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[cdn-nucl-l] Re: [MbrExchange] NYT: New Fusion Method Offers Hope of New Energy Source
I know it is against scientific ethics to criticize research that is outside of one's chosen field. However, since I am not a scientist and I do not have a chosen field, I cannot violate that ethical constraint.
Here are some numbers to think about before getting excited by the announced fusion breakthrough.
I will acknowledge that I am using numbers from a news article which may or may not be accurate. Silly little things like powers of ten do not seem to matter much to journalists. I actually hope that some of the numbers below are wrong since they apparently are going to be used to justify expenditures of my tax dollars.
The Z machine is said to store "enough electricity to power 100 houses for 2 minutes." Though there is no table that includes such units of measure, the most frequent journalistic assumption is that a house needs and average of between 1,000 and 2,000 watts. I will take the lesser value and thus calculate that the Z machine stores about
100,000 watts x 2 minutes x 1 hour/60 minutes = 3,300.3 watt-hours
It then releases its energy and produces enough power to "light a 40 watt light bulb for a mere one-ten thousandth of a second." That means that the energy released is
40 watts x .0001 second x 1 hour/3600 seconds = 1.11 e - 6 watt-hours
The efficiency of such an apparatus is arguably pretty darn low. (3.6 e - 10 or 3.6 e - 8 %)
I have no idea how much tungsten or deuterium (again, for you fusion advocates, please help to educate journalists about the fact that deuterium is not quite as common as hydrogen, since only 1 out of every 8000 hydrogen atoms has a neutron in its nucleus) this machine requires.
I shudder to think of the engineering difficulties represented by capturing the fusion energy by surrounding the reaction with a liquid that "heats up by absorbing the neutrons (at about 14 Mev) generated by the fusion reaction." I really wonder about the vision of scientists that can blithely talk about transferring the heat from this liquid to "boil water to turn a turbine" which implies the use of technology that has been around since 1884 (Charles Parsons) or possibly 130 AD (Hero of Alexandria).
"A good engineer is a lazy cheapskate"
IMHO fission is safe, easy and cheap. There are no difficulties left to overcome in order to ensure that fission leftovers are safely handled. Put the stuff in a container and hang a sign that says "Do not eat" and you are covered.
One more modest, and potentially controversial opinion -- the ladies that populate certain stretches of certain districts in most large cities are making a more honest living than many fusion researchers.