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 Post subject: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 08, 2014 8:47 am 
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The biggest and most funded fusion project right now is ITER fusion. It is planned to use deuterium-tritium fusion, the easiest form of fusion. And using the most technically advanced design available, a toroid magnetically confined fusion system.

It's sobering to calculate the cost of this project.

http://fire.pppl.gov/USITER_Costs_Scien ... 041014.pdf

$ 21 billion for 500 MW. It can only generate power for 10 minutes, but let's say it didn't. Let's say it could generate power reliably for days without further cost increases. Pretty optimistic assumption, but ok.

There is no steam turbine or any sort of generator attached. Attaching this would generate about 225 MWe with at most a 45% efficient modern steam turbine.

Now the ITER project is expected to generate about 10x the energy out peak, but actually around 5x more on average.

So they need about 100 MWe of that 225 MWe output to feed back to the plant. If we assume an 80% delivery efficiency (microwave heating and such devices) then that's sucking 125 MWe out of the 225 MWe generator. Leaving a net plant output of 100 MWe.

This is rather shocking. 21 billion for a 0.1 GWe reactor this is $210/Watt. About 50 to 100 times more expensive than a coal plant. About 30x more costly than the most expensive nuclear fission plant being built today (Olkiluoto EPR).


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 08, 2014 2:35 pm 
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If ITER produced 500MW of thermal power through the steady combustion of $20 bills, would it cost more or less money to operate?


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 08, 2014 3:04 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
If ITER produced 500MW of thermal power through the steady combustion of $20 bills, would it cost more or less money to operate?


Its kind of silly, but you can easily calculate that at least roughly.

$20 bill weighs about 1 gram, if we assume as a rough proxy, a heat of combustion equivalent to lignin, 25 kJ/gram, then you must burn 20 thousand of those bills per second. That's $0.4 million/second.

At that rate, you'll burn through the $21 billion in under 15 hours.

That's not really surprising. Its one of the main advantages of paper money. As opposed to say, a gold coin.

Still, it is very unlikely that ITER will run for anywhere near 15 fullpower-hours, so yes it'd still likely be cheaper to burn an oven on $20 bills than to run the ITER project at the same heat load.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 08, 2014 8:24 pm 
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Cyril R wrote:
That's $0.4 million/second. At that rate, you'll burn through the $21 billion in under 15 hours.


Only the US government can burn money that fast.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 09, 2014 5:22 am 
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Why don't the US just burn used LWR fuel in a fast MSR?
If nothing else, they will halt addition to waste in store and resume collecting the fees from utilities!


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 09, 2014 6:36 am 
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Because the president is trying to kill nuclear power. By his actions I must assume he does not care if the fees begin or not. I must also assume without his leadership no one in congress can step up to the plate and take his place.

So if you can get a project which he perceives will be bad for nuclear he may support it.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 09, 2014 7:46 am 
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I reckon that you could develop and build a full-blown FOAK 500MW (D)MSR for at most a third of the $21 bn. that ITER is going to cost. Getting the heat from the tokamak to a turbine appears not to be trivial in a fusion power plant.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 09, 2014 8:34 am 
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The PR on fusion has always been successful and apparently always will be. The tagline is basically ... 'Unlimited energy from water'.

I remember reading an article in the 'World Book Science Year', when I was a kid that fusion was around the corner ... that was in 1968. More recently (20 years ago), read a fairly detailed engineering analysis that showed it was pointless in relation to fission reactors, even if it could be made to work ... but here we are.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 09, 2014 10:09 am 
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Much like solar and wind power, tokamak fusion is a big obvious way to make the public think that the government is doing something about future energy needs without actually doing anything.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 10, 2014 7:34 am 
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Someone I know who did his PhD in Plasma Physics in a Tokamak (not because he believes fusion power is very practical any time soon but because he was interested in it) went to a seminar where they talked about the neutron flux killing superconducting magnets.

The conclusion was: "We have no idea how to stop the magnets being wrecked and no idea how to start looking for a way to stop the magnets being wrecked".

D-T fusion is not going to go anyhwere.
There is however a Moore's Law type effect with the containment of fusors which means once D-T fusion finally works about ten years after that D-D fusion becoems practical.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 10, 2014 2:35 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
Someone I know who did his PhD in Plasma Physics in a Tokamak (not because he believes fusion power is very practical any time soon but because he was interested in it) went to a seminar where they talked about the neutron flux killing superconducting magnets.

The conclusion was: "We have no idea how to stop the magnets being wrecked and no idea how to start looking for a way to stop the magnets being wrecked".

D-T fusion is not going to go anyhwere.
There is however a Moore's Law type effect with the containment of fusors which means once D-T fusion finally works about ten years after that D-D fusion becoems practical.


Yes, another underestimated issue is high neutron energy destroying everything. Not just the magnets, even the carbon composite helium exhaust design, initially thought to last years, will only last hours at most.

About 80% of the energy in D-T fusion is in the form of fast neutrons at 14 MeV.

In fission, only 2.5% is fast neutron, and the average energy is only 2-3 MeV.

So between higher energy and higher proportional energy, the neutron damage issue is probably on the order of 100 to 1000 times worse than a fission reactor. In a fission reactor the problem of neutron damage is non-trivial, despite the fact that a nuclear fission reactor core is much simpler and more robust than a fusion core.

But what really puts me down is that even if all the technical problems are solved (at no extra cost) and a power generator can be reliably integrated (at no extra cost), the cost is still on a different planet. It's simply too expensive to matter, even if it works, which is very unlikely between neutron problems, thermal problems etc.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 10, 2014 3:37 pm 
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It's almost as if the only practical way to make long-lasting fusion energy, outside of a star, is with a PACER-type device.

Unless you can get refined enough for aneutronic fusion with He3+ or p-B11


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 10, 2014 4:20 pm 
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D-D is less insane with regards to neutron energy, in that the challenge might actually be soluble.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 11, 2014 1:40 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
D-D is less insane with regards to neutron energy, in that the challenge might actually be soluble.


But that reaction is much less likely, needing much higher plasma temperatures to achieve the same (still lousy) power density as ITER on D-T.

You're just trading one crazy likely unsolvable problem (neutron damage) with another (plasma temperature).

D-He3 would be more interesting than D-D.

But all of this misses the point, since all of the alternatives are more expensive on account of more crazy plasma temperatures.


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 Post subject: Re: ITER costs
PostPosted: Jul 11, 2014 3:19 pm 
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Location: Vitoria-ES-Brazil
On one side ITER is a research reactor.
On the other side, everything so far about fusion suggests many huge breakthroughs are needed before it has a chance of being economical. Even solar+battery storage looks like a cakewalk compared to fusion.

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