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Biggest Obstacle of Nuclear Fusion Overcome? 444

Posted by Hemos
from the baby-steps-to-clean-energy dept.
Yetihehe writes "Nuclear fusion could become a more viable energy solution with the discovery of way to prevent super-hot gases from causing damage within reactors. The potential solution, tested at an experimental reactor in San Diego, US, could make the next generation of fusion reactors more efficient, saving hundreds of millions of euros a year."
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Biggest Obstacle of Nuclear Fusion Overcome?

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  • by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:40AM (#15380243)
    but I guess it makes me wonder if such a thing would ever be possible? Can a car run purely off of garbage? Or does the fusion process require a more specific substance to begin with, like water or carbon or something?
    • Deuterium, usually. Heavy hydrogen.

      And, no. You can't have Mr. Fusion in your car. You have to use Budweiser in your Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell - which is fine; if a purpose for Budweiser can be found, it's better than drinking it.
    • Fission probably makes more sense. If you have Hydrogen, work your way up with Fusion. If you have more complex elements, work your way down to Hydrogen with Fusion. I don't think you'll find anything by H (and the resulting He) in the current fusion reactors.
      • by b1t r0t (216468) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:08AM (#15380521)
        If you have more complex elements, work your way down to Hydrogen with Fusion.

        Actually, you work your way toward iron from either direction. The farther away from iron that you start, the easier it is to get a net gain in energy. Fusion is best with hydrogen and helium, and fission is best with heavy elements like uranium, plutonium, and thorium.

        You can do fission with light elements (except for hydrogen-1 of course) and fusion with heavier elements, but you have to put in more energy than you get out. This is why stars die out.

    • by QuantumPion (805098) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#15380459)
      Technically, you can fuse any element lighter then iron (so that the final product is at most iron). However, the heavier you go, the higher temperatures you need and the less efficient the process. This is because iron has the highest binding energy of any element. Past iron, you have to use fission.
      • Fe Fusion (Score:5, Informative)

        by WinPimp2K (301497) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:17AM (#15380628)
        Technically you can fuse iron - ask an astrophysicist for the gory details.

        But it takes more energy to fuse than is released. So iron fusion is pretty much the last fusion reaction to be expected from an end-of-life reactor (of the thermostellar variety)

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You can fuse iron with lighter elements - that is, you can gain energy by adding protons and neutrons to iron, all the way up to lead. In fact, you can gain energy by adding protons to lead, but then it alpha decays, so what you're really doing is hydrogen -> helium.

        But what you can't gain energy doing is 56Fe + 56Fe -> 112Te

        So you always have to have something lighter than iron as part of your fuel if you want to gain energy.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        This is because iron has the highest binding energy of any element.

        Actually, the isotope with the highest binding energy per nucleon is nickel-62. You can look it up. [kaeri.re.kr]

        I'd paste in a nice table that I just made, except the lameness filter won't let me.

        But anyway, the isotope of Nickel with the highest binding energy per nucleon, using figures from the linked table, is Ni-62 at (8.794497 +- 2.3e-05) MeV.

        For Iron, it is Fe-58 at (8.792144 +- 2.4e-05) MeV.

        By way of comparison, the most abundant isotope of Nicke
    • by NittanyTuring (936113) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:25PM (#15381313)
      One of the problems with Mr. Fusion is that it would produce way too much energy. One banana peel, into pure energy, would produce 1.25 billion kilowatt-hours. How many miles can you get on that? Releasing such energy instantaneously would probably spell the end of this sector of the solar system.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:40AM (#15380246) Homepage

    The first post related to fusion on /. without declaring that cold fusion is only a few months away!

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • 1:1.2784 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:42AM (#15380262)
    saving hundreds of millions of euros a year

    You misspelled dollars.

    Oh, right. That's not how you spell 'dollar' anymore.
    • Re:1:1.2784 (Score:2, Informative)

      by Fordiman (689627)
      NST is a european web magazine. Of course they're talking euros.

    • From TFA

      "We were very pleased to find out that we can actually use fairly small currents in these coils"

      Yes, but we need more current.
      And we need to install the coils under the seat of every Congresscritter.
      After all, if these coils can handle the heat produced in a fusion reactor, they ought to be able to prevent the damage done by 536 hot air windbags.

