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US Joins ITER Tokamak Fusion Project 33

WannabePhysicist writes "Energy secretary Spencer Abraham announced at the Princeton Plasma Fusion Laboratory that the U.S. will join ITER , the international plasma fusion reactor effort. They're currently planning a tokamak (doughnut) design, and have some pretty optimistic energy production predictions for 2014. As many of us in science know, estimated times are usually off by a factor of two, and then sometimes and order of magnitude -- but hopefully they'll get it to work. Many people push this as the cleanest form of energy, but fusion reactors will most likely contain deuterium, tritium, and lithium (tritium's not exactly water) The deuterium and tritium fuse, giving off an alpha (4He nucleus), a neutron, and some energy. This energy causes more reactions (the controlled fusion part). The neutrons hit a 6Li blanket (surrounding the chamber) which then produces more tritium for burning."
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US Joins ITER Tokamak Fusion Project

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mmmmmm tokamak..... *homer simpsons drool*

    Tastes crunchy in beer!
  • Tritium (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's not exactly water, but it's not exactly plutonium either.
    • Re:Tritium (Score:3, Informative)

      by helix400 ( 558178 )
      Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen.

      It has absolutely nothing to do with water. (H20).

      I think what the poster to this article, WannabePhysicist, was thinking about heavy water, which is 2 deuteriums + 1 Oxygen. I've never heard about a 2 Tritium + 1 Oxygen though? Has anyone else heard about it? Do they call it super heavy water? Or do they just not give it a name?

  • Its a pity that fusion based electricity generation will take so long to arrive. With fossil fuels being used at ever more larger rates, its THE technology that humanity needs to replace the current systems of electricity generation. The environmental benefits of using clean fusion to generate say, hydrogen for fuel cell powered cars as well as normal electricity use would be astounding. Unfortunately commercial greed would stiffle any hopes of that.
    • Yeah, don't you miss the good old days when new developments took just as long, but nobody knew about them so they took ten times longer than they would have if it had any funding whatsoever, and then 90 years later when the 3 people who were working on it are long dead somebody stumbled accross it and the ignorant masses went "ooo, it lights up!" delaying useful application another 50 years?
      Stop driving your car.
  • about time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Friday January 31, 2003 @03:12AM (#5194680)
    At this point, there are very few major research tokamaks out there. In the US, there is only really one that is flexible enough to do a wide range of experiments on (at GA []).

    This isn't going to necessarily lead directly to a commercial design, it's still a research reactor, but there are a LOT of big questions in fusion that can be answered by this device, and it would be irresponsible of the US to not be a part of it (that is, as long as we want to at least look like we're trying to find clean energy). At the rate different things are going, fusion might not be the energy source of the future, but you never know, it's always worth trying. It's only through programs like this that we'll get there.

    When the US first left the project it was because it was billed as a demo commercial reactor, which just wouldn't have worked. It might be able to get more energy out than you put in, but the cost of construction and upkeep is still too high for such large reactors. A major part of fusion research now is making the reactors more efficient, require less repair and have a smaller size. Oddly enough, we can't do that unless we build a larger research reactor.
    • This is so amazing!

      The international community was very upset when we decided to pull support for this project. They were still going to put it in Canada just to be close to all of the experts in the US.

      First Bush gives a huge plug for hydrogen in his State of the Union and now this. He's either up to something or is not the evil oil baren everyone thinks he is.

      This rocks!
    • Actually, they had a smaller reactor but one of the Tech guys ruined it. He thought it would be really cool to put a window in the side of the reactor and throw in some light strips. But he wasn't watching what he was doing and when he reached over to get the LED-lit case fan he spilled his can of Mountain Dew all over the place. Oh, wait, did I say can of Mountain Dew? I meant stupendously hot plasma. :-)

      "Zee goggles. Zey do nothing!"
  • but fusion reactors will most likely contain deuterium, tritium, and lithium (tritium's not exactly water)

    Of course not. Tritium's a form of hydrogen. You'd need oxygen to make water (assuming those two extra neutrons don't get in the way, IANA-Nuclear-Physicist).

    • The neutrons don't get in the way, as the nucleus is too small to effect the chemestry. Deuterium exists in small amounts naturaly, and water made of Deuterium (H2) rather than Protium (H1) is called "heavy water". One of the problems with Tritium is that it is radioactive, and readily forms its own heavy water. If it mixes with the water supply it is all but impossible to filter out.
  • Anyone know where this thing is going to be realized. I remember reading (maybe newscientist ?) that they want to built this test plant in Spain or France near the Atlantic, so they could easy get supplies and cooling from the ocean.

    I'm glad that the US finally decided to go along since the project was not funded completely yet.

    As for the prospects of energy supply, I read that they also think a postive effiency could be realized somewere around 2008, but would then just go out the drain......
    withput an obious reason I can remember
    seems like a waste
    • This web page [] has a listing of the four candidate sites. It's a choice between Clarington in Canada, Vandellos in Spain, Cadarache in France, and Rokkasho in Japan. From what I've heard, France and Japan are the most likely candidates.
  • Tritium's not water (Score:2, Informative)

    by Finuvir ( 596566 )
    tritium's not exactly water
    Actually Tritium's not water at all, it's heavy hydrogen. That is, one proton, two neutrons.
  • and then sometimes and order of magnitude

    you do mean 'an order of magnitude more' don't you?

    I wonder what happened to the Joint European Torus project that was so much hyped, but couldnt produce sustained energy after many trials across years. Instead of doing everything America vs Europe vs Japan, they could so join the europeans for reduced costs and better maintenance across years, unless theres weapons technology involved of course.

    I also wonder if its at all possible to locate the reactor close to other Big Science labs and create larger science community centres, maybe at BNL or LANL or Fermilab. Sharing ground and resources with other Big Science labs will help cut costs, and considering the fact that alot of construction/computer/other materials used for accelerators can also be used for the torus so uniting the location will make sense. Am I wrong?

    At least in one state they should build large multiple torii if this succeeds. The abundance of energy will allow the government to enforce a clean-fuel-only vehicles law, which will really make a practical difference.

    • The JET project is still going strong. It hasn't produced more energy than is put in, but it wasn't designed to. JET is a research reactor. It's fine for that purpose, but the purpose of ITER is to take a step beyond that.

      Europe and Japan are the two major drivers of the ITER project, so JET personnel will be intimately involved with ITER.

  • Yes, isn't it amazing that the US rejoins a project which they left in 1998, delaying it in the process?
  • Heh heh, so much on the "not water" part. I guess I wrote this kinda fast -- all I was thinkin was that tritium is not the SAFEST material in the world (I get that tritium != water), though I don't know enough to comment more than that.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll