NIFty lasers will create fusion, energy
May 5, 2009 4:07 AM   Subscribe

A baby star on Earth. The NIF (National Ignition Facility) is about to fire up lasers to demonstrate the real world possibility of nuclear fusion with a positive energy gain. BBC link with promo video narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Also: previously.
posted by NekulturnY (76 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
We're already familiar with the real world possibility of net-positive energy fusion. The trick is doing it in a controlled way.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 AM on May 5, 2009


Who let all these motherfuckin' lasers in here?!?!
posted by chillmost at 4:13 AM on May 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


(speaking of a "Baby Star")
posted by delmoi at 4:15 AM on May 5, 2009


I'm quite glad that someone has stepped up and taken responsibility for destroying the Earth since those chaps at the LHC seem to have fallen behind schedule. Oh, science, for centuries you have promised to destroy all we hold dear — finally, that payment comes due!
posted by adipocere at 4:17 AM on May 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm quite glad that someone has stepped up and taken responsibility for destroying the Earth since those chaps at the LHC seem to have fallen behind schedule. Oh, science, for centuries you have promised to destroy all we hold dear — finally, that payment comes due!

This thing is not going to destroy the earth. What they are doing is trying to build something like a tiny, tiny hydrogen bomb that can be set off without using a regular atom bomb to ignite it. Instead, they use lasers. The hope is that they can eventually create a self-sustaining thing like a fire, that can be used to power a power plant, but it would need to have a continuous supply of fuel, just like a regular fire. The difference is the amount of fuel that comes out compared to, say, oil. (not to mention the abundance of fuel) And there are greenhouse gas emissions either.

Calling it a "baby star" is a bit of a misnomer, it's not creating a self-sustaining "thing" that can exist on it's own (like some people think about the LHC creating a black hole)
posted by delmoi at 4:28 AM on May 5, 2009


See also.
posted by popcassady at 4:44 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


My thesis work was actually a part of this project! None of the many researchers I spoke with actually thought this would lead to fusion power plants. Those pellets are incredibly expensive, and will never be cheaper than the energy that this type of facility could generate. The entire project is a cover for (1) nuclear weapons research and (2) physicist navel-gazing.

Needless to say, I grew disenchanted, and left physics. Now I get me kicks from exploiting third-world labor.
posted by FuManchu at 4:46 AM on May 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


The hope is that they can eventually create a self-sustaining thing like a fire

delmoi, this isn't that kind of fusion. This thing is essentially a humongous combustion engine powered by nuclear explosions.
posted by FuManchu at 4:48 AM on May 5, 2009


for the hapless scientist or technician who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time

I'm qualified for this job! Where do I send my resume?
posted by digsrus at 4:48 AM on May 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wired, lasers, fusion energy and Samuel L. Jackson. If there were a way to power the Earth with overwrought awesomeness, this post alone would keep us going for 15 years.
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


None of the many researchers I spoke with actually thought this would lead to fusion power plants.

That's too bad. I was wondering how they'd go from creating a net-positive energy fusion to running a fusion plant, and I was hoping that some of the geniuses here would shed some light on that. Wired has a tendency of overhyping this kind of "breakthrough", so I posted here to get some perspective.
posted by NekulturnY at 4:57 AM on May 5, 2009


oh -- muddgirl in the previous FPP actually linked to evidence of the criticism I mentioned. Yea, despite the hype I'm skeptical a single physicist believes this will lead to anything useful energy-wise. This is all about SCIENCE
posted by FuManchu at 4:58 AM on May 5, 2009


Over on The Oil Drum the mantra is 'viable fusion is always 20 years away'. Such was the case in the 1970's, the 1980's, the 1990's and now.

Even if this works - man has not begun to address the issue of Phosphorus which is a game-limiter for man. Let me know when we humans think gathering urine in bottles is considered a solution and not something old men
or Swedes do.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:08 AM on May 5, 2009


Also, check out the page at LLNL: https://lasers.llnl.gov/
posted by FuManchu at 5:09 AM on May 5, 2009


Fusion power is the holy grail. If we can get that working with a strong positive energy output, the change in the world will so dramatic and so powerful that we'll barely be able to imagine it.

