-B11, but I have yet to see a prototype. The people working on this pattern are experiencing exactly the same thing as other fusion researchers: fusion is difficult.
Well if ITER and DEMO work and we start having nuclear fusion reactors there certainly will be more jobs in the nuclear sector and not to mention new branch of nuclear physics, so more and more people will decide to study nuclear physics then today. Today people are really declining to study natural sciences but rather choose to study economy and management, science is fun to see on internet, but not something serious. So if there are more and more people pursuing careers in nuclear physics there will be more and more people working on it's development. I mean today shows like "The Big Bang Theory" are responsible for slight rise in people pursuing science careers and it's sad that in this day of age people are not interested more, but if there is to be proliferation of nuclear fusion plants all around then it's going to be very motivational for people.
 

Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,754
706
OK I really see that people are angry with me because of mentioning USS RONALD REAGAN but I didn't know it was not main-stream for you since I saw those people talking on TV and read it in the places like "The Guardian" who won the Pulitzer prize last year, so why is that non mainstream and in the same bucket with UFOs I don't know.
While it's not the same level of nonsense as UFOs news papers exist to sell stories, they have a low credibility in all things science.

Well if ITER and DEMO work and we start having nuclear fusion reactors there certainly will be more jobs in the nuclear sector and not to mention new branch of nuclear physics, so more and more people will decide to study nuclear physics then today.
You seem to have glossed over some of the biggest criticisms in the thread; that these technologies are a long way off. The current timeline for DEMO puts it at generating power in the late 30s/40s. That's a long way away to plan national policy on. In that time we could start significantly rolling out Generation 3+ or even Generation 4 fission stations which produce far less waste and are much safer.

Today people are really declining to study natural sciences but rather choose to study economy and management, science is fun to see on internet, but not something serious.
Which country are you talking about? In the United States adoption of Science and Engineering has risen in recent times. Just look at this graph from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre

upload_2015-6-22_13-39-46.png


So if there are more and more people pursuing careers in nuclear physics there will be more and more people working on it's development. I mean today shows like "The Big Bang Theory" are responsible for slight rise in people pursuing science careers and it's sad that in this day of age people are not interested more, but if there is to be proliferation of nuclear fusion plants all around then it's going to be very motivational for people.
I really doubt that show has had more than a negligible effect. Do you know of any studies that have reported it as a determinator for degree choice? Also whilst it's logical that more fusion reactors would create more fusion jobs and could encourage more people to take up the degree we've still got to actually get the fusion research done. That's no guarantee. We could equally invest in fission research which we know could work now.
 
Last edited:
1,314
104
CONVERSION FROM FISSION TO FUSION
Eventually, fission plants will have to be replaced by fusion plants, but only the power core, not the BOP (balance of plant) has to be changed.
Fusion reactors may be expensive, but we will have to pay for them. We can't continue to burn coal or bury nuclear wastes. But building thousands of fusion plants is not as hard as you think. The power core is only a "small" part of the while plant.
Yes, a very bright future, I like it. When?
 
3,375
941
We still have not yet produced a fusion reactor that generates more electricity than it consumes ( for more than a few seconds at best).
However, scaled up versions of the almost working designs which exist, MIGHT tip the balance.
Hence the huge immense international effort being invested into the ITER project.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER

If that succeeds in producing an economically useful amount of energy then there will be real incentive to construct similar power plants which could be even more efficient.
It's experimental, though the tokamak design is not new.
We just won't know if it actually will work well enough to seriously compete with fission plants until it's up and running.
 
OK I get it. I did a little research and the answer is that there should also be lots of fusion power-plants made but they will be cheap and electricity will be cheap considering that today you don't just pay for electricity bill and pump bill but also devastation of environment, medical bills because they pollute your body and of course war for oil that is costing trillions of dollars. All fusion needs is some sea water which is free and always will be free.
Merits_2.jpg

And then the next generation of nuclear fusion reactors will be even more stable and productive.
Even more stable than *what*?

We don't have even one functioning fusion reactor which broke even, *thermal energy wise*, in steady-state operation.

We are even longer way off from a reactor which would produce more *electricity* than it consumes.

We are far, far away from having a fusion reactor which generates electricity anywhere near current electricity prices.

Fusion reactors are not a surefire way forward. Yes, the fuel is plentiful. But fuel is not the only variable at play. Like fission, plant's machinery cost and maintenance costs are likely to dwarf fuel cost.

