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A Conspiracy of Misleading Information About Fusion Power? (Yes)

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posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 10:58 AM
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Conspiracy theories are sometimes false, others are occasionally true, and it can take some digging or research, and critical thinking skills to figure out which is which.

I chose the words "misleading information" in the title carefully, which are well supported by evidence. The article by "New Energy Times" gets most of the facts right but they also refer to "lies" in addition to "misleading", and I'm not willing to call them "lies" at this point, but "misleading" definitely fits. Let's look at the New Energy Times article about the problem:

Evidence of the ITER Power Deception

This report summarizes the way that some ITER proponents have misled non-experts about the potential power output of the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor, once it becomes operational. The misrepresentation is not exclusive to ITER; it has been a systemic problem in the fusion community for decades. ITER is simply the largest and most recent fusion project.

Specifically, the proponents conflated the power gain ratio of the plasma (technically known as the fusion Q) with the power gain ratio of the device (technically known as the engineering Q). They took the value for Q-fusion and convinced non-experts that it was the value for Q-engineering. They did this not only by switching the Q-values but also by hiding the actual input power required for the reactor. This report also identifies people and organizations who have published false statements about the ITER design and function based on the information they were given by the ITER organization.

A decade ago, Neil Calder, a former ITER spokesman, taught attendees at his international communicators’ workshop how to promote ITER to the world:

False and misleading 2008 statement by Neil Calder, former head of ITER public communications (source)



So perhaps around 2025, we are told that ITER will get 500 MW out from 50MW in. Is this a lie? I wouldn't call it that, but it is misleading, because it's not clear which Q they are talking about. The scientists who work on the project know very well it refers to fusion Q which is, how much heat do you get out of the plasma, compared to how much heat you put into the plasma. But some articles don't explain that very well, and even if they try, they still don't give the "total" Q of the total energy out compared to the total energy in, in fact most of the articles I've read don't even give figures for the total energy in, you have to dig for that.

So what is the total Q? According to Sabine Hossenfelder, a respected scientist, one figure for the total energy in was cited as 400 MW. And she also points out that the 500 MW of heat is not the kind of usable electrical power we need, and it would be very optimistic to think we could get only 50% losses when we convert the 500MW out into electricity, so let's say the output will probably be less than 250 MW.

So according to Dr. Hossenfelder's figures, the reality is more like 400 MW total power in and less than 250 MW of usable electrical power out, so rough ballpark educated estimate is we would be lucky to get half the usable power out:

In Nuclear power plants for example, 500 MW of heat energy would typically result in only a third of that energy in electrical power, the other 2/3 being losses, so a more realistic estimate than Dr. Hossenfelder's is 1/3 of 500MW or 167 MW, considerably less than her 250 MW estimate.

Thermal Efficiency of Nuclear Power Plants

nuclear power plants usually have efficiency about 33%. In modern nuclear power plants the overall thermodynamic efficiency is about one-third (33%), so 3000 MWth of thermal power from the fission reaction is needed to generate 1000 MWe of electrical power.


So that's why claiming the output is 10 times greater than the input is so misleading, when the reality is that the usable electricity will likely be less than half of the total power in.

And she says this is not just true of ITER which uses magnetic confinement of the plasma to create fusion, but misleading information is also true of the other major fusion power technology which fires lasers at pellets, instead of using magnetic confinement. The "heat in" power to heat the pellets is based on laser output, but she says the lasers probably have an efficiency from 1% to 10% so the actual input is from 10 times to 100 times greater than the commonly cited figure used for Q (fusion). This is Hossenfelder's explanation:

How close is nuclear fusion power?


How close is nuclear fusion to break-even? If you trust the headlines we're getting close and the international project ITER is going to be the first to produce energy from fusion power. But not so fast. Scientists have, accidentally or deliberately, come to use a very misleading quantity to measure their progress. Unfortunately we're much farther away from generating fusion power than the headlines suggest.

Phillip Ball's article in the Guardian is here:

A lightbulb moment for nuclear fusion?

The one in Science Magazine is here:

More delays for ITER fusion project

The document from the European Parliament Assessment is here:

www.core.ac.uk...

Dr. Hossenfelder points out this problem goes back decades, when at time index 6:34 she shows this 1988 breakeven terminology use recommended by european parliment committee for scientific and technological options assessment:

By the way, Hossenfelder is not against fusion power, she's for it. She just wants the fusion people to stop misleading the public so we don't get the wrong idea about how close it is.

So do you feel like you've been misled? Did you believe the claims about getting 10 times more power out than in, and think we were getting close to commercial fusion power? Or did you realize how misleading that figure was?

In the proposed 2025 ITER experiment claiming Q=10, do you agree with Dr. Hossenfelder's estimate that the total electrical power out may only be about half the power in (Q-total of about 0.57)? I come up with 167 MW electrical power out, divided by 300-400 MW power in which is a Q-total range from 0.42 to 0.56, but Hossenfelder does say her 0.57 estimate is calculated using optimistic assumptions. Either way, those are far from the Q=10 we hear from the media!

edit on 2021108 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 11:19 AM
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Well. I'm no egg head but if the usual out put of nuclear power plant now is 33% and ITER output is 50% is this not better. If it's true.