A world with working fusion power is a world with essentially unlimited energy, at least from our primitive, single-planet perspective. Spaceflight would become routine; we could create and store antimatter as fuel. This is so immensely expensive by present standards that it's not even vaguely feasible -- for every hundred units of energy we expend, we get maybe a hundredth of a unit in antimatter. But when we literally have whole oceans full of vast supplies of energy, that cost changes dramatically. Suddenly, while it still requires a huge energy input to create antiprotons, we have it available, and using them for spaceflight will be easy and cheap.

(basically, you just magnetically store antiprotons at very low temperatures, and inject them into regular rocket exhaust; this creates a trickle of gamma rays and an enormous power boost, sort of like nitrous oxide injection in a gasoline engine. You use nearly the same amount of raw propellant for any distance within the solar system -- you just use more antimatter if you need to go farther. 1 tank plus X antiprotons takes you to the Moon; 1 tank plus X * 1000 antiprotons takes you to Pluto. And because of the magic of continuous acceleration, we could get almost anywhere in the solar system within a couple of weeks.)

Those ideas of a solar shade to cut down energy input to the earth? Completely feasible when we have so much cheap energy. And our existing carbon sources, like coal plants? Why on earth would you burn coal at all when you get a million times as much juice out of seawater? And if we're worried about "depleting the oceans" (yeah right, as if), we can bootstrap ourselves with a tiny percentage and then go get all we need from the comets. From there, we can go live anywhere in the solar system we want, likely reshaping it as we wish to suit our needs.

The difference between gods and humans? Energy.
posted by Malor at 5:11 AM on May 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


delmoi, my criticism of your comment is actually unwarranted on review -- you obviously understand the project, I just thought the description of the 'fire' aspect may have been referencing the tokamak projects
posted by FuManchu at 5:20 AM on May 5, 2009


What they are doing is trying to build something like a tiny, tiny hydrogen bomb

Liechtenstein already did it.
posted by rusty at 5:47 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]




Fusion power is the holy grail. If we can get that working with a strong positive energy output, the change in the world will so dramatic and so powerful that we'll barely be able to imagine it.

Personally I think it would be the worst thing to happen to the earth. You think something like endless cheap energy would be free for everyone? It would instantly divide the world in half. It would set us back 1000 years.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:12 AM on May 5, 2009


delmoi, I'm kidding. I have a physics degree. I do know better.

Specifically, I'm making fun of the typical reaction people have towards Big Science. Remember that absurd fear that even some scientists held about the first atomic weapon, that they might create a miniature, self-sustaining sun?

I'd love fusion. I wouldn't love large-scale production of antimatter, even without our current, grossly inefficient process for making it.
posted by adipocere at 6:38 AM on May 5, 2009


This is what was in Jule's briefcase!
posted by orme at 6:39 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here!
posted by scottatdrake at 6:47 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"We are well on our way to achieving what we set out to do — controlled nuclear fusion and energy gain for the first time ever in a laboratory setting."

My most recent book is on fusion, and I spend a bit of time discussing NIF. FuManchu is absolutely right; this is a weapons project dressed up as an energy project. For a number of reasons, NIF will never lead the way to a fusion power plant. (And, sadly, it won't be very good as a weapons project either.)

Once you're aware of the context, you can see how disingenuous Ed Moses' statement above really is.(*)

To me, that's what makes the story of fusion so fascinating. For some reason, fusion makes good scientists deceive themselves -- and others -- generation after generation.

(*) Note how carefully crafted the quotation is -- the fact that Wired and BBC have the exact same phrasing show that it's canned rather than impromptu. It's written in such a way that if (and when) NIF fails to achieve any energy gain, it's still "true": we're well on our way to what we, as scientists, set out to do 50 years ago. NIF was an important step in that direction, as was NOVA before it, as was Shiva before it.....
posted by cgs06 at 7:31 AM on May 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


People tend to forget, but we already have a pretty limitless fusion power plant hanging in the sky. The problem comes with our efficiency in solar panels. For those who haven't seen it, this map shows six dark discs that, if covered by solar panels at 8% efficiency, would power the entire earth every day. Now to increase that efficiency.

We don't have an energy production problem, we have an energy translation problem.
posted by scrowdid at 7:32 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is this significantly different from the work of Dr. Otto Octavius?
posted by Navelgazer at 7:34 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sci-fi-inspired End of Days jokes may follow this historic undertaking like they did for CERN's Large Hadron Collider, but the science behind this advanced laser system is profoundly serious.

Jesus shittering fuckhell Christ on a motorized pogo-crutch, do I ever loath science journalism writing sometimes. When is the science NOT profoundly serious? Was the writer previously doing coverage at the Clownskull University of Joke Sciences? Aggghhhhh.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:54 AM on May 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


cgs06, I find the defensiveness of your reviewers on Amazon hilarious. So many people are enamored with the physics that they completely ignore the economics.
posted by FuManchu at 7:57 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


People tend to forget, but we already have a pretty limitless fusion power plant hanging in the sky. The problem comes with our efficiency in solar panels. For those who haven't seen it, this map shows six dark discs that, if covered by solar panels at 8% efficiency, would power the entire earth every day

I'm pretty sure you can get 8% efficient solar panels pretty easily. According to wikipedia the record is 41%.. For commercial applications it Looks Like old school polysilicon cells are about 15-20% or so. I think the newer thin film cells are less efficient per unit of area, but more efficient in terms of actual cost.

The problem isn't really the ability to make panels, it's that right now the cost is still more then if you wanted to make the same amount of energy from traditional sources, in fact the solar industry is largely dependent on government subsidies. But the costs are actually going down, though.
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on May 5, 2009


"For a number of reasons, NIF will never lead the way to a fusion power plant."

So...... This is the government lying to us again? I'm confused about what's really going on here. Are tax payers being told our tax money is going for "ENDLESS CLEAN POWER!!" when it's really just another bomb we don't need? And if all of the scientists (extending even to multiple MeFi members) agree it's a bomb, why isn't Wired doing a story about us getting ripped off by bomb loving madmen?

In fact, if this is really another bomb, why aren't any number of news outlets breaking that story? About the last fucking thing we need right now is anther bomb.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:06 AM on May 5, 2009


And does that dark-dot map take into account the energy loss from transferring the power from the massive collection site to the actual rural areas that need it, hundreds or thousands of miles away? That's always been the biggest problem that I've seen with those "we just need a few hundred square miles of Texas that no-one is using" plans - it's actually really wasteful to create a site powerful enough to deliver energy to those furthest reaches, and the more efficient plan is to have many more tinier sites, closer to the power need.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:13 AM on May 5, 2009


Wasn't Popular Mechanics et al reporting on this ten years ago as a means to develop computer models of hydrogen bombs so they could be tested in simulated explosions (and thus not violate test bans)?
posted by djb at 8:23 AM on May 5, 2009


Pandora chose to play "Creeping Death" from Ride the Lightning when I opened this post. Pandora heap smart or ironic or something..
posted by Mister_A at 8:25 AM on May 5, 2009


So...... This is the government lying to us again.... Are tax payers being told our tax money is going for "ENDLESS CLEAN POWER!!" when it's really just another bomb we don't need?

It's a little more subtle than that. It's not really going to build a bomb, at least not directly. It's *supposed* to give physicists a way of verifying that the bombs in our arsenal are going to work decades hence, even if we don't have the option of testing them by setting them off (as we currently don't.) What it will *actually* do is keep fusion scientists employed and hopefully keep (hard won) expertise in the field alive.

But, yes, I think that pretending that this is an energy project is a lie. I think that the fault lies with fusion scientists -- the intellectual heirs of Edward Teller -- for the deception.

cgs06, I find the defensiveness of your reviewers on Amazon hilarious.

I knew that this one would get some anger from the scientific community. At the same time, though, I've been getting a lot of praise and congratulations from plasma physicists, and I was even invited to lecture at PPPL (which is run by Goldston, one of the reviewers who wished I would do more to accentuate the positive. Had a nice discussion with him, actually.)

The criticism doesn't worry me, though... if I were getting complaints of factual errors, I'd be more shaken, but since the complaints are about my emphasis and tone, I figure it's all par for the course.
posted by cgs06 at 8:27 AM on May 5, 2009


I didn't realise that NIF was actually aiming for net energy gain. Even if they do manage it, inertial confinement doesn't seem like the right path to be looking down to me, especially if the aim is actually a useful source of fusion power. I'm much more optimistic about the various other experiments currently under development.

cgs06, could you elaborate a bit more on the reasons why NIF isn't going to be useful? I mean, is it going to be doing any worthwhile science at all, or is it just a complete write off?
posted by lucidium at 8:41 AM on May 5, 2009


We know we can get hot, sustainable fusion with a net gain, we have one example nearby. The question is, can it be engineered by any other means than just enormous heaps of matter bound together by gravity? It's not clear that, as an engineering problem, it can be said "Oh, sure."

I think it's worth a great deal of money to find out, though.
posted by adipocere at 8:45 AM on May 5, 2009


For a real powerplant-oriented project, look at ITER. After too long squabbling about where the plant was going to be built, they finally settled on Cadarache, France. With a little luck, it should be up and running by 2016 [pdf].

ITER is basically a proof of concept for an energy positive design, but it isn't designed to actually generate electricity with the energy output (i.e., no steam turbines or what have you). After ITER will come power generating models and then finally commercial plants. Based on the ITER schedule, I'd guess we might see commercial fusion plants between 2030 and 2040, which is too long for my taste. We ought to invest more in it.
posted by jedicus at 8:47 AM on May 5, 2009


cgs06, could you elaborate a bit more on the reasons why NIF isn't going to be useful?

On the energy side, it's really a non-starter. The target pellets are expensive (energetically as well as monetarily) to create. The "breakeven" goal of 1.8 MJ produced only takes into account the laser energy actually deposited on target; it takes about 100x more energy still to produce the laser beams in the first place. And even if you achieve better than breakeven and fix the target and efficiency problems (and other problems with optics being creamed by the beams), at best, you can fire NIF only a few times a day -- the laser glass gets hot and needs to cool down -- so its utility will be limited. Scientists who are genuinely interested in getting energy out of inertial confinement fusion are looking to solid-state lasers or hybrid fission-fusion devices rather than doped-glass lasers like NIF.

On the weapons side, NIF is better suited to studying the physics of a hydrogen bomb's (fusion) secondary stage, not its (fission) primary. But when it comes to stockpile stewardship and bomb aging, the primary is where most of the problems are, not the secondary. (Apparently, there is going to be some attempt to do some fission work with NIF, but the details are classified, and I doubt it'll yield much.)
posted by cgs06 at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2009


There is a BBC Horizon episode that shows this facility, if you're interested.

Horizon - Can We Make a Star on Earth? (5/6). The NIF part starts at around 3:45.

P.S. The Z-machine in part 3 is pretty cool too.
posted by smackfu at 9:05 AM on May 5, 2009


cgs06, interesting. My work was at PPPL. I guess they really were a cynical lot.
posted by FuManchu at 9:05 AM on May 5, 2009


Why is my coffee cup sliding across my desk in a south-westerly directio-
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:10 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, that is pretty disappointing. Thanks for the details cgs06.
posted by lucidium at 9:12 AM on May 5, 2009


The University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics was a pioneer of this but was never able to create a positive energy gain. Although they're still doing research in this area, the focus has moved to Livermore.

