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Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough With Blast of 192 Lasers (NYTimes)

Only 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much closer to a working reactor.

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Just now, Bolt said:

Yup. Still long ways out. At least it's proven technology. A step forward. 

Agreed. Everything has to start from something; at least we know it's achievable. I just hope the oil industry doesn't swoop in and either buy it up to stop it or to monopolize it. If the tech proves out, I want to see it controlled either by the states or by the fed, funded through taxes and not under the control of a greedy corporation.

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Just now, M'Kyuun said:

Agreed. Everything has to start from something; at least we know it's achievable. I just hope the oil industry doesn't swoop in and either buy it up to stop it or to monopolize it. If the tech proves out, I want to see it controlled either by the states or by the fed, funded through taxes and not under the control of a greedy corporation.

Agreed. First thing I thought was how are they going to suppress this or gouge the crap out of us for it..

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9 minutes ago, Bolt said:

Agreed. First thing I thought was how are they going to suppress this or gouge the crap out of us for it..

Furthermore, keeping it under state or fed control can somewhat help protect the technology, although at this point, the Soviets and the Chinese have spies everywhere and seem to gain our tech almost as soon as it arrives, and likely before it's even known to the US public. It's the reason that public announcements like this, while nice to be informed, probably should be judiciously reconsidered due to the high likelihood of espionage and potential misuse of the tech to our detriment.  I would rather be kept completely in the dark about it and have it as the primary power source for our country for decades before being revealed as such. I think we should share the tech with certain allies on the condition of similar secrecy being observed to protect the tech and keep it out of enemy nations' hands.

2 minutes ago, Chunky001 said:

So they can screw it up with corruption and greed like they do everything else? Great plan.

At least corporations are beholden to the all mighty dollar. Government is beholden to nothing. Oh wait, my mistake. Government is beholden to greedy corporations. May as well cut out the middle man and get it done right.

Well, we're screwed either way then, aren't we? At least if jurisdiction for control of the reactors fell under state or federal control, we the taxpayers would have some say regarding legislation, especially at the state level, and on the question of taxation. Corporations only answer to their investors whose inevitable quest is always going to be profit over all else.  To that end, I think it would be better managed by state or federal govt. However, I know what you're saying about corporations having enormous sway in Congress; you'll curry no disagreement here. I think lobbying should be illegal as it's favoritism in the extreme and ultimately corrupt. Unfortunately, that's the system we have, have had for decades, and will likely prevail as such for as long as greed exists. I would like to think that the reactors would remain under the purview of the Army Core of Engineers for the duration of their operation, maintained and protected by Guard, Reserves, and federal civilian employees and contractors. Nothing human is perfect, but I think keeping it under the federal and state umbrella would at least protect the public from corporations endlessly raising energy prices even when the cost of producing that energy remained low.

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5 hours ago, M'Kyuun said:

Well, we're screwed either way then, aren't we?

eh, I don't know about the rest of y'all but I've accepted the inevitability of global societal collapse. bring on the end of the world, baby.:drinks:

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4 hours ago, Bolt said:

All cynicism aside, this is potentially a game changer ( in a good way)for the not too distant future. 

It has to scale up unfortunately. The convergence point of those lasers for this was only the size of a BB. This thing needs to scale up to something several orders of magnitude.

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8 hours ago, Dynaman said:

Laser and Magnet technology has been scaling up very quickly for a good while now.  The 10 years to a working reactor (not commercial but a working full time reactor) does not sound impossible.

Bear in mind we have no idea what progress has been made under wraps by DARPA, Sandia, Los Alamos, and other secure govt labs that deal with far-reaching science; one of them may have already matured the technology, but the general public won't know it for another fifty years or so.

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Still, we're still far away from making a reactor.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/scientists-achieve-breakthrough-nuclear-fusion

Quote

On December 5, an array of lasers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, fired 2.05 megajoules of energy at a tiny cylinder holding a pellet of frozen deuterium and tritium, heavier forms of hydrogen. The pellet compressed and generated temperatures and pressures intense enough to cause the hydrogen inside it to fuse. In a tiny blaze lasting less than a billionth of a second, the fusing atomic nuclei released 3.15 megajoules of energy‚ÄĒabout 50 percent more than had been used to heat the pellet.

Even though the reaction generated 50% more energy than used to produce the reaction, there was only enough fuel in that little BB-sized pellet to only last an instant. Not only do we need to scale up, we need that reaction to sustain energy production. Encouraging, definitely. But we've still got a WAYS to go.

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The announcement of fusion at the National Ignition Facility doesn't mean much: the 3 MJ of fusion energy were produced by 2 MJ of laser energy but required 300 MJ of grid energy. Moreover, laser-confinement techniques aren't considered as practical as magnetic confinement in tokamaks, as with the ITER project sited in France. (The NIF was actually built as a form of nuclear-weapons testing, not for power generation.) So there's nothing new for China to steal. For "what does the breathless non-science news coverage actually mean?", see: https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/12/what-enabled-the-big-boost-in-fusion-energy-announced-this-week/

The "wormhole" announced a few weeks back was a very abstract, simplified simulation in a quantum computer; it's no good for macroscale transport, let alone a communications link. See: https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/12/no-physicists-didnt-make-a-real-wormhole-what-they-did-was-still-pretty-cool/

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22 hours ago, azrael said:

Still, we're still far away from making a reactor.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/scientists-achieve-breakthrough-nuclear-fusion

Even though the reaction generated 50% more energy than used to produce the reaction, there was only enough fuel in that little BB-sized pellet to only last an instant. Not only do we need to scale up, we need that reaction to sustain energy production. Encouraging, definitely. But we've still got a WAYS to go.

Maybe now they can make a decent toasted cheese sandwich...

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On 12/14/2022 at 3:17 AM, Bolt said:

It's barely in its infancy. Nevertheless. It is encouraging. 

 

The US military is certainly encouraged! Oh boy, what could go wrong with that??

Five takeaways from the fusion energy breakthrough

https://thehill.com/homenews/3774082-five-takeaways-from-the-fusion-energy-breakthrough/

But U.S. officials hinted at military applications. Fusion is¬†‚Äúan essential process in modern nuclear weapons‚ÄĚ and a milestone like this one was a strong argument for American military power, Adams noted.

 

This needs some memes to get my point across too ūüėé

 

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goldblum-quote.jpg

Edited by TangledThorns
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3 hours ago, TangledThorns said:

The US military is certainly encouraged! Oh boy, what could go wrong with that??

I mean, yeah. New power sources are always interesting.

Nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers are a thing today, of course.

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4 hours ago, TangledThorns said:

The US military is certainly encouraged! Oh boy, what could go wrong with that??

Really, the most likely reason the US military would get excited about this discovery is the potential to reduce the number of things that could go wrong and the probability of running and screaming.

Our aircraft carriers and submarines are powered by nuclear fission reactors.  The highly-refined radioisotope fuel they use is extraordinarily dangerous and requires a lot of specialized and very expensive equipment to manufacture, to handle, to transport, to store, to install, and to dispose of safely when it's spent.  Not to mention the massive potential for long-term environmental damage should the reactor be damaged.  You'd better believe the military is downright giddy at the prospect of being able to switch to a far clear and safer technology that can offer similar or superior performance without a material safety datasheet the size of War and Peace and literal tons of highly specialized and costly safety gear.

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It is also worth noting that US naval reactors have a pretty good safety record, but they are also expensive. Crew safety is at the top of the priority list, even when it makes the reactors larger, less efficient, or harder to service.

Soviet-designed naval reactors were lighter and cheaper, but there were several, umm, crew safety problems.

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3 hours ago, Seto Kaiba said:

Really, the most likely reason the US military would get excited about this discovery is the potential to reduce the number of things that could go wrong and the probability of running and screaming.

Our aircraft carriers and submarines are powered by nuclear fission reactors.  The highly-refined radioisotope fuel they use is extraordinarily dangerous and requires a lot of specialized and very expensive equipment to manufacture, to handle, to transport, to store, to install, and to dispose of safely when it's spent.  Not to mention the massive potential for long-term environmental damage should the reactor be damaged.  You'd better believe the military is downright giddy at the prospect of being able to switch to a far clear and safer technology that can offer similar or superior performance without a material safety datasheet the size of War and Peace and literal tons of highly specialized and costly safety gear.

 

52 minutes ago, JB0 said:

It is also worth noting that US naval reactors have a pretty good safety record, but they are also expensive. Crew safety is at the top of the priority list, even when it makes the reactors larger, less efficient, or harder to service.

Soviet-designed naval reactors were lighter and cheaper, but there were several, umm, crew safety problems.

Uh... The THE HILL article I posted specifically mentioned weapons coming from the fusion research, not powering carriers or subs. The US military isn't an altruistic organization, lol.

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Don't see how fusion is good for weapons.  Unlike Fission it is a very bad return on investment to get a fusion bomb.  I'm not even a layman really but the hard part of fission is getting the fuel ready, which can be done remotely while fusion the fuel is plentiful but requires a HUGE amount of infrastructure to start (and maintain in the case of a reactor but not a bomb) the fusion.

Edited by Dynaman
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1 minute ago, TangledThorns said:

Uh... The THE HILL article I posted specifically mentioned weapons coming from the fusion research, not powering carriers or subs. The US military isn't an altruistic organization, lol.

Look again, they actually don't.

There's a section header that says "It has military implications", but all that's actually said in that section is that some of the technologies (ICF) used in this breakthrough came out of nuclear weapons research programs (not all of which were military in nature), that modern nuclear weapons use fusion, and that this proves America's a leader in the development of "weapons-relevant technology" because nuclear power research branched off of nuclear weapons research.

Believe you me, altruism is NOT required for the idea of switching from nuclear fission to nuclear fusion to appeal.  The amount of time, money, and logistical grief that goes into the procurement, safe handling, and disposal of nuclear fuel materials and maintenance of reactor systems is substantial even for civilian reactors.  A fission reactor leaking uranium into the environment means a multi-billion dollar cleanup effort.  A fuel spill in a fusion reactor means you air the room out while the cryogenic fuel sublimates and then patch the leak because it's just flammable gas and not glowing rocks of painful death.

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2 hours ago, TangledThorns said:

Uh... The THE HILL article I posted specifically mentioned weapons coming from the fusion research, not powering carriers or subs. The US military isn't an altruistic organization, lol.

A fusion reactor can POWER weapons, but is not itself readily weaponizable.

 

It might ENABLE some weapons technology, like various long-suffering railgun projects, if the power density winds up better for a naval fusion reactor than a fission one. Or if they're compact enough to safely install in, say, tanks.

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2 hours ago, Seto Kaiba said:

Look again, they actually don't.

There's a section header that says "It has military implications", but all that's actually said in that section is that some of the technologies (ICF) used in this breakthrough came out of nuclear weapons research programs (not all of which were military in nature), that modern nuclear weapons use fusion, and that this proves America's a leader in the development of "weapons-relevant technology" because nuclear power research branched off of nuclear weapons research.

Believe you me, altruism is NOT required for the idea of switching from nuclear fission to nuclear fusion to appeal.  The amount of time, money, and logistical grief that goes into the procurement, safe handling, and disposal of nuclear fuel materials and maintenance of reactor systems is substantial even for civilian reactors.  A fission reactor leaking uranium into the environment means a multi-billion dollar cleanup effort.  A fuel spill in a fusion reactor means you air the room out while the cryogenic fuel sublimates and then patch the leak because it's just flammable gas and not glowing rocks of painful death.

Not to mention controllability (part of your point I think): with a fission system, control rods and coolant are necessary to prevent a meltdown. With fusion, it's simply cut off the ignition and fuel sources. This makes the likelihood of a catastrophic event pretty much impossible, as an out of control fusion reactor will basically turn itself off:

https://www.iaea.org/bulletin/safety-in-fusion

In short: no China Syndrome meltdowns.

4 hours ago, JB0 said:

It is also worth noting that US naval reactors have a pretty good safety record, but they are also expensive. Crew safety is at the top of the priority list, even when it makes the reactors larger, less efficient, or harder to service.

Soviet-designed naval reactors were lighter and cheaper, but there were several, umm, crew safety problems.

The K-19 was one such example.

As for US Naval reactors: I've visited the USS Nautilus at the Submarine Museum in Groton, Connecticut. From the start, reactor safety and reliability were hallmarks of the program:

https://ussnautilus.org/the-nuclear-submarine/

In my visit, I was impressed with how compact and how well constructed the ship was for her time. They paid very rapt attention to crew safety and reliability of the machinery aboard. And that was in 1958!!!

 

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59 minutes ago, pengbuzz said:

Not to mention controllability (part of your point I think): with a fission system, control rods and coolant are necessary to prevent a meltdown. With fusion, it's simply cut off the ignition and fuel sources. This makes the likelihood of a catastrophic event pretty much impossible, as an out of control fusion reactor will basically turn itself off:

https://www.iaea.org/bulletin/safety-in-fusion

In short: no China Syndrome meltdowns.

The K-19 was one such example.

