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Old 06-01-2013, 11:17 PM   #83
AustinChief AustinChief is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 'Hamas' Jenkins View Post
What do you think it would take to initiate a self-sustaining and safe fusion reaction?
The safe part is the easiest part. Unlike fission, a fusion reactor that has a catastrophic failure simple stops. The only "unsafe" part of it is the irradiation of any casing/shielding materials which produce a minimal amount of waste. The "Holy Grail" is to get to aneutronic fusion which eliminates that by creating a reaction whose byproduct can be converted directly to electrical energy. Think of it in terms of creating a mini sun to power solar cells. That isn't accurate but it works well enough as an analogy.

The self-sustaining part is where we have problems. The term for this is "ignition." You have two basic approaches to achieve this. I can go into details if anyone cares but let's just say the US facility working on this uses lasers and the Europeans use magnets. (Wow, that is so oversimplified it sounds stupid) At one point we were ahead of the Europeans on this but massive cutbacks in funding (thanks to both Obama and Congress) have let the Europeans jump ahead. It actually doesn't matter who "wins" the race in this both approaches have significantly advanced the science in recent years.

Ok, let's focus on the Euro project, ITER, since they are currently in the lead. (could change at any point though and I still think NIF has a more solid approach) The Euros aren't messing around. They are building an experimental reactor now and expect it to be operational by the 2030s. IF it works, they expect to produce 10 times the energy that is put into the reaction.

I can go through a litany of engineering issues that both projects are facing but the real issue is funding. We know the science works it's now down to engineering issues which can always be solved with time and money. The problem is that the scale of time and money we are talking about is pretty damn huge, but the payoff is well worth it in my mind.
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