The lasers used for fusion are nothing at all like any lasers you've had personal experience with. The LLE's basement is essentially filled with large capacitors as firing the laser requires more energy than the power grid could supply (keep in mind this is much smaller than the NIF laser). The fusion target assembly was a bunch of front surface mirrors that redirected the beams into the material. Even a tiny spec of dirt would be enough to cause a mirror to overheat and explode, ending the experiment. Unfortunately, one of their upgrades put the target assembly in a room where a large gantry crane was located and they decided not to remove it due to the effort and expense. This crane was painted with safety yellow paint and from time to time chips would flake off.

They replaced a lot of mirrors.
posted by tommasz at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2009


Liechtenstein already did it.

Jeez, first Pop Art and now thermonuclear weaponry. Cool guy, Roy.

Seriously, that was a really funny video.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2009


"ITER is basically a proof of concept for an energy positive design, but it isn't designed to actually generate electricity with the energy output (i.e., no steam turbines or what have you). After ITER will come power generating models and then finally commercial plants. Based on the ITER schedule, I'd guess we might see commercial fusion plants between 2030 and 2040, which is too long for my taste. We ought to invest more in it."

It's truly amazing this isn't a get her done Manhattan level project. Or maybe it is and someone just haven't told anyone about it yet.

Hey, they're hiring. Makes me wish Canada was one of the partners.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 AM on May 5, 2009


The "breakeven" goal of 1.8 MJ produced only takes into account the laser energy actually deposited on target; it takes about 100x more energy still to produce the laser beams in the first place.

Wow. It never would have occurred to me that they were defining breakeven so disingenuously[0]. I'd always assumed they were counting all the power needed to drive the lasers in the first place. I mean, I'd also assumed they were absolutely out of their minds, and it could never work, but in a massive failure of cynicism, I'd assumed they were just being hopelessly ambitious.

[0] I suppose that, in the physics navel-gazing sense, that is an interesting definition of breakeven, but I'd always figured fusion was more of an engineer's game.
posted by MadDog Bob at 9:48 AM on May 5, 2009


The problem isn't really the ability to make panels, it's that right now the cost is still more then if you wanted to make the same amount of energy from traditional sources,

Those panels look like they're roughly the surface area of some US States.

Possibly a bit of an engineering challenge even if you can actually produce the panels.
posted by weston at 9:51 AM on May 5, 2009


Not to mention transmission losses from the solar panels to where the power is used, considering that the panels have to be in remote areas. Perhaps manufacturing or other industry could be done under them, but only a Morlock would want to live under such a thing. Need ambient temperature superconducting transmission lines.
posted by exogenous at 10:08 AM on May 5, 2009


Maybe it's a proof of concept idea (ie, with a minor portion of earth's surface area, we could capture enough solar energy?), rather than an actual suggestion, and the panels don't need to be concentrated into six huge disks?
posted by weston at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2009


... and I hear it's a blast on disco night!
posted by markkraft at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2009


Well, I hope this turns out better than the time Sam jackson funded the creation of a giant shark with a superintelligent brain.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The project is being headed up by Dr. Otto Octavius.
posted by nzero at 11:21 AM on May 5, 2009


And does that dark-dot map take into account the energy loss from transferring the power from the massive collection site to the actual rural areas that need it, hundreds or thousands of miles away? ... the more efficient plan is to have many more tinier sites, closer to the power need.-- FatherDagon



Those panels look like they're roughly the surface area of some US States.
Possibly a bit of an engineering challenge even if you can actually produce the panels.
-- Weston
Uh, I don’t think anyone is actually proposing building gigantic solar panels, rather they’re just illustrating how much space you would actually need. You could probably get most of that space just using people’s roofs, for example.
posted by delmoi at 11:28 AM on May 5, 2009


On the energy side, it's really a non-starter.

Coming from physics, this always depresses me. It should be (and is) obvious to people working on it that commercially viable tokamak-style power production is at least 100 years away. The prerequisite materials science (which can't begin to be tested until ITER's successor is operational!) may not have a solution.