As for US Naval reactors: I've visited the USS Nautilus at the Submarine Museum in Groton, Connecticut. From the start, reactor safety and reliability were hallmarks of the program:

https://ussnautilus.org/the-nuclear-submarine/

In my visit, I was impressed with how compact and how well constructed the ship was for her time. They paid very rapt attention to crew safety and reliability of the machinery aboard. And that was in 1958!!!

 

I've been told one of the contractors explained that the reactor vessel didn't really need to be welded shut to prevent radiation leaks. And they asked him what he'd do if it was his son on the ship, and he said "I'd weld it shut". So they did.

US naval reactors aren't refuelable, but the seals are as good as can be made.

 

 

Meanwhile, I saw an anecdote earlier about US intelligence wondering what sort of advanced reactor the soviets were using to get such high speed out of some of their subs. When we finally got the answer, it was "same as the americans, but we made them bigger and lighter by omitting radiation shielding". And that... that's something.

Edit: Aaaaaaaaaaand that's apparently a well-known myth. While soviet nuclear vessels had no shortage of issues, there's no actual evidence they skimped on shielding.

Edited by JB0
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15 hours ago, pengbuzz said:

Not to mention controllability (part of your point I think): with a fission system, control rods and coolant are necessary to prevent a meltdown. With fusion, it's simply cut off the ignition and fuel sources. This makes the likelihood of a catastrophic event pretty much impossible, as an out of control fusion reactor will basically turn itself off:

https://www.iaea.org/bulletin/safety-in-fusion

In short: no China Syndrome meltdowns.

Yup... owing, I suspect, to popular fiction entirely too many people erroneously believe that a nuclear reactor is a nuclear bomb in potentia just waiting for an excuse to go off like in the movie Aliens.  The reality is so much more mundane.  A fission reactor's a kettle heating on a pile of hot rocks and the thing you're most in danger of it if breaks down is a steam explosion that exposes those hot rocks to the outside world.  A fusion reactor is like a diesel engine, requiring the injection of fuel into the reaction chamber and a compressive force to trigger the reaction... and if you shut off the fuel flow or decouple power to the system providing the fuel compression, the whole thing stops almost immediately.

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Neil Degrasse Tyson goes and muddies things up for me.  I take it he knows what he is talking about and what is commonly known as a Hydrogen bomb is a fusion bomb.  Till now I always thought they had found more efficient use of fission - similar to how hollow charge weaponry became much more efficient when they did some more math on finding the best way of producing them.  So we have had Fusion since the first Hyrdrogen bomb in the late forties or early fifties.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Dynaman said:

Neil Degrasse Tyson goes and muddies things up for me.  I take it he knows what he is talking about and what is commonly known as a Hydrogen bomb is a fusion bomb.  Till now I always thought they had found more efficient use of fission - similar to how hollow charge weaponry became much more efficient when they did some more math on finding the best way of producing them. 

Yes, he knows what he's talking about.

The dreaded "H-bomb" that dominated Cold War-era fears of nuclear world war and a nuclear holocaust is a nuclear bomb that uses thermonuclear fusion as its primary destructive force.  Mind you, you weren't entirely incorrect about it being a more efficient use of fission.  Thermonuclear fusion bombs are a two-stage weapon that uses a small nuclear fission bomb as a means to create the super-high temperatures and pressures needed to kick off an uncontrolled fusion reaction in the hydrogen stored in the primary warhead. 

It was the only way to achieve a significant release of fusion energy at the time.  Some of the test apparatus that were developed for those experiments were further developed into the technologies used in this breakthrough experiment in fusion energy generation.

Of course, because those thermonuclear fusion bombs use a nuclear fission bomb as a trigger, they still release dangerous radioactive fallout despite the primary product of fusion being intense heat.  The "holy grail" of nuclear weapons research is a "pure" thermonuclear fusion weapon that does not require a fission bomb to trigger that explosive release of fusion energy and thus would be a "clean" nuclear weapon that produced minimal or no long-term radiation.  These, of course, currently exist only in fiction.*

 

 

7 minutes ago, Dynaman said:

So we have had Fusion since the first Hyrdrogen bomb in the late forties or early fifties.

The first full-scale test was the "Ivy Mike" experiment in 1952.

 

* In Macross, these pure thermonuclear fusion weapons were able to be realized due to Overtechnology and are called thermonuclear reaction weapons.  Rather than a fission bomb, they use the intense artificial gravity to create an uncontrolled thermonuclear reaction in hydrogen.

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