Some day the inhabitants of this planet will look back at the clumsy magnetic bottle, the D–T tokamak, which will seem like an old IBM Selectric typewriter with font balls compared to Microsoft Word on a 3-GHz notebook computer. The deuterium–tritium reaction is a terrible fusion reaction, but we have to start with it because it is easy to ignite. I mean look how far we made from Wright Brothers to Space Shuttle in just one century or from the first computers till ipads.
Space Shuttle was a failure, BTW. It promised economical access to space. It provided the most expensive one.

Future is notoriously difficult to predict. What you *think* is a best way forward is often not what really turns out to be a best way forward.

At the moment, more solar power gets installed every year than nuclear. And it gets 20% cheaper every 2.5 years.
 
Yes, that's true. If I'm not mistaken about 1 in 6500 part of hydrogen in sea water is deuterium. But if somehow we can build a very efficient enrichment deuterium factory, mostly automaton, powered by electricity (which comes from fusion for example) The cost still would not be zero, but it is very low I think.
Re "very low" cost of deuterium. CANDU reactors use heavy water. Each reactor's heavy water inventory costs about one billion dollars.
 
Pollution, by definition, is the introduction of a harmful substance into the environment. A properly functioning nuclear plant does not release its waste into the environment and therefore really is zero pollution.
This is not true. Nuclear plants do release radioactivity into environment: seals are not perfect, some fuel pins leak fission gas, etc. Yes, it is negligible compared to natural background, but it's not zero.

And during reprocessing as it is currently done, some tritium and most of Kr-85 are vented to atmosphere.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
254
727
We don't have even one functioning fusion reactor which broke even, *thermal energy wise*, in steady-state operation.
So far, I'm unaware of any man-made fusion reaction ever producing more energy than induced for *any* amount of time, aside from the explosion of thermo-nuclear weapons. If you know of such a project that has already accomplished even pulsed break-even please share. NIF has not, not counting total energy input.
 
Last edited:

mheslep

Gold Member
254
727
At the moment, more solar power gets installed every year than nuclear.
I'm skeptical. Apparently the annual installed capacity for solar, at average power (39/6), is almost 7 GW/year, with lifetime ~20 years. I won't attempt here to ascertain how many reactors per year come online, but there are at this moment 69 GW of new reactors under construction, with another 190 GW ordered/planned, with lifetime of 40-60 years. And we've not made any calculation of the storage installed to along with the solar, which nuclear does not need.
 
Which country are you talking about? In the United States adoption of Science and Engineering has risen in recent times. Just look at this graph from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre
Yeah I'm talking about US (and other countries are not far). What you didn't watch "Capitalism: A Love Story"?! Here you have to scroll to 1h.02m.30s so that Professor William Black explains it to you

Yes, a very bright future, I like it. When?
Well like I quoted Dr. Francis Chen on page 1 of this topic and he is one of the biggest experts in plasma physics today

"The path is clear, but the rate of progress is limited by financial resources. In the USA, fusion has been ignored by both the public and Congress, mainly because of the lack of information about this highly technical subject. People just do not understand what fusion is and how important it is. Books have been written light-heartedly dismissing fusion as pure fantasy. The fact is that progress on fusion reactors has been steady and spectacular. The 50-year time scale presently planned for the development of fusion power can be shortened by a concerted international effort at a level justified by the magnitude of the problem. It is time to stop spinning our wheels with temporary solutions."

Even more stable than *what*?
That's answered in post #46

And yeah guys you really convinced me that we should all just surrender because fusion is just "too hard" and let us all burn in global warming and pollution. Who knows, as Dr. Pamela Gay said, maybe there will be some volcano spewing lots of dust into atmosphere to shield us (but then once the dust dissipate the sun is back again). We're just too stupid as a species. Let's face it we're just stupid apes who until like yesterday threw each-other feces in faces for fun, maybe we should go back at that!

And for let me end this with quote by Dr. Francis Chen who although is a plasma physicist is obviously too stupid for you:
"Most legislators and journalists have regarded fusion as a pipe dream with very little chance of success. They are misinformed, because times have changed. Achieving fusion energy is difficult, but the progress made in the past two decades has been remarkable. Mother Nature has actually been kind to us, giving us beneficial effects that were totally unexpected. The physics issues are now understood well enough that serious engineering can begin. An Apollo 11-type program can bring fusion online in time to stabilize climate change before it is too late."
 

Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,754
706
Yeah I'm talking about US (and other countries are not far). What you didn't watch "Capitalism: A Love Story"?! Here you have to scroll to 1h.02m.30s so that Professor William Black explains it to you
I'm actually well aware of the phenomenon of students getting careers outside of STEM, I'm halfway through my PhD and whilst I'm interested in continuing many of my friends just want to get a more stable job with better pay. I'm unaware of any hard statistics though, I just tried looking up some from plenty of sources but mostly it's just anecdotal or news reports. Can you find any stats on this issue? As it's your thread and your point.

Well like I quoted Dr. Francis Chen on page 1 of this topic and he is one of the biggest experts in plasma physics today

"The path is clear, but the rate of progress is limited by financial resources. In the USA, fusion has been ignored by both the public and Congress, mainly because of the lack of information about this highly technical subject. People just do not understand what fusion is and how important it is. Books have been written light-heartedly dismissing fusion as pure fantasy. The fact is that progress on fusion reactors has been steady and spectacular. The 50-year time scale presently planned for the development of fusion power can be shortened by a concerted international effort at a level justified by the magnitude of the problem. It is time to stop spinning our wheels with temporary solutions."

Billions upon billions have been spent on fusion research, it's not exactly poorly funded. The fact that large international projects like ITER exist show that governments are serious about it. The argument of "more can be done" can be applied to any field of science. This isn't really an argument unless there are some detailed experimental proposals that didn't get funded that scientific consensus is would have helped.

That's answered in post #46

And yeah guys you really convinced me that we should all just surrender because fusion is just "too hard" and let us all burn in global warming and pollution. Who knows, as Dr. Pamela Gay said, maybe there will be some volcano spewing lots of dust into atmosphere to shield us (but then once the dust dissipate the sun is back again). We're just too stupid as a species. Let's face it we're just stupid apes who until like yesterday threw each-other feces in faces for fun, maybe we should go back at that!

And for let me end this with quote by Dr. Francis Chen who although is a plasma physicist is obviously too stupid for you:
"Most legislators and journalists have regarded fusion as a pipe dream with very little chance of success. They are misinformed, because times have changed. Achieving fusion energy is difficult, but the progress made in the past two decades has been remarkable. Mother Nature has actually been kind to us, giving us beneficial effects that were totally unexpected. The physics issues are now understood well enough that serious engineering can begin. An Apollo 11-type program can bring fusion online in time to stabilize climate change before it is too late."
Absolutely no one said it was too hard so it's not worth doing. You're lying to yourself if that's what you're taking away from this thread, either that or you enjoy the idea of being the lone dreamer arguing against orthodoxy. An attractive myth but a myth nonetheless. What people have pointed out consistently is that despite billions of dollars in funding and decades of research worldwide viable commercial fusion is still no where in sight. For all we know ITER will reveal new problems that take further decades to solve (it's an experiment after all).

Given that it's much more sensible to continue funding but don't plan on it. Instead we should be lowering our carbon emissions by proven or imminent methods such as: latest generation fission reactors, renewable energy sources and technologies that in conjunction can reduce fossil fuel dependence such as electric transportation.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,839
5,030
Well like I quoted Dr. Francis Chen on page 1 of this topic and he is one of the biggest experts in plasma physics today

"The path is clear, but the rate of progress is limited by financial resources. In the USA, fusion has been ignored by both the public and Congress, mainly because of the lack of information about this highly technical subject. People just do not understand what fusion is and how important it is. Books have been written light-heartedly dismissing fusion as pure fantasy. The fact is that progress on fusion reactors has been steady and spectacular. The 50-year time scale presently planned for the development of fusion power can be shortened by a concerted international effort at a level justified by the magnitude of the problem.

Steady and spectacular compared to what? And isn't that a self-contradiction? Fission research's early progress was spectacular, but way too rapid to be considered "steady". It became technically and commercially nearly instantaneously. In this context, I'd call the "steady" progress of fusion research to be the equivalent of failure.
And yeah guys you really convinced me that we should all just surrender because fusion is just "too hard" and let us all burn in global warming and pollution.
[Mod hat] Please dial back the rhetoric/hyperbole. You are getting dangerously close to putting words in people's mouths they didn't say. Most here have been quite clear that the alternative being advocated is fission, not fossil fuels.
An Apollo 11-type program can bring fusion online in time to stabilize climate change before it is too late."
Maybe - if it works and doesn't take too long. But one thing that is absolutely certain is that any solution to global warming relying on fusion could be implemented faster, cheaper and with a guarantee of success (of getting the plants to function). So we should keep our eye on the ball and attack the problem with the tool that is best for the job.
 
