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Seeker USA: How Close Are We to Fusion Energy? Feature Richard Dinan – CEO, Applied Fusion Systems

Fusion energy might be the safe, efficient, reliable and clean energy source that could save our planet. But, how close are we to a world where fusion energy is powering our homes? How Close Are We? Season 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GDx7… Read More: MIT Achieves Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion https://www.popularmechanics.com/scie… “New experiments with helium-3 in a magnetic confinement tokamak have produced exciting results for the future of fusion energy, including a tenfold increase in ion energy.” A Dream of Clean Energy at a Very High Price https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/sc… “ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (and pronounced EAT-er), is being built to test a long-held dream: that nuclear fusion, the atomic reaction that takes place in the sun and in hydrogen bombs, can be controlled to generate power.” What is Fusion? https://www.livescience.com/23394-fus… “With its high energy yields, low nuclear waste production, and lack of air pollution, fusion, the same source that powers stars, could provide an alternative to conventional energy sources. But what drives this process?” ____________________ Seeker explains every aspect of our world through a lens of science, inspiring a new generation of curious minds. Join Seeker as we go in search of experts, academics and innovators who are racing to solve some of humanity’s biggest scientific challenges. We’ll dive into the facts and comb through the research to find the answers you’re looking for. Visit the Seeker website https://www.seeker.com/videos How Close Are We? on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HowCloseAreWe/ Subscribe now! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c… Seeker on Twitter http://twitter.com/seeker Seeker on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SeekerMedia/ Seeker http://www.seeker.com/

Zero Coal

For the first time since the industrial revolution this country has gone 24 hours without burning coal. Times change.

This is a neat tool to monitor UK and French power usage:

http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk

‘First Look’ Applied Fusion Systems release early reactor design and modelling concepts

The need for higher efficiency and lower costs in fusion engineering has led AFS to the spherical tokamak reactor design model. These reactors offer more favourable magnetohydrodynamic behaviour meaning they can be run for longer bursts and are less prone to damaging plasma instabilities called disruptions. In addition, spherical tokamaks are known to operate more efficiently confining plasma at a higher pressure than conventional tokamaks using less intense and therefore cheaper magnetic fields.

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The reactor is part of the new breed of high efficiency spherical tokamaks. The STAR planned Alphpa and Beta reactors are intended to produce 100MW of electricity and will do so using the new generation of materials suited to fusion science; for the toroidal coils REBCO superconductors make the design far easier to service because they are simpler to join. The design also features symmetrical diverter systems which can be used to aid heat extraction from the plasma.

 STAR will make use of recent advanced in additive manufacturing otherwise known as 3d printing. Major components can now be laser sintered rather than cast or milled, reducing build costs and times. Complex geometries become possible with additive manufacturing and so AFS can explore novel approaches to existing design challenges.

 STAR is slightly larger than the MAST reactor at CCFE, to ensure it can meet a minimum commercial standard of 100MW electrical output. 

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The Physics

If heat is converted to electricity at 40% efficiency, the reactors need a fusion power of 250MW to produce 100MW of electricity. A steel blanket is widely recognised to support a maximum wall loading of 5MW/mˆ2 so at peak wall loading the STAR reactors A and B require a wall area of ˜50Mˆ2 (250/5). These requirements determine the basic geometry of STAR, major radius = 1.1m minor radius = 0.9m. 

MAST Centre Column Installed

The slow motion video is actually nail-biting stuff. The centre column is a key component of MAST and contains the main current drive solenoid. It also has space for cooling channels and plasma shaping coils.

The units for power density are W/mˆ3, is there a sensible measure for “tech density” maybe $/mˆ3? The so-called ‘million $ kebab’ seems to be following the fusion tradition of remarkable amounts of tech crammed into tight spaces.

Here’s the video

MAST Upgrade – lifting the Centre Column into place

 

3D Printed Magnets

From the Economist:

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21710233-3d-printers-promise-better-cheaper-and-more-powerful-magnets-magnetic-momentshttp://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21710233-3d-printers-promise-better-cheaper-and-more-powerful-magnets-magnetic-moments

I’m in favour of any process involving a BAAM machine. That’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing.

It’s not hard to imagine a group of scientists interested in 3D printing magnets:

W7X-Spulen_Plasma_blau_gelb.jpg

You’ll need more than a set of french curves

 

 

Alcator c-mod’s new record

Big news from MIT today. Their fusion test reactor the Alcator c-mod has set a new record for plasma pressure at 2 atmospheres.

