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Giant International Fusion Reactor Draws Nearer 967

nnnneedles writes "BBC is reporting that scientists are deciding on where to build the world's first big fusion reactor. The international effort is described as the boldest nuclear initiative since the Manhattan Project, and holds promise for future unlimited, clean energy. The choice on where to build the reactor currently stands between Japan and France, but apparantly, the U.S. is opposing a french site because France opposed the war in Iraq." There's also an AP story.
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Giant International Fusion Reactor Draws Nearer

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  • by Phantasmo ( 586700 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:14PM (#7774422)
    Our crappy Liberal party decided that we didn't deserve the fusion reactor and dropped Canada out of the race. It's too bad because we were thought to have a pretty good site lined up.

    They talked about it in a recent Quirks and Quarks [] episode (available in Ogg Vorbis!) Really sad. :(
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) * <(gro.tserofed) (ta) (todhsals)> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:14PM (#7774431)
    I worked at the General Atomic D3D facility in San Diego, the 1980s. The biggest limitation on the rate at which they could explore the experimental parameter space was the number of neutrons that the machine would create. The ultimate end of all modern tokamaks is to be turned into low-level radioactive waste when the machine itself becomes activated by the free neutrons liberated by the fusion process.

    The more conventional gamma rays, alpha radiation (helium nucleii), and beta rays (fast moving electrons) are dangerous enough but at least they aren't infectious: you can irradiate food with gamma rays and it doesn't turn radioactive. Neutrons get absorbed by nearby nuclei, which then themselves become unstable and radioactive. Ick.

    That's not to say we shouldn't explore nuclear fusion as a power source -- just that it is not the perfectly clean energy source that it is often made out to be.
  • Re:Childish behavior (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tealover ( 187148 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:16PM (#7774439)
    Is it childish behaviour on the part of the Canadians and Russians and Chinese to punish France for opposing the Iraq war?

    Wait a minuite...

    The Canadians and Russians and Chinese were on France's side of that conflict !!

    So why are they not supporting France now ?

    Could it be that they honestly believe that Japan is a better site because

    a) the site would be 3 miles from the sea where deuterium is plentiful
    b) Japan is a model nation that would benefit form this technology (Japan lacks natural energy resources)

    Or could it be that they are under the thumb of the US, as they showed during the UN debates ?

    You decide.
  • by photonic ( 584757 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:18PM (#7774459)
    From the article:
    The Japanese site of Rokkasho-mura has the advantages of proximity to a port, a ground of solid bedrock and a nearby US military base.

    Why is that relevant? What are they going to do, recharge their battery powered Humvees?

  • Earthquakes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psifishdot ( 699920 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:21PM (#7774478) Homepage
    I had thought that the international community was hesitant to build ITER in Japan because of earthquakes. But, I found this article [] that seems to say that earquakes will not be a problem for this cite, for anyone who is interested.
  • by stevesliva ( 648202 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:22PM (#7774493) Journal
    The site selection has nothing to do with anyone's position on Iraq or else France would have the support of the other countries as well. As it stands, they only have the support of the EU for typical reasons.
    The Spanish opposition disagrees-- they say that the EU selected the French site because of politics. The NY Times mentions here [] that the Spanish political losers think Spain's support of the war in Iraq killed the chances of the reactor being built there.
  • How it works? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MaXintosh ( 159753 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:27PM (#7774535)
    Somthing I've always wondered is, how does this work?

    I understand the most of it: B-feild presses the Hydergen together, pressure mounts, then they fuse, releasing heat, right? Well, in and among those big, superconductive wires, how do you get the heat from the reactor out to a boiler? Or do they intend to line the thing with lots of little thermapiles, like an RTG or the like? It seems to me that it would be hard to get all that energy released into a useful form...
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:37PM (#7774598) Homepage Journal
    The French just need to start building a reactor on coastline. If it explodes during testing or operation, it'll be England, not France, that gets smothered in radioactive debris.

    The English will have no choice but to either fund the French effort or invade. As the rest of the EU would frown on invading, that just leaves making sure the French reactor worked perfectly.

    In turn, with two fairly substantial doners then backing a French effort, other countries would see no point in funding another, so would join in.

    Once America is the lone holdout, the US taxpayer must either pay 100% of the costs of a fusion reactor (which would cost congressmen a lot of votes) or the US Government would have to give in.

    Y'see, the important thing in politics is not who is right, or even who is richest, but rather who is the better gambler.

  • by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @04:38PM (#7774609) Homepage Journal
    It's certainly worth exploring - perhaps in the not-too-distant future we'll be able to mine 3He from the moon (3He fusion doesn't produce neutrons), it'd be nice to have a ready-made fusion program to use the fuel with when it comes. I guess it works the other way round too, so maybe the combined goal of a fusion reactor burning lunar 3He will be enough to inspire research in fusion and spaceflight.
  • by mirio ( 225059 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @05:05PM (#7774785)
    but apparantly, the U.S. is opposing a french site because France opposed the war in Iraq

    Could it possibly be because France tends to sell [] all of their nuclear capability to the highest bidder (i.e. Iraq!). Who do you think provided Iraq with the reactor that the Israelis bombed? [] Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know...the US sold Iraq weapons too. How about a graph [] to show you the truth. The US sold Iraq 1% of its weapons and France sold them 13% of all of their weapons. Oh course, Russia was Iraq's #1 supplier. No wonder Russia and France were so adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq (I'm not saying the war was a Good Thing, BTW). Russia and France wanted to get paid by Iraq and they were afraid a war an ensuing chaos would cause them to have to forgive Iraq's debt. The war wasn't a good thing -- I hate it. However, we must realize that France's and Russia's opposition to it was not an act of kindness, either -- it was about money. The only possible good guy in all of this was Germany, although Iraq also owes German firms a LOT of money for work done there (mostly civil engineering, public works, etc).
  • Re:good point...but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @05:18PM (#7774878)
    Yes, the "fusion power will be workable in N years" mantra that's been heard from many sources for the past 40 years is frustrating, and considering that here it is 2003 and we still havent even reached ignition [] in any laboratory reactor is dissapointing to say the least. However, it is important to note that during this time fusion research hase come a VERY long way []. I don't see how this progress can continue forever with no results.
  • Re:That's it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by goon america ( 536413 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @05:54PM (#7775091) Homepage Journal
    They will not avoid politics entirely (to do that would be foolish) but they will analyzed in scientific ways and conclusions drawn about what would be best in a theoretical framework

    I think you're sort of missing the point. The question is, why do some people find bad arguments so persuasive? And, there is plenty of existing literature on the subject, in linguistics, psychology, behavioral economics -- Daniel Kahneman one a Nobel prize last year for basically addressing that question.

  • by xcomm ( 638448 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @05:54PM (#7775095)
    For God sake - I hope the Fusion reactor will not come to Europe at all for security reasons!

    For the politicial assault in the teaser of the articte against France - here we go:

    Great history at a glance in your posting fastidious edward! There is nothing more I could say a young German (but probably you should not miss the part of soviet russia in the fight).

    There is also not much difference between 'Old Europe' and the US till the end 199x. And for am I was born in Eastern Germany behind the wall there were a lot of reason to thank the US for standing and thus save whole Europe (otherwise there had been no hold for the russion divisions at all).

    But since the neoconservative Bush junta has taken over the power in the US all our picture of you has changed as dramatically as it could. Maybe we are driven apart before, but maybe all Europeans loved Clinton too much to see it. As where we stand now for me I can say: I see really two USA and they are as different as they could be. It's like you are a other land after the change from Clinton to Bush.

    As where we now stand I would suggest you in the US to read 'After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order' by Emmanuel Todd - despite it will hurt you should get a lot of truth from it.
    One of the main conclusions in this book is the change of the habbit of the US empire after the beginning of the 1990's from a good saving empire to a aggressive imperalistic empire.

    Here are some main differences between the US and Old Europe as good as I get it together. Hopefully we do not see here a other clash of civilisation Huntington may have left in his book.

    We do not believe that your President has been legitimated in a fair democratic election at all.
    (In no land in Europe this whould be able to happen - to have diffences in voting machines between 2-10% - and not count all votes via hand or arrange a new ellection.)

    Dead Penalty is not human and is showing a low state of civilisation.

    The agenda of Kyoto has to be ratified by the US as the biggest destroyer of our enviroment.

    The international curt in the Haag is the only authority for war crimes. Nobody here is seeing where you will have the right to think you would be out of this!

    You have no right to begin assault wars without legitimation of the UN security counsal - there will be no world order without the rule of law.

    There is also a big thinking of standing out of the law as empire. You have no right to deal like you do in Guantanamo! This is the tradition of Stalin and Hitler.

    So we see a fall of democracity in the US swapped against nationalism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @05:58PM (#7775117)
    I mean sure, Nazi Germany probably would have won if the US hadn't gotten involved,

    The key turning point of the second world war in Europe was the battle of Stalingrad, which Americans had nothing to do with. After that, the result was not in doubt. The Russians did not need US military help to beat Nazi Germany.

    (I don't mean to suggest that the US military contribution didn't help Europe, on the contrary. Without US military involvement, the Russians would certainly have taken over the whole of Germany, maybe Italy, and possibly some other European countries.)
  • International? Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by manticor24 ( 643590 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @06:32PM (#7775295)
    Why doesn't the US just build one for itself?

    If they build an international fusion reactor, there will be endless squabbling about every little detail.

    The US should just build one for itself, and leave the others to their own ideas. Why should our scientists, resources, and military, and production benefit other countries? It's a bad deal for us because we never seem to charge for our services.

    What's the point of being a sovereign nation these days...
  • Re:That's it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SurgeonGeneral ( 212572 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @06:38PM (#7775335) Journal
    Let me tell you a short story about a man named John Stuart Mill. His father was a Benthamite, and raised John according to Benthamite principles. He was to be the "perfect Benthamite". This ideal of child rearing is very close to the one you just mentioned. No philosophy, no literature, no poetry or creative writing. From the age of 3 he began a home-school regimen of logic, mathematics, history, geography, engineering and subjects like that.

    At the age of 20, unable to handle such an emotionless and empty existence without any symbolic meaning or structure John Stuart Mill had a severe nervous breakdown. Fortunately before the depression and anxiety led to his much contemplated suicide, he happened upon the Romantic poets and their praise of life and its beauty. He credits them with having allowed him to face life and give it meaning. You will note that many religions have done the same thing for people.

    People have had your wish in the past, and it has turned out to be false. Creativity, emotion and spirituality, though not rational, are important components of human existence. You may think you can live without them, but its been proven time and time again that the vast majority of people, even the most brilliant, simply cannot. You may not understand why, but your education has incorporated these things into your life and buttressed your existence.

    Irrationality and chaos are fundamental aspects of life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @07:41PM (#7775751)
    The story is repeated in every country that "supported" the US: in Turkey the pulic opposition was near universal (98% opposition in one poll).

    And the nice terrorists in Al Queida thanked them by targeting Turkish Muslim citizens. Of course, the war in Iraq had nothing to do with Al Queida or terrorism, right? So it must be a coincidence.

    It seems to me that all this "opposition" to the Iraq war was less about pacifist principles than about protecting national economies and preferring that the US remain the principle target for Al Queida. Once President Bush showed that the US wasn't going to roll over and play dead after 9/11, Al Queida decided to turn their vitriolic anger toward the "US Allies", Turkey and SA, ironically, the 2 countries that turned away from the US over the Iraq war. Nice way to reward "good" behavior, huh.

    Clearly, Sadaam killed more Muslims than the entire coalition armed forces in both Gulf wars combined, yet some Muslims are sad to see him go. That speaks volumes about the real motives of those people. I think the only solution is to "clean them out" of the middle east like a farmer clean out rats from his barn. And that, is what the war In Iraq is all about.

    It's also curious that just days after Sadamm is captured (in a very publicly humiliating way), Libya decides they don't want to go nuclear any more. I bet Al Queida gets a cold shoulder from them also. There's a country that seems to be getting a clue!

  • by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @07:50PM (#7775807) Homepage Journal

    I love the smell of krispy karma in the morning.

    People can believe what they like but I don't want it forced on me.

    Soooo... you believe that it's wrong to passively "force" religious beliefs on someone, but it's acceptable to agressively enforce secularism?

    I hate to tell you "babe", but seeing a head scarf, cross, etc. doesn't force you to believe anything. If you're mind is so pathetically weak that you can be "forcibly" converted to a religion simply by viewing it's symbolic imagery, chances are pretty good that you're so fucked up right now by everday advertising that it's not really going to matter anyway.

    There's a difference between not letting the school engage in or push any particular religious viewpoint on the class as a whole. It's a wholly different story when individual students decide that they wish to make their religious beliefs known or wish to engage in a religious activity at school. Barring disruptive behavior that interferes with other students, the school/government has no business telling individuals what they can and can't do regarding the subject.

    There is no difference between a government that forces a religious belief on its people and one that forces it's people not to have a religion. I will actively fight any government official that would suggest EITHER or those paths was a good one.

  • by baz00f ( 520771 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @08:01PM (#7775883)
    I vividly recall a physics professor of mine, about 25 years ago, who worked on fusion, saying: "It will be almost impossible. The neutron flux for efficient, continous power generation is so intense that no known materials could sustain the exposure". He talked about materials getting brittle- the materials in closest contact with the fusion core would fail (in weeks, months) and there was no cost effective way to deal with that for long term, stable, low-cost power generation.

    Well, if you look at the topics of a conference (11th International Conference on Fusion Reactor Materials) [] in Japan just a few weeks ago, that problem has not gone away yet.
  • Re:That's it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION ( 553878 ) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @08:30PM (#7776042)
    Is it possible that the sphere of science and technology has expanded so much since the Benthamites that one actually could enjoy a healthy and creative life, full of symbolic meaning and structure, in pure science and technology? Music and literature are awesome, I wouldn't want to live on Super Technocrat Island of Technofun as proposed here, but given that humanity survived for millions of pre-historic years without music, literature, or science, it seems probable that one could survive with one of the three.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 20, 2003 @10:09PM (#7776539)
    I clearly remember the pools 2 months before the war (December / January). They where almost the same in the US and France (give or take 5%):
    30% for the war right now.
    35% for the war, after more inspection, if possible with UN backed coalition.
    25% against a war now or later.

    The US president said: "65% for the war, we are going to war."
    The French president said: "60% against the war now, let's project a July war after a last attempt at a peace process thru the UN."

    Yep, France was actually FOR a move toward the war (but 6 months later), unlike Germany, Rusia, China, and many many more.

    When the US insulted France (and Germany) for their more peaceful and waiting stance, I guess to push/bully them to change their position, they replied with a hardened position. This was the worst international relation coup since Japan's war declaration 12 hours too late IMHO.

    I have no real opinion on Bush, but this was very badly handled. I believe that the war would have happened anyway with a (very limited) UN coalition in late summer or end of 2003 at the latest. But then, if the war would have lasted longer than it did and with chemical warfare from the Iraqis (like everyone predicted) the re-election campaign could have been a disaster for Bush. Last March was really the latest possible moment from a political standpoint.
  • Umm, why france? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) <clipper377@ g m> on Saturday December 20, 2003 @11:53PM (#7776935) Homepage
    The French have a reputation of being as petty, pissy and obnoixious as the U.S. That's probably part of the source of the animosity between the two cultures. We're too much alike and won't admit it.

    As an American, I'd rather see the reactor built in Japan. There's a laundry list of reasons (the French seem to handle internation opinion & criticism about as well as we do), but if it makes you Euro's feel warm, fuzzy, and supieror, then fine;

    "I don't want them thar frechies building nuthin' cause they didn't support the war. Damn Frogs. God Bless America! Power of Pride! Never Forget!"

    Have I reinforced the stereotypes enough? Or should I post a link to pictures of my pickup truck?

    The U.S. could get the whole planet laid, and they'd still complain. If we supported the French Project we'd be unjustly shutting out Japan of an economic opportunity.
  • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @12:02AM (#7776970)
    FUD! Lets get some numbers down. According to SIPRI USSR, France, China, and Czechoslovakia were the largest traders of conventional arms during the period you describe. In fact a nice table summarizes this and shows that the US contributed to about 1% of the arms trade to Iraq from 1973-1990. Looks like the certainly, far and away, worst offender is the USSR.