And yeah guys you really convinced me that we should all just surrender because fusion is just "too hard" and let us all burn in global warming and pollution.
Acid rains used to destroy entire forests where I live. This no longer happens.

The famous smog of Tokyo is far lass famous now - because it is much better now.

The most noticeable effect of "global warming" to date is not the not-materialized catastrophic sea level rise and resulting flooding, but 30% increase in plant growth.

So there goes "global warming and pollution" bogeyman.

Aside from that, how on Earth do you still manage to ignore the fact that both US and Europe have enough deserts in or nearby them that they can run entirely on photovoltaics, if they'd want to?
 

Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,754
706
Mod note: this isn't the global warming thread. There is a well established consensus that climate change is a fact and it is a danger. This isn't the site to debate that. This thread is for the discussion of fusion power as a viable means of energy production.
 
Mod note: this isn't the global warming thread.
Duly noted. In which case perhaps mods themselves should refrain from discussing it like below?

There is a well established consensus that climate change is a fact and it is a danger.
Interesting that in order to get a consensus, it had to be renamed from "global warming" to "climate change". Anyone with a shred of mathematical education would instantly notice that those aren't the same thing.

Of course "climate change" is real and can be dangerous. Only an idiot who haven't heard about dinosaurs would say that climate never changes, or that it is never dangerous.
 

Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,754
706
Don't play a semantic game here, I'm sure you're well aware of what I meant. Last polite warning to bring the thread back on topic.
 
26,525
7,071
The default state of an operational reactor is to continue with fission until positive controlled external action is taken.
Not with the newer designs; those will passively shut down with no issues even with no operator intervention. The Fukushima reactor was designed several decades ago; it is not a good benchmark for evaluating the safety of current designs.
 
26,525
7,071
how can we speculate about the capacity of a power source that doesn't exist?
I think that's a bit strong. We have built fusion reactors (though we call them "experiments"); we know the reactions involved, we know their rates, we know the general size that a commercial reactor using those reactions would be and how much power it would output. We have plenty of information to make reasonable estimates. In fact we have a lot more information about fusion reactions than scientists had about fission reactions in the 1940's, yet they were able to estimate the capacity of the first generation of controlled fission plants pretty well.
 

Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,553
1,682
how can we speculate about the capacity of a power source that doesn't exist?
I think that's a bit strong. We have built fusion reactors (though we call them "experiments"); we know the reactions involved, we know their rates, we know the general size that a commercial reactor using those reactions would be and how much power it would output. We have plenty of information to make reasonable estimates. In fact we have a lot more information about fusion reactions than scientists had about fission reactions in the 1940's, yet they were able to estimate the capacity of the first generation of controlled fission plants pretty well.
From personal experience, I believe Russ's comment is spot on. The first nuclear units were rather small compared to the last completed LWRs, and the current generation being constructed.

Controlled fusion systems for energy generation has proved elusive. Ideally, one could produce substantial energy and use direct energy conversion to obtain about 80% conversion efficiency (minus various radiative losses). In actuality, the thermal efficiency could be much less if a Brayton or Rankine thermodynamic cycle is used - and therein lies the challenge. Can we achieve something like 70-80% conversion, or is it more like 35-42% efficiency.

It all depends on the plant capacity and thermal efficiency as compared to demand.
 
26,525
7,071
Controlled fusion systems for energy generation has proved elusive.
True, but the reasons have little to do with uncertainty about what the capacity of such systems would be if we could get them to work.

Can we achieve something like 70-80% conversion, or is it more like 35-42% efficiency.
Which means we can estimate capacity within roughly a factor of 2. That's a far cry from not being able to estimate it at all, which was what russ's comment implied.
 

Drakkith

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
2018 Award
20,615
4,349
Thread locked, pending moderation.
 

Related Threads for: How many Fusion Power Plants to power humanity?

Replies
8
Views
932
  • Posted
2
Replies
35
Views
8K
  • Posted
Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
12
Views
4K
  • Posted
Replies
3
Views
7K
  • Posted
Replies
4
Views
3K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top