      Then we will save Trillions
       
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:42AM (#15380268)
    Are that many foriegners being killed annually by fusion? I knew stuff was bad out there, but this is amazin
  • Err... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by beavis88 (25983)
    Here I was thinking the bigger problem was returning enough net energy to make it worthwhile relative to the astronomical upfront costs. Silly me.

    Still nifty, though.
  • Biggest obstacle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chinobis (640631) <chino&plateia,net> on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:43AM (#15380278) Homepage
    So, nuclear fusion has finally got serious backing from politicians and the R&D budget to go along with it?
    • by khallow (566160)
      So, nuclear fusion has finally got serious backing from politicians and the R&D budget to go along with it?

      My take is that nuclear fusion has had the necessary backing since the 70's. The real problem is that it hasn't shown sufficient returns on that investment to warrant increasing the budget by an order of magnitude or more. Even when fusion generates more energy than it consumes (including fuel acquisition and processing), we still have the problem of making the technology economically viable. I

      • Re:Biggest obstacle? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tbo (35008)
        I might approve an order of magnitude increase in funding at that point, but I see no reason to do so now when there are technologies, particularly fission, wind, and solar power that are becoming viable.

        Solar and wind are approaching economic viability as supplemental energy sources. What I mean is that they are good at helping meet some of the peak demand, but not so good as a baseline power source, since the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. In particular, there are several hours
        • Given the above scenario, you'll run out of fuel for your fission reactors in half a century or so (give or take a few decades), unless you start using breeder reactors, which aren't really a widescale-proven technology, and pose some nuclear proliferation issues. If you're going to pour research money into breeder reactors, why not spend it instead on fusion, which is pretty much the ultimate terrestrial power source?

          That timeline is for Uranium at current market rates using non breeder reactors. Breede

  • summary is wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by aadvancedGIR (959466)
    The technique is not about preventing the gas from causing damages, but just to avoid the magnetic field leaking it in the first place. Kinda cool improvement anyway.
  • Bad Headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:44AM (#15380285)
    Hemos, Where did you get this "Biggest Obstacle" from? The researcher didn't claim it in the article, and it isn't true. IANANP, but from what I've heard, the biggest obstacle to nuclear fusion is maintaining the reaction for long periods of time, and doing so with relativly low energy input.

    This is a cool development, but unless I read incorrectly it doesn't solve those problems.
    • you are wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

      by way2trivial (601132)
      the biggest obstacle is public perception of anything with "nuclear" in the name
      • Re:you are wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jeremi (14640) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:36AM (#15380834) Homepage
        the biggest obstacle is public perception of anything with "nuclear" in the name


        Nah, that's not such a big obstacle... you can fix that simply by choosing a different name. For example, when everybody was having a snit about "Food Irradiation" [wikipedia.org], they simply relabeled it "cold pasteurization", and presto, problem solved.


        As for what to call this technology? I think "hydrogen power plant" would be a fine name. But this all assumes it can be made to actually work... that is the big obstacle.

        • Amazing! Just think of the possibilities!

          Torture         --> Aggressive Professional Interrogation
          POW             --> Enemy Combatant
          Domestic Spying --> Terrorist Surveillance

          What others can YOU find kids?
    • Re:Bad Headline (Score:3, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      Hemos, Where did you get this "Biggest Obstacle" from? The researcher didn't claim it in the article, and it isn't true. IANANP, but from what I've heard, the biggest obstacle to nuclear fusion is maintaining the reaction for long periods of time, and doing so with relativly low energy input.

      This is a cool development, but unless I read incorrectly it doesn't solve those problems.

      So there was a lot of talk of lighter elements being used (easier to force together) and devising a way to create self su

    • Re:Bad Headline (Score:3, Informative)

      by swelke (252267)
      Hemos, Where did you get this "Biggest Obstacle" from? The researcher didn't claim it in the article, and it isn't true. IANANP, but from what I've heard, the biggest obstacle to nuclear fusion is maintaining the reaction for long periods of time, and doing so with relativly low energy input.

      Well, IAAP (not nuclear, though) and the biggest obstacle to sustained fusion is indeed maintaining the reaction for long periods of time (minutes would be nice). The trouble is that the reaction quits when too much
  • First rule is, there is always someone opposed. There will be some doom and gloom environmental group that comes out opposed to fusion. They won't even have to make sense, when they fail to sway public opinion they will use the courts to delay. They will buy a politician or two to stall as well.

    Hell, if the environmentals don't get it the rich NIMBYs will.

    So while we have overcome another technical hurdle its the legal, disinformation, and fear, hurdles that will be harder to get around
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:46AM (#15380309)
    It's another small step forward. This is good, but that's it.

    In fact, far more interesting, is how this article is an example of the effect television has had upon the reporting of news in all mediums.

    The medium through which a message passes shapes the message being transmitted.

    You can't discuss philosophy using smoke signals; looking at a picture is utterly different to reading a discription of a picture, being in a church for a ceremony is entirely different to watching it on TV in your kitchen.

    Television as a medium can only show entertainment.

    As such, all messages shown on television are shaped into entertainment.

    Unfortunately, where TV *is* our culture (do you remember back when the debate was merely if TV would reflect culture or shape it?) it strongly influences all other mediums as well.

    As such, we *cannot* have an article which simply says: a researcher has made a small step forward, solving a possible problem with fusion technology.

    No. What we get is "BIGGEST OBSTACLE OVERCOME!!? NUCLEAR FUSION NOW ON THE TABLE?!"

    It has to be exciting. It has to grab the reader. It has to be *entertaining*.

    • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:56AM (#15380424)
      Well, you have to bear in mind that Slashdot has a tendency to filter for that kind of sensationalism.

      I'm sure there are plenty of minor breakthroughs in all sorts of fields that get reported responsibly, or not at all. But nobody pays attention to those stories enough to submit them to Slashdot. And if they DO, no doubt Zonk or whoever passes over them as small beans compared to the big stories Slashdot has to tell, like "Linux text editor you've never heard of may fork, says analyst!" The only stuff that makes the grade is the stuff with nice, attention-grabbing headlines.

      SO all we see on Slashdot is the sensational stuff, which leads to lots of complaints like yours.
    • You can't discuss philosophy using smoke signals

      Actually, in theory you could, but it would be rather slow. Just encode your text into, say... puffs and not-puffs using ASCII, or into little-puffs and big-puffs using Morse.

    • I did this about 10 years ago, and I've never looked back. You can't imagine how much time you would have for other pursuits if you stopped wasting time in front of the box. With the time I've saved, I've: spent countless hours engaged in interesting conversation with my wife, read 100s of books, gone biking regularly, built a MAME cabinet, remodeled my house, learned Linux, and enjoyed time with my daughter.
      • Amen Brotha! Did the same thing 5 years ago and started a software company, learned German and Salsa, bought a house, and now have a bountiful garden in my yard.

        TV: Nothing to see here, move along.
      • by Tx (96709) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:22AM (#15380682) Journal
        Funny, I went the other way. After a long period of wasting time having long conversations with your wife, reading books, going biking, building mame cabinets and remodelling my house, I realised that was all a huge effort to expend just to avoid watching TV. Bought a 42" plasma, never looked back. ;)
  • Vapourwear (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:48AM (#15380320)

    From TFA

    "I think it's a very interesting solution to a very important problem," says William Dorlund, a plasma physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, US. But he warns it will be difficult to apply the solution to functional reactors until the theory behind the technique is well understood.

    Translation:- Vapourwear

    • by famebait (450028) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:08AM (#15380524)
      No, "vaporwear" would mean you're shrouded in smoke. This here is not smoke but plasma, and it's not doing the shrouding, it is itself shrouded in a magnetic field ("fluxwear", if you will), which following this discovery can be made more hardwearing than before, which will in turn protect from damage the hardware, which encloses the whole system and as such might be referred to as "hardwear" for the contents. It is important to be wary of the difference lest the reader grow weary. It's not really all that hard.
    • No, no, you got it all wrong - plasmaware...
  • ...as they do with any new energy source. Wind turbines kill birds and look ugly. Dams flood areas. With fusion, they new complaint will be: "It still uses radioactive particles."
    • but... but... oh, god, I hate environmentalists... but it doesn't PRODUCE any ionizing radiation, aside from gamma stuff that's shielded anyway!

