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Power The Almighty Buck United States Science

Is It Time For the US Government To Back Fusion At NIF Over ITER? 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the come-on-now,-you're-both-pretty dept.
ananyo writes "Laser beams at the National Ignition Facility have fired a record 1.875 megajoule shot into its target chamber, surpassing their design specification. The achievement is a milepost on the way to ignition — the 'break-even' point at which the facility will finally be able to release more energy than goes into the laser shot by imploding a target pellet of hydrogen isotopes. NIF's managers think the end of their two-year campaign for break-even energy is in sight and say they should achieve ignition before the end of 2012. However, with scientists at NIF saying that a $4 billion pilot plant could be putting hundreds of megawatts into the grid by the early 2020s, some question whether the Department of Energy is backing the wrong horse with ITER — a $21-billion international fusion experiment under construction at St-Paul-lez-Durance, France. Is it time for the DoE to switch priorities and back NIF's proposals?" Perhaps a better idea, given the potential benefits of fusion research, would be for the DoE to throw their weight behind multiple projects, rather than sacrificing some to support others.
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Is It Time For the US Government To Back Fusion At NIF Over ITER?

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  • Re:Cheaper than War (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @03:48PM (#39417775)

    assuming an unlimited 'free' electricity supply, synthesis of oil from base chemicals starts to look doable. its just energy after all - all it needs is converting into chemical form.

  • Re:well, i dunno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @03:51PM (#39417847)
    Doesn't the government get its money back in the form of taxes from the Internet companies that wouldn't exist without it?
  • Re:Cheaper than War (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @04:02PM (#39418049)

    If we found a completely free source of electricity, that used a large building to produce, we wouldn't get rid of our oil demand.

    Not really. Given enough cheap energy, synthetic fuel is pretty trivial.

    The energy cost of ethanol distillation makes it a borderline negative source of energy... but if that energy is infinite and free, well then... Think about it... aluminum is essentially congealed electricity (look how its made). So you make aluminum greenhouses out of free electricity and dirt, then you string 24x7 ultra-high intensity lights using free electricity, the plants grow in water that was desalinated ocean water using free electricity, then you ferment the "stuff" and distill using free electricity... Given an infinite source of free electricity, pretty much, sea water comes in one pipe, and motor fuel ethanol comes out another pipe.

    You could condense carbon dioxide out of the air and strip the carbon off, condense water out of the air to strip the hydrogen off, mix together in a somewhat complicated o-chem lab, and make synth-gas. Air goes in one pipe, gasoline comes out the other pipe.

    Takes a heck of a lot of energy to pull that trick off, but it can be done.

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