It’s also a sad announcement, this record was set on the last day of operation of this device. Funding was cut in 2012 because of The United States’ existing commitment to fund the ITER project in Provence.

Last week the NSTX at Lawrence Livermore was taken offline by a damaged toroidal coil. Now with alcator c-mod retired the US is left with only one functioning fusion facility, the DIII-D run by general atomics in san Diego.

The fusion department at MIT is run by Dennis Whyte who is overseeing the construction of MIT’s ARC reactor, an affordable and easy to maintain fusion reactor. Also a tokamak.

What’s Taking So Long?

We were asked to comment on the state of fusion research for this article by Jamie Carter. Looks like it came out really well.

www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/nuclear-fusion-what-s-taking-so-long–1329056

Taking Shape

We’re building a reactor. We’re going to tell you why fusion matters, why our project matters and where we’re going from here.

Applied Fusion Systems sees nuclear fusion as the inevitable solution to humanity’s energy problem. Put simply: How do you keep the lights on without destroying the planet?

Our answer is taking shape and we’re very excited.

The concept is based on a design called a tokamak. That’s a Russian acronym which roughly translates as “Toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”. Here’s what they look like:

 

3d12-36-1c-340x272
Courtesy of Euro Fusion

 

Tokamaks work by levitating hot plasma with incredibly strong magnetic fields. The hot plasma contains two forms of Hydrogen, Deuterium and Tritium, which fuse to make Helium and release energy. In the image above the plasma (purple) circulates inside the donut shaped vessel which is surrounded by ‘D’-shaped magnetic coils.

Figuring out the right way to do all this is hard. Until recently the supercomputing resources needed to accurately predict how the plasma would behave simply didn’t exist. Now they do and that’s why we’re excited.

Plasmas don’t behave like gases. Gases obey the laws of hydrodynamics, they flow about in response to differences in pressure, a gas particle only notices its immediate neighbours by bumping into them. Plasmas on the other hand obey the laws of magnetohydrodynamics, a dizzyingly complex branch of physics which combines Maxwell’s laws with those of hydrodynamics. The reason for the stark difference is that the nuclei and electrons in plasmas are electrically charged, whereas gas particles are not. As a result a plasma particle feels the forces generated by other particles both near and far, vastly complicating the mathematics.

Having heated plasma to around 100M Centigrade some of the Deuterium and Tritium nuclei will collide and fuse releasing energy in the form of heat. The end goal is to produce enough heat to keep the plasma hot and still have enough left over to drive a turbine and produce electricity.

300px-JointEuropeanTorus_internal.jpg

But let’s take a step back and look at the $6,000B/year global energy market. In many countries energy costs are second only to health care. Energy is big business, especially in emerging markets, sadly high costs are damping potential growth all over the world. We only need to look at the uncontrollable costs of the U.K.’s Hinkley Point project to see that something has gone badly wrong with the “old nuclear” industry’s costs. A change is needed.

We believe the time is ripe for a new approach to the fusion puzzle, the new generation of REBCO superconductors and the collapse in the price of supercomputing resources means that for the first time a new entrant in the fusion sector makes economic sense.

3 years ago Cycle Computing ran code on Amazon’s cluster at a cost of 36 Gigaflops per dollar!

 

Fusion is not held back the way old nuclear is. It produces no long-lived waste and cannot melt-down. The primary fuels are Deuterium which is found in seawater, and Lithium which is abundant in the Earth’s crust. These reserves should keep us going for 20,000 years.

Some more good news. The U.K is a world class research leader in fusion technology. Take  a trip to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) to see JET or MAST, two remarkable and very different tokamaks. In addition, universities like Imperial college, Warwick and York are well known for their strong plasma physics and fusion credentials. The U.K. fusion sector has a deep bench of talent to draw from.

This is the right place and the right time to dive into fusion in a big way. Applied Fusion Systems is delighted to announce the start of our reactor project. We are starting with physics simulation and design validation before moving on to prototyping.

If you would like to be kept up to date then join our think tank and you won’t miss a thing.

Thank you from the team at AFS.

Solar price collapse

Bloomberg have published their annual Energy Outlook. There’s plenty of interesting stuff in there for example:

  • Onshore wind prices to fall by 41% by 2040.
  • Solar PV to fall by 60% by 2040
  • Home installed “behind the meter” battery packs to grow from a total capacity of 400MWh to 760GWh by 2040.

Looks like Musk was right to build that factory. Let’s hope there’s enough Lithium to go around. I know a few other people have plans for that element.

 

 

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