      "See that? it's radioactive! don your radiation suits sisters!"

      *blinks*

      But those things don't *stop* gamma... and ... *knocks on the reactor shielding* it's not getting through anyway...

      "You're gonna make this place uninhabitable for the next tenthousand years, MURDERER!"

      That didn't even make any sense... gamma rads don't hang out like alpha or beta... *brain sna
      • by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:29PM (#15381360)
        Clearly we must figure out how to compress environmentalists into super-dense pellets for use as fuel in fusion reactors.

        They should vanish in a brilliant flash of green ...

      • by Politburo (640618) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:53PM (#15381593)
        Who modded this pile of strawman crap as 'insightful'?
    • Wind turbines kill birds and look ugly.

      Utter nonsense. Wind Turbines kill no more birds then any other structure the same size. And frankly, they look fantastic (I realize that's completely subjective, but apparantly the parent doesn't).

      Your post is one of those "oh, people object to everything, so there's no point trying to switch from fossil fuels" type whines.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:50AM (#15380349) Journal
    FTFA: Curiously, however, Evans notes that the theory behind the effect does not precisely match the results. According to their calculations, the perturbations should have released both particles and heat from the plasma. Instead, the heat was not bled off with the plasma but remained mostly contained within the magnetic field.

    So it works, but they're not sure it works for the reasons that caused them to create the effect in the first place. Sort of a scientific shrug. Good news, but they're going to figure out why it really works (not just that it works) before they put it into practice.

    Kind of frustrating to think that for the cost of the military action in Iraq, we could have built 8 Tokamac reactors. (I know, you could say the same about welfare...it doesn't make the money thrown at Iraq any less irritating)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @10:52AM (#15380368)
    ...in 20 years.

    Trust me. The fusion folks can be counted on to be consistent.

    • Even so... it will be shot down by alarmists and the news media (likely bought and paid for by the oil industry). Look at how Fission has lowered the price of electricity.
  • I'm not a scientist but is testing Nuclear Fusion in a very populated area a good idea?
    Couldn't they have done this in some place a little less populated? Like North Dakota or in the area near Area 51?
    • I don't think you need to worry. They can barely get the bloody things to start, let alone explode.
    • by PhoenixFlare (319467) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:28AM (#15380755) Journal
      I'm not a scientist but is testing Nuclear Fusion in a very populated area a good idea?

      I'm not a scientist either, but I have read a little on the subject....And from what I understand, the reaction would peter out and die very quickly - very little fuel is used in comparison to a fisson reactor, and the reaction itself requires very precise control to happen at all.

      Comments like yours are part of the reason there's so much nonsensical backlash against this sort of technology - "I have no idea what i'm talking about, but it must be bad just because! Nuclear bombs are evil, so this must be the same!".

      Couldn't they have done this in some place a little less populated? Like North Dakota or in the area near Area 51?

      I would have one of these reactors in my backyard (well, if I wasn't in an apartment right now, anyway) with no reservation whatsoever.
  • Don't we need a viable first generation before we can have a next?

    (H-bombs and fusion-capable energy sinks (reactors that have failed to achieve break-even) don't count as generations.)
  • Poor AMD (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rorian (88503)
    And just as they started their massive energy-saving campaign, it turns out we don't need it after all.. .. At least in 20 years time.. or 50..
  • Huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spankey51 (804888) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#15380453)
    huh... I always thought the biggest obstacle to overcome would be... you know... getting a positive energy return from the damn thing!
  • Viable is a key word (Score:3, Interesting)

    by canuck57 (662392) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:01AM (#15380469)

    Nuclear fusion could become a more viable energy solution

    This is what mankind needs to be sustainable, a cheap and clean energy source. Lets face it, we are adicted to energy and burning all that oil and natural gas is not sustainable. Plus it is costing a fortune. So hopefully they can find more solutions like this and put this technology to widespread use. 5 cent a KWH anyone?

