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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the burning-plasma-and-benjamins dept.
sciencehabit writes: "ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a 'burning plasma' that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated — according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project."
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Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project

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  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:10PM (#46729835)

    $4B over 20 years is $200M/year -- does anyone in congress even track such a small amount of money? I bet that if a few congressmen looked under the couch cushions in their office they could find more money than that.

  • Re:Stop Now (Score:4, Funny)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday April 11, 2014 @06:33PM (#46729981)

    This is a massive and pointless waste of money. It will never lead to any practical source of energy.

    All true. Besides, the F-35 project needs the money even more. ;)

  • Re:Stop Now (Score:4, Funny)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:11PM (#46730219)

    It doesn't even compare to the annual cost of securing face paint.

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:48PM (#46730459) Homepage Journal
    No, it's not. It is just that they can't rent hotel room to meet their hookers and keep their mistresses on staff [csmonitor.com].

    How much is this really. As a comparison, our football stadium was supposed to cost $400 million in today's dollars. It actually cost closer to $600 million, also in today's dollars. About $350 million of that is paid by extorting fees from visitor to the city. I can't imagine how making visitors pay for something they have no use for makes, sense, but there it is.

    This reminds me of people who complain about the $400 million cost to launch the Space Shuttle. The same amount of a high end movie. But what does a movie give us?

  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Friday April 11, 2014 @11:22PM (#46731595)

    No "they" didn't have a LFTR reactor working in the 70s. Nobody's EVER had an LFTR working. There is no liquid-fluorine thorium Santa Claus, just a lot of grad student Powerpoint presentations.

    Thank you for calling the Thorium hotline. YES THERE IS A THORIUM SANTA CLAUS! I've ridden on his sleigh, he even let me ring the jingle bells. Even if you are a sourpuss you are welcome to come along for a ride too: the Thorium Remix 2011 [youtube.com]. It's two hours long so bring some snacks.

    I grew up amid Cold War fear and graduated to fossil fuel angst, coal concern. Then over the years I have witnessed a parade of 'renewable' wind and solar energy farm dreams where an absurd complexity of grid interconnect, tiny yields and moveable parts scales up to power -- a medieval society, maybe. A bad dream we should do the math and awaken from. So I resolved that our future should be nuclear... because modern civilization followed me home and I decided to keep it.

    So it was with astonished relief that I learned that there was more than one way to do nuclear.

    Dr. Alvin Weinberg PhD, one of the original patent holders of the Light Water reactor was slightly more than a graduate student. He was so obsessed with the idea that liquid fuels delivered greater safety and scalability, he sacrificed the remainder of his career in a vain attempt to convince the Navy (Rickover was running the show) to pursue liquid fuel and then, brazenly, went directly to the public -- a prominent scientist of the Atoms For Peace program warning about safety issues of water reactors was very embarassing. He soon lost the battle and his position as director at Oak Ridge.

    I'm no diplomat apologist. I am pissed off by Admiral Rickover's lack of forward vision in 1973. With one phone call he could have prevented Weinberg's dismissal, preserved molten salt research and set human kind on a much better course.

    There was a molten-salt reactor, a laboratory-scale device fuelled with U-233 and later U-235 in intermittent operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratories for a few years in the 1960s. It never used thorium and wouldn't have been any good if it had because it couldn't breed thorium up into U-233 to fission for energy.

    Because the plumbing and the scale was wrong. They did not put a Thorium blanket around the test reactor because they already knew that Thorium breeding would work, and wanted direct access to the core to make neutron measurements. The ARE [wikipedia.org] and MSRE were projects to prove that the chemistry could achieve criticality and remain stable... also refine the engineering.

    In terms of ground covered between theory and finished commercial product, the 1965-1969 MSRE was an masterpiece 'hack' of high-tech (more chemistry than nuclear engineers were accustomed to) -- and low-tech (salt plug drain), delivered.

    Anyone in any industry who makes such progress with a single experiment in so little time should feel rightfully proud.

    There are also experiments going on to see how thorium works in regular light-water reactors. The physics says it will work, it's not as energetic as regular uranium fuels though. Baby steps baby steps.

    Thorium as solid fuel in water reactors is 'several hundred years doomed' commercially. Uranium works better as a solid fuel and will not be scarce for awhile.

    In regards to LFTR I respectfully think it's time to take big steps, big steps. As concerted an effort as those steps on the moon.

    Corrosion schmoesion. We're not talking safety issues here in a system that carries high pressure, inherent steam and hydrogen explosion risk. LFTR will be just a bunch of standard bolt-together plumbing at normal atmospheric pressure. Replace and recycle everything every ten years until the corrosion issues ar

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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