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U.S. Wants Working Commercial Fusion Reactor by 2035

  
Via:  Freewill  •  10 months ago  •  14 comments

By:   Popular Mechanics

U.S. Wants Working Commercial Fusion Reactor by 2035
Jennifer Granholm, secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, says that the U.S. is aiming to create a working fusion reactor by 2035.

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Critical Thinkers

Some significant progress has been made in the last couple of years.  Let's hope this time the dream becomes a reality.  It will be necessary in my mind if we are to embrace a world of electric vehicles and less dependence on fossil fuels.


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Game on.

e9b7a87b-359a-4fff-859b-ab9cf5e31c5b_1565789938.file?fill=1:1&resize=160:* By Darren OrfPublished: Sep 29, 2023saved contained iconAn empty outlined icon indicating the option to save an itemSave Articlenuclear-fusion-reactor-at-work-royalty-free-image-1695949961.jpg?crop=0.46311xw:1xh;center,top&resize=640:* pinterest.e8cf655.svg?primary=%2523ffffff Alexandr Gnezdilov Light Painting//Getty Images

  • Jennifer Granholm, secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, announced on Monday that the U.S. is aiming to create a working fusion reactor by 2035.
  • The U.S. currently funds various projects engaged in trying to realize the clean energy dream of nuclear energy.
  • Though fuel was added to the fire by the U.S. achieving fusion ignition in December of 2022, realizing the promise of nuclear fusion still faces many engineering and technological obstacles.

Nuclear fusion—the explosive physics that powers the hearts of countless stars, including our own—is the ultimate energy source. For decades, scientists have touted the many benefits of nuclear fusion. It's more efficient, doesn't produce waste, and can't be used for weapons of mass destruction (without a fission counterpart). By all accounts, it's an important energy solution that could seriously help curtail humanity's addiction to fossil fuels. And the Biden Administration agrees.

According to the Associated Press (AP), U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced on Monday that creating a working commercial fusion reactor within the president's "decadal vision of commercial fusion" was "not out of the realm of possibility." In other words, to goal is to have a working reactor in the next (approximately) 10 years.

The U.S. is currently funding several pilot programs from various companies hoping to achieve the dream of commercial fusion through a variety of different means, whether it be lasers, magnets, or any one of the plethora of designs in between.

"It doesn't guarantee a particular company will get there, but we have multiple shots on goal," Dennis Whyte, director of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, told the AP. "It's the right way to do it, to support what we all want to see: commercial fusion to power our society."

For decades, nuclear fusion was the "flying car" of the physics world—always perpetually 20 years down the road. But in the past few years, things have changed. Some of the U.S.'s leading energy companies and laboratories have contributed to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) tokamak project in southern France, which hopes to achieve first plasma by November of 2025.

But the biggest news arrived in December 2022 when Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), an inertial fusion facility whose primary mission is to test the reliability of the U.S.'s nuclear weapons, achieved ignition by using 192 lasers to collapse a pellet of deuterium and tritium for 100 trillionths of a second. Within that brief window, the reaction bootstrapped itself, and there was a net energy gain. Eight months later, LLNL announced that they'd achieved a second ignition with increased net energy gains.

Because of these breakthroughs, fusion science is now a question of engineering and technology rather than pure, base-level understanding. For example, scientists still need to discover or create materials that can withstand the intense heat—some 10 times hotter than our sun—that fusion reactors require for long stretches at a time. They also need to perfect the beryllium-lined blankets in tokamaks, the devices responsible for converting a neutron's kinetic energy into heat energy .

If the U.S. can stick the landing on its fusion energy promise, it'll come nearly a century after the discovery of fusion as the life-sustaining energy source behind our Sun. The realization of the long-promised dream of nearly limitless clean energy may be closer than we thought.

e9b7a87b-359a-4fff-859b-ab9cf5e31c5b_1565789938.file?fill=1:1&resize=120:* Darren Orf

Darren lives in Portland, has a cat, and writes/edits about sci-fi and how our world works. You can find his previous stuff at Gizmodo and Paste if you look hard enough.


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Freewill
Junior Quiet
1  seeder  Freewill    10 months ago

Some interesting information on the progress of fusion energy and fusion energy investment HERE .

Download the FIA 2023 report HERE

Ninety-three percent of private fusion companies believe fusion power will reach the grid in or before the 2030s.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Freewill @1    10 months ago

I definitely do not have a PhD in anything esp nuclear physics so I will say just one dumb thing and be on my way,

Didn't this used to be the stuff of science fiction? Like...it was impossible?

 
 
 
Snuffy
Professor Participates
1.1.1  Snuffy  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1    10 months ago
Didn't this used to be the stuff of science fiction? Like...it was impossible?

Yeah, just like radar and sonar and space travel.  The nice thing about technology is that it moves ahead thanks to smart people who think outside the box of "that's how it's always been done".  Only real problem is that technology tends to grow faster than morality.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Snuffy @1.1.1    10 months ago

I grew up with sonar, radar, and space travel, so those were never impossibilities to me. There is something about fusion that I was told or taught and that was a long time ago and apparently I was taught wrong, but it was something like fusion is impossible because it's creating energy out of nothing. And that is incorrect.

