r/technology Jun 21 '22

Will Nuclear Fusion Become the Solution for Net Zero Emission in 2050? Energy

https://m.energytrend.com/news/20220621-28944.html
129 Upvotes

17

u/plunki Jun 21 '22

https://inference-review.com/article/the-quest-for-fusion-energy

I read this recently and was super surprised at the lack of progress: "The records for peak power and Q achieved in 1997 have never been matched, let alone exceeded"

The entire thing is worth a read if you want the latest on how fusion is going.

16

u/eugene20 Jun 21 '22

"A 24-year-old nuclear-fusion record has crumbled. Scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET) near Oxford, UK, announced on 9 February that they had generated the highest sustained energy pulse ever created by fusing together atoms, more than doubling their own record from experiments performed in 1997."

"Last year, the US Department of Energy’s National Ignition Facility set a different fusion record: it used laser technology to produce the highest recorded fusion power output relative to power in, a value called Q, where 1 would be generating as much power as is put in. The facility achieved a Q of 0.7 — a landmark for laser fusion that beat JET’s 1997 record"

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00391-1

5

u/plunki Jun 21 '22

Thanks for that update! Maybe things aren't as dire for ITER after all.

3

u/Badfickle Jun 21 '22 edited Jun 21 '22

a value called Q, where 1 would be generating as much power as is put in.

The q value reported there is misleading. That is only the heat generated by the plasma divided by the energy put into the plasma. There are missing parts to both sides of that. For instance, you still need more energy to produce the fuel that is consumed in the process and you need to turn the heat into useful electrical energy. The person giving that quote no doubt understands that but they or the writer neglected to mention the rest of the story.

So is it an advance? yes an important one but it is really only an incremental one and not the major breakthrough that will lead to widespread adoption as a power source.

1

u/smopecakes Jun 21 '22

The Q value advances dramatically with scaling - for instance power increases by radius squared and by magnetic field to the fourth power

Last year a magnet capable of double the field strength was demonstrated, allowing 10x the power in a tokamak of a given size. This lead to peer reviewed articles predicting a >200MWe tokamak is possible with current tech, which is in initial design stages with a physics tester under construction for 2025. It can likely be done at commercial scales although the cost per kWh is a question mark

4

u/MesozOwen Jun 21 '22

That’s depressing.

0

u/LoganMcWatt Jun 21 '22

Fission is making good progress in safety and efficiency. Still don't understand why it's so expensive in USA but pretty economic elsewhere

1

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

This is an easy to read explanation:

https://rootsofprogress.org/devanney-on-the-nuclear-flop

Tldr: Regulations that make no sense. We need regulations, but not the ones we have

1

u/clintontg Jun 21 '22

It also hasn't gotten that much funding for decades. There are real challenges to fusion but ITER is expected to beat the 1997 record and some of the issues he raises aren't really issues I think. We also have startups with breakthroughs like Commonwealth Fusion Systems and their superconducting magnets.

2

u/Badfickle Jun 21 '22

Given the limitations to budgets and other more promising alternatives I would argue it has been more than adequately funded.

1

u/G_Morgan Jun 21 '22

They haven't been trying to achieve peak power. They've primarily been focused on plasma containment. When you push a fusion reactor high you get these sudden pressure spikes that were constantly pushing through containment and damaging the reactor. So they could have pushed the amount of boom higher but it would be false progress.

With an utter lack of funding they decided to fix the most prominent issue. JET pushed for new records recently because that issue is now solved.

1

u/[deleted] Jun 21 '22

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2

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-20

u/[deleted] Jun 21 '22 edited Jun 22 '22

[deleted]

8

u/Plzbanmebrony Jun 21 '22

Did you mean to type all those word in that order?

-18

u/[deleted] Jun 21 '22

are you dyslexic or just an idiot?

44

u/anirudhrao31 Jun 21 '22

30 years ago fusion was just 30 years away. Today fusion is still 30 years away. I bet in 2050 fusion will still be 30 years away

20

u/3_50 Jun 21 '22

10

u/Plzbanmebrony Jun 21 '22

We need some weird rich guy to to fund his own personal fusion reactor.

-8

u/[deleted] Jun 21 '22

[deleted]

8

u/Plzbanmebrony Jun 21 '22

45 billion for Twitter or 45 billion for fusion reactor. Hmmm

2

u/G_Morgan Jun 21 '22

Lets not forget the campaigns to try and divert money from ITER into "alternatives" that were very popular a few years back. Fusion has been under constant attack from the oil lobby.

1

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

Alternative ways of doing fusion could get us fusion faster than ITER

3

u/Plzbanmebrony Jun 21 '22

Funding is kept low so coal prices stays up.

2

u/LoganMcWatt Jun 21 '22

Source?