Yet, fusion gets about as much funding as all non-nuclear power research put together (that ratio may have changed and counting everything nano- as solar research would shift it, but still it's a lot). Plasma is cool and lasers are cool. Nuclear was neat for bombs, and the public has no clue what's likely to pay off in the next 100 years. It would be nice to put the same money into systems which don't have glaring maybe unfixable problems.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:32 AM on May 5, 2009


"The laser beams are created in the master oscillator room..."

No wonder it doesn't work yet. They'll never break the barrier without a working oscillation overthruster.
posted by markkraft at 11:35 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It should be (and is) obvious to people working on it that commercially viable tokamak-style power production is at least 100 years away. The prerequisite materials science (which can't begin to be tested until ITER's successor is operational!) may not have a solution."

Maybe somebody already has a use for it. One for which it was specifically designed.

Look at the facts... very high powered. Limited firing time. Unlimited range. All you'd need is a tracking system and a large, spinning mirror, and...
posted by markkraft at 11:47 AM on May 5, 2009


... you could make popcorn!
posted by markkraft at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2009


(Actually, this link might be more appropriate.)
posted by markkraft at 11:50 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay. I've exhausted the obligatory '80s nerdporn references. You're on your own from here.
posted by markkraft at 11:53 AM on May 5, 2009


ITER is basically a proof of concept for an energy positive design, but it isn't designed to actually generate electricity with the energy output (i.e., no steam turbines or what have you).

Why the heck not?

It is all scientists spending enormous amounts of our money for science. But you can spend every penny you have on science and ten times more on credit. What are the priorities? Where's the limit? Could the same amount of money create better benefits spent other ways?

Why not make one of these projects actually work, maybe even pay for itself to some extent? If it can really, truly put out more energy than it takes in, then build it to actually do this. That would change the goal of the project a bit, and make the scientists start thinking in more practical terms, actually have to start talking to power engineers on an equal basis, maybe even make their work accountable in practical terms, which they may bristle at.
posted by eye of newt at 12:21 PM on May 5, 2009


...in fact the solar industry is largely dependent on government subsidies.

The same is true for the petroleum and nuclear industries.
posted by euphorb at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2009


> Wasn't Popular Mechanics et al reporting on this ten years ago as a means to develop computer models of hydrogen bombs so they could be tested in simulated explosions (and thus not violate test bans)?

This strikes me as very plausible. Most of the research at the big government labs relates to making sure that the current stockpile of nuclear weapons will go "boom" on command; a fairly challenging problem because you're dealing with mixtures of radioactive materials that decay and sometimes produce "poisonous" (to a nuclear reaction) products, and because the weapons in many cases weren't designed with such long lifespans.

The big supercomputers run by the national labs (7 out of the top 10 as of late last year) are by and large doing computer models of weapons; essentially trying to simulate what would once have been done — and what the weapons designers probably figured would be done during the weapons' lifecycles — via real-world tests. But there are limits to simulations, and you'd want ways of verifying that the models actually predict reality.

A laser system that's capable of simulating the conditions inside a fusion bomb strikes me as a pretty useful piece of apparatus, if you wanted to test the validity of a predictive model.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2009


What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Cranberry at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2009


I like this tidbit from the Wired article:

"Each beam starts out about as strong as the one in your laser pointer, but all together they end up pumping out 500 terawatts in two billionths of a second — roughly 500 times the entire peak power output of the United States."
posted by esome at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2009


It would be nice to put the same money into systems which don't have glaring maybe unfixable problems.

There are no others.

Why not make one of these projects actually work, maybe even pay for itself to some extent? If it can really, truly put out more energy than it takes in, then build it to actually do this. That would change the goal of the project a bit, and make the scientists start thinking in more practical terms, actually have to start talking to power engineers on an equal basis, maybe even make their work accountable in practical terms, which they may bristle at.

Anytime anyone tries to expand the frontiers of human knowledge it is hard work. If anyone is at all to succeed they need to concentrate on one thing at a time.
More specifically, I suppose the necessary power generation infrastructure needed would cost more than the power generated, since it would be generated in fits and starts and scheduled for tests rather than demand.
posted by Catfry at 1:28 PM on May 5, 2009


"You could probably get most of that space just using people’s roofs, for example."

