Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power The Almighty Buck Science Technology

Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-to-life dept.
mdsolar writes with good news for the National Spherical Torus Experiment. Tucked away from major roadways and nestled amid more than 80 acres of forest sits a massive warehouse-like building where inside, a device that can produce temperatures hotter than the sun has sat cold and quiet for more than two years. But the wait is almost over for the nuclear fusion reactor to get back up and running at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "We're very excited and we're all anxious to turn that machine back on," said Adam Cohen, deputy director for operations at PPPL. The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) has been shut down since 2012 as it underwent a $94 million upgrade that will make it what officials say will be the most powerful fusion facility of its kind in the world. It is expected to be ready for operations in late winter or early spring, Cohen said.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

Comments Filter:
  • Spherical Torus? Is that some sort of shape that has 4 or more (spatial) dimensions?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In other words, it's a torus. It may not be of the standard donut dimensions people are accustomed to when they think torus, but it's still a torus. It's like saying that a rectangle with dimensions of 50x51 is a square-like rectangle. Simply calling it a rectangle would do.

        • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:57AM (#47747287) Homepage Journal

          Newsflash: humans use approximations when convenient for explaining something, and do not use strict definitions at all times.

          • Newsflash: humans use approximations when convenient for explaining something, and do not use strict definitions at all times.

            Bah silly humans, you don't even have a working protocol for inter individual communication and you think that you are going to master fusion.

        • It's like saying the Earth is almost spherical, instead of saying it's a lump of matter with an undetermined shape.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by geogob (569250)

          In other words, it's a torus.

          No it is not. There is a very clear defintion to what a torus is, and this is not. It may be seen as a torus-like shape, but not a torus. Proper use of terminology is important in science and engineering.

          It may not be of the standard donut dimensions people are accustomed to when they think torus, but it's still a torus.

          Again, its not a question of what people are accustomed to, but rather a question of definition. And no, the shape named "thorus" is not defined through the shape of a donut.

          It's like saying that a rectangle with dimensions of 50x51 is a square-like rectangle. Simply calling it a rectangle would do.

          False analogy. Both linguisting points are absolutely not comparable. In the case of the shape of the Tokamak built at PPPL, it is nei

          • Proper use of terminology is important in science and engineering.

            When we get to any actual science or engineering then I will pretend to care. Until then it really is not important in a forum like slashdot to anyone but a few overly pedantic people who don't know when to pick their battles. Just because people here generally care about science and engineering doesn't mean we can't deal with a little obvious imprecision in a description of a shape. No one will be negatively affected by the fact that it isn't truly a torus and most of us are well aware that it isn't act

          • by mdsolar (1045926)
            Topologically, a teacup with a handle is a torus. No BS.
          • A topologist and an engineer walked into a bar.
            The engineer kicked the shit out of the topologist for using the same words to mean different things than engineers use them to mean.

      • Last time I was at the Princeton lab, the thing that impressed me even more than the fusion reactor (it just goes "phht") was the flywheel room. Imagine an indoor soccer field that's just rows and rows of massive 12' flywheels, all spinning up with grid power until they're suddenly all magnetically braked, to get enough juice to force two hydrogen atoms together.

        Steampunk authors can't dream up anything as cool as physicists and mechanical engineers working on big problems.

    • Re:Spherical Torus (Score:5, Informative)

      by dtmos (447842) * on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:18AM (#47746961)

      Spherical Torus?

      I wondered the same thing. However, the National Spherical Torus Experiment web site [pppl.gov] has this explanation:

      The magnetic field in NSTX forms a plasma that is a torus since there is a hole through the center, but where the outer boundary of the plasma is almost spherical in shape, hence the name “spherical torus” or “ST”.

      There are also some links to more detailed descriptions.

    • Not to be confused with a spherical taurus in a vacuum.

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Maybe it's a moon sign....
    • With a name like that, expect things to go squarely pear-shaped...
  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:59AM (#47746871) Homepage Journal

    Public cynicism about fusion seems to have peaked at almost exactly the same time as there are a lot of new ideas and experiments ready to go.

    Even the needlessly big, expensive NIF has hit some amazing recent roadmarks recently(scientific net positive), while at the same time their funding is being slashed. Lots of new clever experiments seem to be promising(like Larwenceville plasma physics' Focus Fusion record heat density), in an era where no one in policy positions seems interested in chasing the tech.