  • It sounds like a stirrer circuit in a microwave. Microwaves without a turntable have used these for a long time, to prevent that (awesome, but definitely undesirable) effect of boiled water exploding onto your hand when you grab the mug. They work by causing a standing wave in the radiation, which agitates the liquid on a very small scale and allows it to circulate.

    This is a good application of existing principle to a new problem, but I hardly think this was the biggest obstacle we had to Nuclear Fusion.

  • What's the "next generation of fusion reactors"? Is there a current generation which I was hitheto unaware of?
  • Strange summary... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brett Buck (811747) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:12AM (#15380566)
    How can there be a "next generation" of fusion reactors that are going to be "more efficient", when the aren't any viable, net-energy-producing fusion reactors AT ALL? To have a next generation, you first have to have a *first generation*. It's still an entirely open question whether functional fusion reactors (with postive energy balance) can even be built.

                Brett
  • Using AI -controlled extra metal arms seems like a much cooler way to fix this problem of controlling the reaction to prevent outbursts. Plus you can beat up superheroes.

    -Ben
  • crap! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@@@terralogic...net> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:21AM (#15380667)
    The biggest obstacle on nuclear fusion is neutrons. Fusion produces a lot of neutrons and the idea of neutron free fusion using He3 is so far over the horizon that it isn't worth thinking about.

    Fission also produces neutrons.

    Since both reactions produce neutrons they have the same issues - namely dealing with radioactive wastes.

    Fisson is easy to create. A team of boy scouts can do it in their own back yard. Fusion is very difficult.

    Fission can be totally safe. It can also be very dangerous. It depends on the reactor design but the issue is that the technology is already on the shelf. IE. We can do it now and we have been able to do it for 50 years.

    Now the issue is that with the USA designed high pressure reactors, they only use about 2/10 of 1% of the uranium that is mined. What this means is that with a better design we can get about 475 times the milage from our uranium.

    There is so much energy available to us that it is almost beyond our imagination. Consider that there are about 114 reactors in the USA which have been running say about 50 years. 50x475 = 23,750 years. There has literally already been enough uranium mined for almost 24,000 years for a well designed reactor like the IRF (Integral fast reactor - look it up in the wikipedia). If we wish to produce 100% of our energy from uranium we have enough uranium mined already for over 2,000 years. Of course the best solution is to use this energy to free up hydrogen which we can combine with carbon to produce synthetic oil (syncrude!). We need about 75 GWe reactors right now here in Alberta. We have a terrible hydrogen shortage. The price of gasoline at the pumps is a symptom of this problem.

    Yet - we keep reading stories about the holly grail - Nuclear Fusion.

    Yes, some day will will build a fusion reactor. The research is a good idea. But the idea that it will be problem free is a false idea. The biggest obstacle is not wear and tear due to plasma - the biggest obstacle is neutrons flying around and these are difficult to control. In fact - the best solution might be to pack a bunch of thorium around the plasma and use the neutrons to transmute it into U233 which we can cart off to a fission reactor. As an alternative we can pack U238 around the plasma and cart of the Pu239. These are viable fuel cycles - unfortunately at present they are not politically correct.
    • Re:crap! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeremi (14640) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:01PM (#15381113) Homepage
      Fisson is easy to create. A team of boy scouts can do it in their own back yard.


      Dude isn't exaggerating [boyscouttrail.com]

    • Re:crap! (Score:3, Informative)

      by kidtexas (525194)
      While the neutrons created in a D-T fusion reaction can and will activate the surrounding structure, the byproducts from fission have a much longer half life than the neutron activated structure of a fusion reactor. Think tens of years instead of thousands - all the sudden a much more manageable problem if we could get the damn things to work.

      You are however correct that a lot of thought needs to go into how to correctly manage and extract the energy from the flux of neutrons in a fusion reactor.
    • Re:crap! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phanatic1a (413374) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:49PM (#15381550)
      Fission also produces neutrons.

      Fusion produces orders of magnitude more neutrons.

      In a fission plant, excess neutrons are bad. You want the pile to be barely critical, a stable, but not runaway, chain reaction. So you actually don't have a lot of neutrons flying out of the pile. You moderate the ones you do produce, and use them to fission additional fuel atoms.