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 11:46 AM
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That’s the whole point of all that , it isn’t true.
a reply to: crayzeed



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 11:48 AM
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Very cool and interesting analysis.
The typical power generating efficiencies of various technologies are:
Between 32% and 42% for coal fired
32% to 38% for natural gas (including LNG)
Hydro about 80% but varies greatly depending on a host of factors
Wind in the ballpark of 32% with solar bringing up the rear somewhere near 22%
But the bottom line is the cost of MWh generated in relation to the return from the consumer.
Also if we are truly good stewards of our industry then we must figure in cost to build, cost to operate (which will include fueling if applicable, maintenance and rebuild,) and eventual decommissioning as well as any regulatory costs.
Basically ROI over simplified



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 11:56 AM
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originally posted by: crayzeed
Well. I'm no egg head but if the usual out put of nuclear power plant now is 33% and ITER output is 50% is this not better. If it's true.
33% cited in the OP is electrical output as a percentage of thermal output, which is probably a ballpark figure for any power plant that generates heat and converts it to electricity, such as nuclear fusion. I don't see why the figure would be drastically different for other sources of heat, such as fusion. That I don't expect to be significally different with fusion, though it is possible to improve on the 33%, but as Hossenfelder says 50% would be very optimistic and I think is probably not achievable in a rel power plant.

Nuclear fission power plants definitely generate more electricity than the total amount of power required to operate them.

It's not clear that we are anywhere near being able to do that with nuclear fusion, despite the misleading claims of output 10 times greater than input; that's not the total picture, only a small piece of it.



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 12:05 PM
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originally posted by: amicusbrief
Very cool and interesting analysis.
The typical power generating efficiencies of various technologies are:
Between 32% and 42% for coal fired
32% to 38% for natural gas (including LNG)
Hydro about 80% but varies greatly depending on a host of factors
Wind in the ballpark of 32% with solar bringing up the rear somewhere near 22%
But the bottom line is the cost of MWh generated in relation to the return from the consumer.
Also if we are truly good stewards of our industry then we must figure in cost to build, cost to operate (which will include fueling if applicable, maintenance and rebuild,) and eventual decommissioning as well as any regulatory costs.
Basically ROI over simplified
Your figures sound about right but it may require more digging to learn exactly what's included in those figures.

The more important point as you suggest is the total economics, which is what should really drive the feasibility of the technology. Nuclear fission has some problems in that area with costs that aren't properly accounted for, like the cost of disposing of the waste in the US since no permanent disposal method has yet been established, so we still don't really know the overall cost. Another cost is the nuclear fission power inductry relies on governments to cover the cost of disasters like Fukushima because as we saw happen in Japan, such disasters will bankrupt the power company running the power plant and have large externalities such as loss of land use around the disaster, for centuries.

I was trying to focus on the misleading power claims in the OP, but what's not so widely advertised is that nuclear fusion will also produce nuclear waste. In the "near term" for let's say 100 years, the nuclear waste from fusion may actually be more hazardous than the nuclear waste from fission, but due to shorter half-lives, after maybe 100 years the fusion waste is less of a long-term threat than the waste from fission. These waste costs have not been handled well in the fission industry, so it is something to be concerned about when discussing fusion waste also.

edit on 2021108 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 03:37 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

So, what you're saying is this is lust a LARP to distract us from going all in on LFTR tech, that is here now (or could be with a little help from deep government pockets to flesh out any minor details still needing attention).



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 06:17 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

Saw that video by Sabine a few days ago and gave it an instant like. I've always liked her no-nonsense approach. I still stand by the prediction I've said for years, which is we will never get more energy out than we put in from fusion. Obviously it's possible in a star due to the immense gravity causing a fusion reaction, but fusion reactors have to recreate those immense pressures by consuming energy, and I'm very far from convinced that process will result in a total power gain.
edit on 8/10/2021 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 8 2021 @ 06:22 PM
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a reply to: amicusbrief


Also if we are truly good stewards of our industry then we must figure in cost to build, cost to operate (which will include fueling if applicable, maintenance and rebuild,) and eventual decommissioning as well as any regulatory costs.
Basically ROI over simplified

If they ever do manage to make fusion viable, I highly doubt it's going to be the cheap and abundant energy we've been promised, not after the countless billions of dollars which have been dumped into over decades, and for the foreseeable future. If we had of instead spent that money on increasing the safety and effectiveness of proven fission technology the world would have essentially no energy problems right now.



posted on Oct, 11 2021 @ 08:00 AM
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originally posted by: crayzeed
Well. I'm no egg head but if the usual out put of nuclear power plant now is 33% and ITER output is 50% is this not better. If it's true.


Apples and oranges. The thermodynamic efficiency of 33% and 50% is telling us the percentage of secondary energy/output energy that is created from the primary heat source. That is (in a nutshell) how much electricity will I get if I heat up water to X degrees to run a turbine.

This is not the same as saying how much energy I get out if it compared to the energy I needed to use to run it. Nuclear fission (not fusion) power plants output more energy than it takes to run them, because the energy stored in the uranium,, plutonium, or thorium can be extracted efficiently. The energy created by using the fission (splitting) of atoms is less than the amount of energy needed to sustain that fission as a usable energy source.

However, Fusion power (the harnessing of the energy created by fusing atoms together) currently requires more energy put into the system than they get out of the system. The energy created by the the fusion of atoms (say hydrogen) using our current technology is less than the amount of energy needed to make that fusion happen and be sustained.


tl;dr version:
It tales less power to run a traditional nuclear power plant than the plant produces. But it currently takes more power to run a fusion reactor than the fusion reactor produces.


edit on 2021/10/11 by Box of Rain because: (no reason given)




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