I'm bowing gracelessly out of this conversation because I don;t have a clue. But thanks for indulging me, Snuffy

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
1.1.3  TᵢG  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1    10 months ago

Not impossible, rather unknown if possible.   We have found that what seems impossible in just decades ago now is possible.   

The breakthrough last year tells me that since we now know positive net energy is possible with nuclear fusion, it is just a matter of time before practical nuclear fusion energy becomes a reality.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @1.1.3    10 months ago
Because of these breakthroughs, fusion science is now a question of engineering and technology rather than pure, base-level understanding. For example, scientists still need to discover or create materials that can withstand the intense heat—some 10 times hotter than our sun—that fusion reactors require for long stretches at a time. They also need to perfect the beryllium-lined blankets in tokamaks, the devices responsible for converting a neutron's kinetic energy into heat energy .

Does that mean they're going to stop trying to understand it and just forge ahead with getting it to work? And what about the intense heat - sometimes 10X hotter than our sun. Will they be able to turn the thermostat down so they don't melt the continent?

Sorry, I know I said I was stepping out. You brought up more questions.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
1.1.5  TᵢG  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1.4    10 months ago

They very deeply understand nuclear fusion.   The challenge is indeed the engineering (and materials) required for us to safely exploit the physics of nuclear fusion for a net energy gain.

Also, nuclear fusion is not conducive to a chain reaction (in contrast to nuclear fission).   It is possible for a nuclear fusion chain reaction to get out of control, but to sustain it, the high-heat, high-pressure environment must be maintained.   This is almost a natural fail-safe situation.   So melt-down is not the primary concern.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.1.6  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @1.1.5    10 months ago

I'm feeling a little better. Thanks

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
1.1.7  evilone  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.1.4    10 months ago
And what about the intense heat - sometimes 10X hotter than our sun.

This is routine in experimental physics these days. Nuclear and plasma fusion is being lab tested in more than 50 countries across the globe today and have reached positive energy gain using multiple techniques.. Multiple agencies are currently working together to create a working plant in France in less than 10 years called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor).

 
 
 
Freewill
Junior Quiet
1.1.8  seeder  Freewill  replied to  TᵢG @1.1.5    10 months ago
They very deeply understand nuclear fusion. 

Indeed, the concept of nuclear fusion was studied along with fission in the 40's during the Manhattan Project. The concept was well understood by physicists like Edward Teller even then.  Indeed 20 of the 23 weapons tested in the Bikini Atoll in the late 40's through the 1950's were hydrogen bombs, and those fusion reactions were studied VERY closely.  One in particular, the Bravo test in 1954 was particularly eye-opening when it produced an explosion 3 times more powerful than the physicists had predicted (15 megatons, 1000 times the power of the atom bomb at Hiroshima).  Much was learned about the different types of fuels and the energy yields of fusion reactions.

Unfortunately for the Atolls, three islands were completely vaporized and the fission bombs used to trigger the fusion reactions did a great deal of damage to the areas in terms of radiation and contamination. But much was learned about fusion reactions and how to control them, preparing a solid bedrock for more modern fusion reactor designs and containment.  Not to mention the deterrent effect of the demonstrated enormous yields of such thermonuclear weapons.  Now that we know what it would look like, perhaps we can agree not to destroy each other 10 times over, and rather use the technology for the betterment of mankind.

 
 
 
Freewill
Junior Quiet
1.1.9  seeder  Freewill  replied to  evilone @1.1.7    10 months ago
Nuclear and plasma fusion is being lab tested in more than 50 countries across the globe today and have reached positive energy gain using multiple techniques.

Indeed!  An exciting time in the development of this technology!  This is a pretty technical article but fascinating look into the aptly named Fusion Energy Reactor Models Integrator (FERMI)

The Fusion Energy Reactor Models Integrator (FERMI) is an integrated simulation environment under development for the coupled simulation of the plasma, first wall, and blanket of fusion reactor designs.  The FERMI goals are to shorten the overall design cycle while guaranteeing unprecedented accuracy, thus integrating fusion design activities, facilitating an optimal reactor design, and reducing development risks. These goals are achieved by coupling single-physics solvers into a multiphysics simulation environment (FERMI).

If I was younger and had the advanced degrees, I'd definitely want to be involved at the forefront of all this!

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
1.1.10  evilone  replied to  Freewill @1.1.9    10 months ago

Nice! I'll try to read the tech article if I can locate some time... 

If I was younger and had the advanced degrees, I'd definitely want to be involved at the forefront of all this!

I understand a lot of the theory, but I can't do the math.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2  devangelical  replied to  Freewill @1    10 months ago

a safe build in a safe place and I'm all in on this technology, as long as they don't choose the lowest bids, government contractors with past issues, or foreign contractors...

 
 
 
Freewill
Junior Quiet
1.2.1  seeder  Freewill  replied to  devangelical @1.2    10 months ago
as long as they don't choose the lowest bids, government contractors with past issues, or foreign contractors...

That is where organizations like the Fusion Industry Association come in to play to help put more expert eyes on the developments, techniques and reactor safety and reliability.  The regulatory framework at the NRC was recently improved  to create a separate track for rapidly moving fusion technologies , which is a step in the right direction toward safe and reliable commercial fusion power.  Private investment is critical to a competitive yet cooperative, best approach wins scenario in this industry, coupled with government funded research, investment and an intelligent and collaborative regulatory structure.

 
 

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