And at the same time reduce the A/C load.
posted by Mitheral at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2009


There are no others

What do you mean by that? There are lots of other ways of generating electricity which are less unknown. Turning renewables like photovoltaics into a commercially viable solution is an incremental problem without the requirement for neutron flux proof unobtanium.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:46 PM on May 5, 2009


There are no other systems that don't have glaring maybe unfixable problems.
Renewables have glaring maybe unfixable problems like price. The promise of fusion is power at less cost than renewables. If it turns out not to be possible then so be it, but we should try.
posted by Catfry at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2009


And I should tell you I live in Denmark. I know very well about the number of smart talented people that work on improving wind power at companies like Vestas and at the research center Risø, and of the resources they receive. Whether ITER recieves funding or not has no influence on them.
posted by Catfry at 3:01 PM on May 5, 2009


ARMOOM:
Coming from physics, this always depresses me. It should be (and is) obvious to people working on it that commercially viable tokamak-style power production is at least 100 years away.


100 years is an eternity when it comes to technology.
posted by Jpfed at 4:50 PM on May 5, 2009


Where does anyone get the notion that Samuel L. Jackson did that track? It's not his voice. It does sound like a male of the same race and similar vocal tract structure -- but it's not his voice.
posted by unblinking at 9:02 PM on May 5, 2009


As long as it can generate 1.21 Gigawatts...
posted by mjohns1999 at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2009


Somewhat related.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2009


And I should tell you I live in Denmark. I know very well about the number of smart talented people that work on improving wind power at companies like Vestas and at the research center Risø, and of the resources they receive. Whether ITER recieves funding or not has no influence on them.

ITER is not self-funding. I assume it is taxpayer funded. So lets say the government decides not to fund ITER, and instead put the money toward Vestas, Risø, and other wind, solar, and other green technologies. I think your smart, talented friends at these places would disagree with you when they get to keep their jobs despite Saudi Arabia's decision increase oil production and drop prices again in an attempt to put these kinds places out of business.
posted by eye of newt at 4:40 PM on May 6, 2009


The nations that are funding ITER can draw upon the the taxpayers of most of the first world. They have such enormous resources that they are able to fund a project like ITER that doesn't give any particular political credit and doesn't help the involved politicians win any votes, without having to worry about the price.
The funding going to ITER doesn't come out of the funding going to other endeavours. You can argue that it's all the same cake and someone inevitably gets a smaller piece but the reality is that the cake is so very big, ITER is insignificant.
Sustainable energy development is much much more susceptible to other factors like, for example, the oil price, which, when falling can induce a sense of indifference to the research of other energy sources. In this respect ITER is in the same boat as solar and win power.
posted by Catfry at 12:35 AM on May 7, 2009


TER can draw upon the the taxpayers of most of the first world. They have such enormous resources...The funding going to ITER doesn't come out of the funding going to other endeavours.

I really have to hold myself back from this one--calm down, calm down...but this is complete and utter B.S.

You take money from everyone and it looks like a lot of money. It isn't. You could bankrupt all of Europe in one day trying to fix problems like the world's hunger and health problems and all the conflicts killing and maiming millions of people. You can't afford to solve all the worlds problems--it is hard enough to pay to solve your own. So you make priorities, inevitably leaving many problems unsolved. That money for ITER didn't grow on trees with 'Only for use for ITER' written in bold across the top.
posted by eye of newt at 11:44 AM on May 7, 2009


I don't mean to take it out on ITER, but these are the kinds of arguments that are the root of a lot of large scale wasted government spending. 'Such enormous resources' is what politicians see when they earmark billions of dollars toward their favorite pork barrel projects. Meanwhile there are probably thousands of much less expensive projects helping the poor, the sick, and even the environment that go wanting for lack of money.

Make an argument why ITER money is money well spent, but don't tell me that the money is free and plentiful and couldn't be used for anything else.
posted by eye of newt at 12:23 PM on May 7, 2009


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