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Euro hottie
June 28, 2005 11:25 AM   Subscribe

ITER goes to France. Amazing stuff happens at 100 million degrees Celsius.
posted by magullo (19 comments total)

 
neet. Not suprising that Japan didn't get it as China and South Korea are partners.
posted by delmoi at 11:33 AM on June 28, 2005


Actually, South Korea wanted the Japanese site. It was Japan/US/South Korea vs. EU/Russia/China during the stalemate.
posted by cgs06 at 11:36 AM on June 28, 2005


What a great way to roast your camembert!
posted by homodigitalis at 12:13 PM on June 28, 2005


Fusion is the power source of the future...
...and it always will be
posted by atrazine at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2005


Wait....what's this about coal and oil being finite?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:36 PM on June 28, 2005


Bah, this is all based on FUD. Everyone knows that the earth has a creamy nougat center filled with oil. Jesus put enough fossil fuel in there to last until his return.
posted by mullingitover at 12:58 PM on June 28, 2005


Not suprising that Japan didn't get it
Last thing I'd want is an experimental fusion plant in a country prone to earthquakes.
posted by darukaru at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2005


So the real question now is: is the US going to grab its ball and go home? With Lawrence Livermore pushing laser-driven inertial confinement, is the US going to defund magnetic confinement research (or is the NIF just a smokescreen for weapons research)? What about Japan, the other major funder? Are they going to work with France too?
posted by bonehead at 1:21 PM on June 28, 2005


I don't think the US is going to go home... at this point. The DOE has made it clear that it is planning to refocus its fusion program around ITER, and the ITER project has strong executive-branch support. Whether Congress will go along is another story; the Boehlert Amendment to the House Energy&Water bill shows that not everybody is on board.

But I don't think that the dividing issue right now is siting, nor is it ICF (which won't really lead to a power source). It's whether the member countries can keep their domestic fusion programs going at the same time that ITER's eating so much of the (tight) budgets.
posted by cgs06 at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2005


Hey, cgs! Why don't you write a summary of what's going on, and why it matters if the technology may not work in any case. Because frankly, the politics of this are a bit arcane.
posted by metaculpa at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2005


bonehead, this seems have been a somewhat amicable agreement, from the news I have read.

Japan has actually been guaranteed the next plant, and as the second one, it has a much better chance of both working and being commercially viable, so it was not a complete bust. Plus all material testing or something went to Japan.

Here's to hoping they do great engineering. It's certainly worth the money, either way.
posted by teece at 2:36 PM on June 28, 2005


When the project goes hugely over-budget, as seems pretty likely, the French do seem like the sort who will stump up the funds to keep it going, especially if it is to be located in their country.

Also, given the very large portion of French power that presently comes from fission plants, this might be a particularly good technology to encourage there, due to what we can only hope will be a lessened production of radioactive waste and a diminished risk of nuclear accidents.
posted by sindark at 6:21 PM on June 28, 2005


daukaru - just to be picky - Cadarache has its own history of earthquakes.

And ... one of the main current fusion machines resides here in San Diego. We get earthquakes here too - I actually work for GA and we had two here in the last few weeks.

Aside - what's with that ITER page?? That front page image has always bothered me.
posted by mpemulis at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2005


I'm not a nuclear engineer, but I don't believe that earthquakes are the threat you might expect when it comes to Tokamak style fusion reactors. These require a constant input of energy to keep the fusion reaction going; if the reactor loses power or is damaged or broken in some way, the magnetic fields that compress the fuel and contain the reaction would dissapate, allowing the fuel to expand and cool, halting the fusion reaction immediately. There's no possibility of an out-of-control atomic reaction or meltdown situation like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island.

That's not to say that the sudden, accidental release of 100 million degree gas would be pretty, exactly, but the facility will have to be built to manage that situation. And unlike fission fuel, the fusion fuel is just hydrogen - not inherently radioactive or dangerous stuff. Even if it was released into the atmosphere, it probably wouldn't be a big deal, and would surely be far less serious than the venting of material from a fission plant.

The IHT story quotes Ian Fells of Britain's Royal Academy of Engineering as saying "If we can really make this work there will be enough electricity to last the world for the next 1,000 to 2,000 years." What would be the limiting factor for fusion power? What would we run out of in 2,000 years, deuterium? One would hope that given 2,000 years of research, we could make fusion pay with plain-old hydrogen, or begin mining Jupiter for deuterium or something.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:24 AM on June 29, 2005


And unlike fission fuel, the fusion fuel is just hydrogen - not inherently radioactive or dangerous stuff

But isn't part of the reaction the creation of tritium, still hydrogen but a tad more worrying? Plus the ITER itself will become radioactive over time due to the number of neutrons flying around.
posted by biffa at 6:54 AM on June 29, 2005


Japan is already heavily dependent on nuclear power, for heaven's sake. More than a third of their domestic electricity is generated by fission, in about 60 reactors at about twenty separate sites. They've never had an earthquake-related incident, despite operating them for about thirty years. Japan has had a couple of nuclear "incidents", the most serious being the Tokaimura "criticality" in 1999 that killed a couple of workers, but that was human error, bad reactor and fuel handling, not earthquake related.

Earthquake safety is a red herring. It is a problem that can be solved, to any reasonable level of safety, by good engineering.
posted by bonehead at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2005


biffa: But isn't part of the reaction the creation of tritium, still hydrogen but a tad more worrying?

The Wikipedia entry for Tritium makes it sound pretty benign. Notes include:
The low-energy beta radiation from tritium cannot penetrate human skin, so tritium is only dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Tritium occurs naturally due to cosmic rays interacting with atmospheric gases.

Because of tritium's relatively short half-life (12 years) ... tritium ... does not accumulate over geological timescales.
The reactor itself will be somewhat more dangerous waste when it has reached the end of its service life, but that will likely be many years. And over its service life, a commercially viable, electricity-producing fusion plant may replace the combustion of an absolute mountain of fossil fuel, and all the attendant crap that the mining and combustion of fossil fuel puts into the environment.

Like I said, I'm not an expert, but compared to the 20,000+ year toxic nightmare of fission - which we already accept, at least as a social aggregate - fusion sounds like cotton candy. If only we can make it pay.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:53 AM on June 29, 2005


Ive got a tritium powered glowing keyring thingy in my pocket right now.
it looks pretty cool at night.
posted by Iax at 10:31 PM on June 29, 2005


The low-energy beta radiation from tritium cannot penetrate human skin, so tritium is only dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Uranium-238 is an alpha emitter so has less penetration but we don't regard that as safe.

Tritium occurs naturally due to cosmic rays interacting with atmospheric gases.

Lots of things occur naturally, it doesn't mean they are healthy or safe.

Because of tritium's relatively short half-life (12 years) ... tritium ... does not accumulate over geological timescales.

Maybe not as bad but your first post was talking about tritium in the context of a sudden catastrophic release, still not a great result.

I wouldn't want you to think I was too negative about development of fusion but I fear atrazine's early comment nailed it.
(Also, not everyone accepts nuclear fission as an option either.)
posted by biffa at 9:24 AM on June 30, 2005


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