      But in a D-T fusion scheme, the bulk of the liberated energy is produced in the form of a very energetic 14 megaelectron-volt neutron. And this neutron doesn't participate in additional reactions, DT fusion isn't a chain-reaction process like fission is. The neutron will leave the plasma. Heck, ideally, that's how you get energy out of the reactor, by trapping that neutron in a surrounding blanket, causing that blanket to heat up so you can use that heat to boil water. Every single D-T fusion generates one of these neutrons, so the neutron flux will be many many times that of a fission plant.

      But that's not an issue because of "radioactive waste." The wastes we're concerned about from fission aren't neutrons, they're from fission fragments and decay daughters. Some of those might emit neutrons themselves, but really, that's not the primary concern; neutron-induced radioactivity is actually pretty short-lived.

      The reasons neutrons are a concern in a fusion plant is that continuous high-energy neutron bombardment does very bad things to all known materials that you might want to build a reactor vessel out of. When a neutron strikes an atom, it displaces it within the crystal lattice. If that happens once, no big deal, but in a commercial fusion reactor, the reactor vessel will experience 300 to 500 displacements per atom over the lifetime of the device. That means that, right now, we don't even know what to build one of these things out of. Austinitic steels start to swell, crack, and degrade after only about 30dpa, and the very best candidate materials we know of can only handle about 150; those might be acceptable, if the cost of changing the inner wall out isn't too high, but we just don't know.

      And ITER won't even begin to explore those issues. ITER's flux will only generate 3 displacements per atom.

      Fusion is very very hard. My money says that we'll never use commercial fusion power.
    • Re:crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Zowie (109983)

      Since both reactions produce neutrons they have the same issues - namely dealing with radioactive wastes.

      Bollocks.

      By far the biggest problem with fission is not neutron activation of the machine itself but rather the creation of unstable intermediate-mass daughter atoms. The problem is that the neutron-proton ratio of heavy stable elements is slightly higher than the neutron-proton ratio of lighter stable elements. Hence if you break apart a heavy nearly-stable nucleus you get very unstable isotopes

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:37AM (#15380836) Homepage
    Fusion power has been Just Around the Corner. For the last fifty years or so. There is always some new technical breakthrough that is about to overcome the biggest obstacle.

    And we are always told that fusion power will be safe because, uh, well, because, well, it's not fission. It's completely new and totally different, so it must be safe. (Not that fission isn't safe, mind you, but fusion will be even safer). And it won't produce any radioactive waste. To speak of. Not from the actual fusion reaction. Well, sure, the neutron flux may make a lot of other things radioactive, but that's big deal. Why, in fact, the government has promised that Yucca Mountain will be ready by 1998. If you want to pick nits it isn't, uh, actually in operation yet, but it's Just Around the Corner.

    Also Just Around the Corner: helicars and moon colonies.
  • by styryx (952942) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:38PM (#15382522)
    This is too far down for anyone to really see...pity.

    Disclaimer: I am a fusion scientist.

    The result mentioned in the article has been around for about a year in the fusion community. It is very good work, and opens up further areas of study. However, it is specific to a single Tokamak, and so far has not yet been repeated. Furthermore, the result has not yet been fully understood. (This is linked to it not being repeated.)

    This may be sensational news, but it shouldn't be, due to claiming to solve a problem, which so far they haven't fully done. Don't take anything away from the guys who did this. Like I said, excellent work. But until the result is confirmed and understood it should stay out of mainstream media.

    There are many big problems for fusion, like plasma instabilites [wikipedia.org], neo-classical tearing modes, ELMs (as mentioned), ohmic heating in transformer coils. The list goes on, it's a complex subject. Thankfully with all countries signed up, and more than enough money for ITER's budget (even if America pulls out again), the politics can be minimised and the physics can continue.
  • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Monday May 22, 2006 @06:36PM (#15384205) Journal

    I guess I was wrong, I thought the biggest obstacle to fusion was the Coulomb force which cause the atomic nuclei to repel each other. You know, similar to the problem they had trying to create fission by firing alpha particles at the nucleus.

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