    I have seen that 1% stat before, and I don't believe it tells the whole story. The US has had a longtime policy of not selling any military equipment to Iraq; however this was a very tongue-in-cheek policy as often things like the aforementioned helicopters would be sold, sans guns, which were readily available from the Russians or whatever. So Iraq got things like helicopter gunships that did not technically have the guns - but with the gun mounts left intact - from the US, and this did not count as a military sale.

    I'm sorry I don't have links with me right now so take this as you will. I readily admit that I can't prove it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2003 @12:02AM (#7776971)
    anti-Jew (for the damn few Jews left in France)

    Last I heard France was the European country with the largest Jewish population.
    Moreover this "cultural initiative" (banning 'ostentive' religious signs from public schools) cannot be understood from the US. France doesn't follow the anglo-saxon model of integration where it is normal for immigrants to keep their customs. They expect immigrants to adopt local customs in order to from one unified society (vs. the ghettos (poor or rich) typically found in US and GB cities). This model is threatened by the integrist part of the muslim community.

    As far as anti-semitism, most of it comes from the muslim community (plus the extreme right of course, they never stopped hating jews). You won't find much anti-semitism from other French, although you may see a good deal of anti-sionism. Anti-semitism and anti-sionism are not synonyms, despite what some elements of the jewish community would like everyone to believe.

    Sec of State Powell was given assurances by French diplomats that UNRes1441 would have some teeth to it and that the French would allow the US to enforce it without much problem. Lies.

    And the US embassador to the UN gave assurance that the US would never try to use UNRes1441 to justify a military intervention.

    Lie ?
  • by e_pluribus_funk ( 648835 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @02:04AM (#7777456)
    The sum total of US military sales to Iraq over the last 30 years was $150,000. That's one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. China, Russia, France, and South Africa far surpassed the US in military sales to Iraq.

    Germany and France were the primary suppliers of Iraq's WMD program, not the United States.

    The only country to have used helicopters to spray chemical weapons so far has been Iraq. The helicopters in question that Bell sold to Iraq were civilian model helicopters. While they could easily be outfitted with weapons, there were far more effective gunship platforms available (ie, Russian ones) for a cheaper price. And Iraq fitting them with chemical weapons was probably not an anticipated result.
    People who get pissed over that might as well get pissed at Toyota for selling their trucks to the Taliban.

    Compare that with German assistance in pointing out how a pesticide factory could be switched over to chemical weapons relatively easy.
  • by e_pluribus_funk ( 648835 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @02:06AM (#7777466)
    50 Bell Ranger helicopters were sold to Iraq. These are not and never have been gunship class helicopters. They are light utility helicopters, typically used in the US for radio traffic watch.
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @02:50AM (#7777614) Homepage Journal
    ... build the fusion reactor in Iraq.

    That way everyone will have an interest in seeing Iraq rebuilt and made safe and Iraq will also be able to better repay its debts...As apparently its oil is not enough.....
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @05:56AM (#7778140)
    "Germany and France were the primary suppliers of Iraq's WMD program, not the United States." Yeah , Right.

    One can argue that the US did put Saddam Hussein in place anyway, so let us only see at the source of all our problem and who put dictator in place in the last 20 years in soith america, Africa and east. Frankly I do not think you wouldlike the blame game that much.The reason is simple the US as having more power militaristcaly simply had its hands in more dirty things. It is simply a Question of financial. I do not think the other country are more innocent and they would probably have done the same with the same money at disposition. Just do not start the blame game now because you aren't in position for that.
  • by e_pluribus_funk ( 648835 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @02:02PM (#7780030)
    One can argue many things, and might even be correct, but the argument that the US "armed Saddam Hussein" is demonstrably false, has been demonstrated to be false over over, yet the syncophants on the anti-American left like to repeat it over and over. Shades of Orwell and Goebbels (a lie repeated enough times eventually becomes to believed as if it were the truth).

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.