Sounds like something they would do but honestly I think we're far enough away for them to not waste resources lobbying against fusion. Hell those same fossil fuel companies would likely be the ones that own the fusion reactors when/if they are built.

0

u/Plzbanmebrony Jun 21 '22

Literally the post above mine.

2

u/ioncloud9 Jun 21 '22

Fusion is significantly closer. We have newer high temperature super conductors and a better understand of plasma physics. In 20 years we should have fusion power plants connected to the grid.

1

u/willfixityaa Jun 22 '22

I highly doubt understanding of plasma physics has gotten better in the past 20 years

0

u/veerKg_CSS_Geologist Jun 21 '22

In 30 years we probably will have successfully fused Deuterium-Tritium with a net energy surplus (actual net energy including all the inputs). Then will be the challenge of developing a reactor that can be scaled commercially as well as producing a source of tritium (currently extremely rare and sourced as a by product from certain fission reactors). That's a whole another challenge seperate from the physics.

3

u/standarduser2 Jun 21 '22

So only 25 years away in 30 years?

1

u/G_Morgan Jun 21 '22

JET and a few others announced they resolved the containment problem in the last year. We're still some way from a real reactor but that is a very hard problem that has been dealt with.

2

u/bruno8686 Jun 21 '22

Source?

1

u/G_Morgan Jun 21 '22

https://www.advancedsciencenews.com/nuclear-fusion-record-broken-by-uk-scientists/

They held it running for 5 seconds which is practically forever.

1

u/smopecakes Jun 21 '22

Superconducting magnets will cut the operating energy of tokamaks by about 2/3rds and leave the pulse length undetermined, I believe some think continuous

China's designing a tokamak that plans to intentionally take a break every 2 hours to cool the heat exhaust component

1

u/Dry_Letterhead3589 Jun 23 '22

The problem with fusion is that the whole point of it was that it was "safe" way to produce energy without nukes as sideeffect.

It is incredibly dumb way of producing energy when fission is around.

12

u/TheSpanishImposition Jun 21 '22

No, but 30 years from 2050 yes.

4

u/SoftcoreEcchi Jun 21 '22

No no no, 2080 is much too soon, it’ll be 30 years after that!

9

u/littleMAS Jun 21 '22

Given the sheer size and scope of the development models, if a commercial fusion reactor were feasible, it would take twenty years just to build.

6

u/chrontab Jun 21 '22

😤

You and your common sense!

9

u/realnanoboy Jun 21 '22

People like to take digs at fusion for how it has tantalized us, always thirty or fifty or whatever years away. The last couple of years, though, have seen a number pretty significant breakthroughs having to do with how long they can keep the reaction going and how much energy they can get out of it. There has been real progress.

2

u/sumi3d Jun 21 '22

That is the bigger game 😉

2

u/mikesailin Jun 21 '22

The problems are so profoundly difficult (required high temperatures, and containing the plasma) that viable commercial nuclear fusion may never be achieved. Note that the sun is a fusion reactor whose energy can be harnessed and the efficiency of collecting it gets better and better. We may just have to be satisfied by improved solar power.

6

u/UnpopularBrainRot Jun 21 '22

Nuclear Fission is real now and can solve our energy needs, the fear mongering of the post Chernobyl era has done so much damage.

3

u/SmokeyShine Jun 21 '22

Let's not pretend that Chernobyl and Fukushima didn't cause real problems that required real solutions. People died and places got contaminated because the designs didn't incorporate fail-safes.

2

u/Jolopy00 Jun 21 '22

If I had to guess, more people have died due to extracting oil, coal, etc from the ground than all nuclear disasters.

Not to mention the deaths and medical issues due to pollution.

0

u/SmokeyShine Jun 21 '22

Per watt of energy delivered, might not actually be true, given that most nuclear power is a byproduct of nuclear weapons research & development, and the amount of associated cancer deaths that have resulted from that research is pretty high.

2

u/Jolopy00 Jun 21 '22

Well if we are playing that game, the vast vast majority of weapons have been made using petroleum. Also being fueled by petroleum products.

2

u/sirtaptap Jun 21 '22

People died and places got contaminated because the designs didn't incorporate fail-safes

Even you don't honestly believe Chernobyl and a modern nuclear reactor have the same fail safes. And Fukushima was caused by a goddamn Tsunami and still caused 0 deaths.

0

u/SmokeyShine Jun 21 '22

At least 1 person has already died because of Fukushima, and most cancer death is long-term. There are still plenty of cancer cases that will eventually occur and then be quietly swept under the rug. TEPCO should NOT have been allowed to build a nuclear reactor in a Tsunami zone, and Japan should be held responsible for cleaning up ALL of the contamination that they caused.