    I'm glad Princeton is getting back in the game, but everything I hear says there won't be enough funding to actually get the staffing they need.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I really would like to hear some more news on the Lockheed high-beta fusion project and the Pollywell program.

      • by catchblue22 (1004569) on Monday August 25, 2014 @01:30PM (#47749333) Homepage

        The Skunkworks high beta fusion reactor [wikipedia.org] seems very interesting. 100MW reactor the size of a semi trailer and the complexity of a jet engine. Uses radio waves to heat the plasma (like a microwave oven). Confines plasma in a cylinder as opposed to a torus. In a tokamak reactor the confining magnetic field is created by the motion of the plasma. Thus the strength of the field decreases further from the plasma, creating an inherent instability. This creates a negative stability feedback because if the tokamak plasma expands the confining field gets weaker. I believe this is one of the reasons tokamaks need to be so huge to function.

        The high beta reactor has a confining field that increases in strength as you move farther from the plasma, making confinement inherently stable. The machine was designed by Dr. Thomas McGuire who did his PhD thesis on fusors at MIT. It may be possible to build a full reactor by as soon as 2017 for a cost measured in millions, NOT billions.

        • Here is the PhD thesis [mit.edu] of Thomas J. McGuire who is designing the compact fusion device mentioned in the parent comment. This 2007 thesis argues for the need to build compact fusion devices and surveys some options with their strengths and flaws. I don't think it describes in detail the high beta reactor he is currently designing at Lockheed Martin. Still, it shows the idea of him designing this reactor is plausible.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          I knew all that but their has been no new news for a few months.

    • Don't worry, I'm sure they could get a few million dollars if they built an office with a window that overlooks the NSTX machine and an oversized mahogany desk and rented it out to all of those rich Bond villains out there. I hear Dick Cheney is in the market for a new lair of evil.

      • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:58AM (#47747293)

        That gives me an idea. If you build this in a way that looks cool (obviously make it functional first and foremost, but style it whenever you get a chance), you could rent it out to Hollywood studios needing a set.

        Make a control room with lots of blinkenlights, put in a window to something that glows (it can be the capacitors or whatever, if putting a window into a tokemak is a bad idea, which it probably is), have lots of big cables running around, and so on. And make every room spacious enough that you can fit a camera crew inside it. Charge them $50K/day to use it as a set, only conditions being that they can't alter or break the functional parts, and any new parts they add have to be removed once they stop using the set.

        This doesn't have to fund the entire project, it just has to pay off the cost of the cosmetics and the downtime, and after that it's free money. If you spent a quarter-million dollars making it look like something out of Star Trek, you could pay that off with a week of filming Star Trek XII or whatever number they're up to now.

        Plus - the public outreach. The general public are, unfortunately, idiots. You could be doing some amazing research, be the top lab in the world in your field, and they would just complain about "their" tax money being spent on it. But making something "mad bitchin'"? They can get behind that.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Already done.
          The NIF was used as a set in a recent Star Trek, posing as the Enterprise's engineering deck, with the target chamber pretending to be a warp core.

    • Of course, we need to fund more oil power. Don't you think the fossil fuels industry has people working around the clock to discredit and defund this. I would guess even some of the skeptical AC comments on this article are coming from the fossil fuel industry.

    • I'm glad Princeton is getting back in the game, but everything I hear says there won't be enough funding to actually get the staffing they need.

      Sad to say, but the People support blowing up unwitting brown people in the Middle East, not real energy solutions.

      For the cost of one Iraq Occupation, we'd have clean energy already. But War is the health of the State, not real solutions to human problems. Now if the humans would just realize that it's the State that enhances their suffering (whose electric rates

  • I visited these folks when they had an open house a few years ago.

    It isn't too often you can visit a place that's working on fusion reactors.

  • The spherical approach seemed like a great idea until they actually built them. Now it's pretty clear the economics are no better than the conventional MFP approaches. See the Disadvantages of this article, especially the first two items listed:

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

  • by burisch_research (1095299) on Monday August 25, 2014 @03:26PM (#47750537)

    One bajillion comments, and nobody's mentioned Thorium yet? I am surprised. Am I the only one around here who thinks a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is a very good idea?

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      No but you are the only one who constantly brings it up in only vaguely related articles. This is about fusion not fission. In the long run fusion will be far better than any thorium cycle you can imagine.

  • General Atomic's San Diego Tokamak is till running and performing very useful research, particularly in magnetic controls. http://www.ga.com/magnetic-fus... [ga.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

If you aren't rich you should always look useful. -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Working...