Saturday, December 31, 2022

Fusion Confusion


Who didn't hear or read about the big fusion development this December when scientists studying fusion energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced on Dec 5th that they had crossed a long-awaited milestone in reproducing the power of the sun in a laboratory?

It made the news for several days and lots of news outlets gave the breakthrough the legs that would turn most PR flacks green with envy.  

“This is such a wonderful example of a possibility realized, a scientific milestone achieved, and a road ahead to the possibilities for clean energy,” Arati Prabhakar, the White House science adviser, said during a news conference on Tuesday morning at the Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington, D.C."

"If fusion can be deployed on a large scale, it would offer an energy source devoid of the pollution and greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the dangerous long-lived radioactive waste created by current nuclear power plants, which use the splitting of uranium to produce energy."

Well actually, fusion is deployed on a large scale right now and it's called the Sun.

And the energy from our own fusion reactor 93 million miles away arrives everyday bathing the planet with enough energy so that Albert Einstein's Nobel Prize winning idea that photons can excite a crystal latticework and produce usable electrons that can power our world.

And solar plants are going up all over the World right now producing electricity that is affordable and reliable.  Last year photovoltaic plants produced 112 gigawatts of usable power in the United States. And with wind and its other renewable cousins, renewables produce about 20% of all power. Here in Texas, that number is closer to 1/3. And that number is growing like a Chia pet.

And moving to a world run on our own fusion reactor a safe 8 minutes away at light speed is not just here, it's being manifested at prodigious speed across the resource rich landscapes of our land.

But according to the NYTs and other corporate soothsayers, the fusion of the future is not 93 miles away but right here on earth.

"Within the sun and stars, fusion continually combines hydrogen atoms into helium, producing sunlight and warmth that bathes the planets. In experimental reactors and laser labs on Earth, fusion lives up to its reputation as a very clean energy source.

There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.

That changed at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 5 when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.

The laser beams entered at the top and bottom of the cylinder, vaporizing it. That generated an inward onslaught of X-rays that compresses a BB-size fuel pellet of deuterium and tritium, the heavier forms of hydrogen.

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried about 3 megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain."

Now if you are writing this story, you can use a big bangy metaphor like a pound of TNT, but if you just look it up, you'll see that 1 megajoule is 0.277KWh.  So, the gain is about a quarter of a KWh or about 3 cents worth of energy.  And that's not counting all the other parasitic costs and expense of building a  power plant that can house a Sun on Earth.

The New York Times goes on:

"The main purpose of the National Ignition Facility is to conduct experiments to help the United States maintain its nuclear weapons. That makes the immediate implications for producing energy tentative.

Fusion would be essentially an emissions-free source of power, and it would help reduce the need for power plants burning coal and natural gas, which pump billions of tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

But it will take quite a while before fusion becomes available on a widespread, practical scale, if ever.

“Probably decades,” Kimberly S. Budil, the director of Lawrence Livermore, said during the Tuesday news conference. “Not six decades, I don’t think. I think not five decades, which is what we used to say. I think it’s moving into the foreground and probably, with concerted effort and investment, a few decades of research on the underlying technologies could put us in a position to build a power plant.”

In two decades, climate temperatures will exceed the 1.5 Degree Celsius rise that most climate scientists hope we can survive.  And, spending money on Fusion will not put a dent in our ability to reduce our carbon emissions.  

This program is a war program.

Lots of fusion confusion.


Earthfamily Principles

Earthfamilyalpha you tube channel  

Earthfamilyalpha Content IV 

Earthfamilyalpha Content III

Earthfamilyalpha Content II
Earthfamilyalpha Content



Labels: , , ,