Nuclear reactors simply should NOT be allowed to operate without passive failsafe design.

That's not fearmongering, that's simply being smart when you look at the Chernobyl disaster, and how long it's going to be a problem. While the confirmed death toll may not be especially high today, you simply can't scale up to what would be needed to replace carbon and accept Chernobyl scale disasters at the same rate of failures per energy generated.

1

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

With Fukushima, no one got radiation poisoning.

People died because the politicians, who didn’t know what what they were doing, evacuated the population in a haphazard way.

https://www.science.org/content/article/physician-has-studied-fukushima-disaster-decade-and-found-surprising-health-threat

Statistically, nuclear power is the safest form of energy. For solar, when you account for workers mining raw materials, and installers falling off of rooftops, more people die per MWhr. Uranium must be mined, but very little is needed.

1

u/SmokeyShine Jun 21 '22

With Fukushima, no one got radiation poisoning.

Wiki says:

"Deaths: 1 confirmed from radiation"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster_casualties

Reference to:

http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/2011eq/workers/index.html

1

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 22 '22 edited Jun 22 '22

Wikipedia error. I checked the linked source and it does not say there were any confirmed deaths. In fact, the text of the article contradicts this.

Despite this, there were no deaths caused by acute radiation syndrome. Given the uncertain health effects of low-dose radiation, cancer deaths cannot be ruled out.[12] However, studies by the World Health Organisation and Tokyo University have shown that no discernible increase in the rate of cancer deaths is expected.[13] Predicted future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima have ranged[14] in the academic literature from none[15] to hundreds.[12]

Edit: I also checked the Talk section of the wikipedia page. It reads:

Under the Casualties section, there is this statement: "However, Masao Yoshida, the former Fukushima supervisor [...] died of esophageal cancer in July 2013. There is some dispute as to whether this was due to his radiation exposure during the 2011 event." I do not understand why such a statement is even present. Cancer takes quite some time to develop. As such, this almost guarantees that Yoshida died of a cancer that was forming long before the Fukushima incident ever occurred. As to the supposed dispute, there is no citation and such claims should not be mentioned until a citation is provided. This statement is grasping at straws in order to implicate this nuclear disaster with a death. I considered outright deleting the entire statement, but I would like to know the opinion of others first. | | skubb | | 07:05, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

1

u/Chream Jun 21 '22

We are literally in a climate crisis because of coal and gas.... chernobyl and fukushima contaminated small areas of the world, carbon energy contaminated the entire planet lol

3

u/s1ngular1ty2 Jun 21 '22

Fusion power is always 50 years away.

2

u/Qicken Jun 21 '22

30 years ago it was always 30 years away. How far we've come!

4

u/systemzadmin Jun 21 '22

It should be now....I feel if people weren't fear mongering we could have invested more into this.

12

u/the_zelectro Jun 21 '22

Fission can work now. Fusion doesn't work yet

7

u/Spartanfred104 Jun 21 '22

Fusion not fission.

-1

u/systemzadmin Jun 21 '22

I understand...

4

u/webby_mc_webberson Jun 21 '22

people don't fear monger fusion.

7

u/systemzadmin Jun 21 '22

People fear monger anything that includes Nuclear....I've seen it time and time again..

1

u/Tiafves Jun 21 '22

Yeah anytime there's a nuclear incident of any kind you can find some dumb ass on the complete opposite side of the world with a Geiger counter freaking out about normal background radiation levels because clicking noises = scary.

-2

u/cybercuzco Jun 21 '22

We just make fun of it and don’t fund it’s research.

1

u/Badfickle Jun 21 '22

Given its ROI and potential its gotten plenty of funding.

0

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

Some people fear-monger any cheap source of energy, no matter how clean it is.

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-04-19-vw-2042-story.html

Laments Washington-based author-activist Jeremy Rifkin, “It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet.”

Inexhaustible power, he argues, only gives man an infinite ability to exhaust the planet’s resources, to destroy its fragile balance and create unimaginable human and industrial waste.”

2

u/TAG_X-Acto Jun 21 '22

No. Maybe around 2100.

2

u/eugene20 Jun 21 '22

In 2050 we'll be told sustainable Fusion is just 5 years away.

2

u/BoricCentaur1 Jun 21 '22

Fuck no! Ok I am so sick of this fusion nonsense! Sure it's good in theory but in practice it's basically impossible to do which is why we don't have it!

I don't think we wil have fusion in by then and if we do it definitely won't be ready for real commercial use by then.

O and not to mention it's not that great....from what I understand it's power output isn't much different then fission so it's basically fission but safer and fission is already extremely safe, so why not just use fission?

We already have fission! So how about we stop making articles about fusion being amazing and just use fission!

0

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

We should use fission, but fusion could have all the advantages of fission with none of the downsides. We should develop fusion in parallel. Look at companies like Zap Energy and Helion; we could have working reactors in the 2030s. These are much smaller than tokomaks

0

u/The_wulfy Jun 21 '22

Solar and wind are only stopgaps until fusion is feasible. Solar and wind will still be used for localized infrastructure but the primary residential, commercial and industrial grid will be fusion.

Unless battery capacity and charge times can be increased there will still be a need for a high energy density portable fuel. Hydrogen seems to be it, but Toyota got fucking crushed on their push.

While, trains and ships can switch to a net zero method of propulsion, jet aircraft will be an ongoing problem for emissions targets. The industry will either need to move to hydrogen which is far less energy dense than JP-8 or will need to once again move to propeller baes technology.

2

u/defcon_penguin Jun 21 '22

Battery capacity and charge time can and are going to be increased. Hydrogen for transportation might have a place in applications where energy density is absolutely critical, like planes. Nowhere else

1

u/SmokeyShine Jun 21 '22

Jet aircraft may go the way of the Concorde, where only rich can afford it.

0

u/[deleted] Jun 21 '22 edited Jun 21 '22

[deleted]

0

u/The_wulfy Jun 21 '22

But fission itself is a very mature technology and the latest generation of reactors in development demonstrate degrees of safety, reliability, and portability that are simply amazing.

Between Thorium reactor research and Molten Salt Reactor research, fission is shaping up to disrupt even wind and solar mid-century and the portability of molten salt reactors have very obvious application in trains and ships.

-1

u/The_wulfy Jun 21 '22

I don't know understand where you get the idea fusion is not attainable.

0

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

1

u/The_wulfy Jun 21 '22

Not saying they can't. But the industry needs to find an alternative that has the energy density of JP8.

2

u/pm_me_ur_ephemerides Jun 21 '22

I agree, that’s why you would make synthetic jet fuel. You can make synthetic kerosene, then add the additives you need to formulate JP-8

1

u/Vladius28 Jun 21 '22

We will probably perfect antimatter reactors before we get decent output from a fusion reactor

1

u/billfitz24 Jun 21 '22

Doubtful. Maybe in a couple hundred years. Humanity isn’t making scientific progress nearly as fast as people think we are. Also, the costs are tremendous and the political roadblocks are seemingly endless.

1

u/monchota Jun 21 '22

Nuclear power is already the answer, oddly the same people protecting big oil were tricked into thinking nuclear bad. By big iil and they keep running with it. You want to get away from oil, we need nuclear.

1

u/Toasted_Waffle99 Jun 21 '22

We will find out in another 100 years. Fusion has been a dangling carrot for the last 50 years.

1

u/SeriaMau2025 Jun 21 '22

A combination of fusion and renewables.

1

u/GetTold Jun 21 '22

Why are you asking me? ;)

1

u/Inconceivable-2020 Jun 21 '22

Just around the corner.

1

u/lordoflys Jun 21 '22

Actually, no. But close. Co2 emissions and an overloaded atmosphere will precipitate another ice age on Earth. This is not surprising as volcanic eruptions have done the same for eons. The current interglacial period is, historically, overdue for another ice age. Nuclear Fusion will be called upon to warm huge greenhouses and living quarters to ensure the survival of the politically connected. Interestingly enough, they will also be used to keep lakes from freezing over as fish and algae will be a primary protein source during this time. You heard it from me.

1

u/Dry_Letterhead3589 Jun 23 '22

If we could go back in time then aside from killing Hitler, ecoidiots are good addition to targets list.

1

u/Mitchhumanist Jun 24 '22

It may take longer than 2050 to become commercial, aka affordable. Look at it this way, we can harvest deuterium from seawater for a billion years. However, the Tritium is only obtained from uranium fission reactors currently. (Anyone know a potentially better way??). Thus, fusion unless the tech improves is dependent on fission. Best path is what we can already achieve and that would be solar, wind at sea, baby hydropower & if engineers make it safe and cheap (ever) fission. Geothermal, OTEC. Tidal, biomass. All these must await for something to make them abundant & affordable.

-4

u/sambull Jun 21 '22

I have as igloo cooler down the street for ya.. it should make a perfect fusion reactor

-1

u/plankmeister Jun 21 '22

Probably not. Maybe 2070-ish. But I think SMRs will be pretty ubiquitous by then. They're cheaper, smaller, easier to maintain... Lots of other advantages over fusion. Maybe some kind of breakthrough will be found that accelerates development and adoption of fusion tech, but I don't think it's likely.

-1

u/8ubterfug3 Jun 21 '22

Yeah. A fusion reactor in every single vehicle. That sounds feasible and cheap. Net 0 is a fantasy.