Nuclear Power

Do you support Nuclear energy?

  • Yes

    Votes: 38 80.9%
  • No

    Votes: 5 10.6%
  • Undecided

    Votes: 4 8.5%
  • Wantonly Uninterested

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    47
12,250
Australia
Adelaide
GTP_Imari
If they can fire a Tesla to Mars, surely they can do the same with nuclear waste and the Sun?

joke/notajoke

Think of the consequences of even a single failed launch with a nuclear waste payload. Worst nuclear disaster ever by a wide margin.

Launches to space are not anywhere near reliable enough to be packing the rocket with radioactive materials. That's just asking for trouble.
 

TheCracker

Nothing to see here...
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A lot of nuclear waste consists of vast pits filled with giant canisters of contaminated soils, such as found at Hanford. But even if nuclear waste only amounted to a few hundred pounds, it would be risky to launch fallible rockets over oceans and populated continents. Also, getting a rocket to the Sun is not particularly easy or cheap. Over the very long term, keeping nuclear wastes from getting into the ground water is a puzzling problem. The US Navy has patents on room temperature nuclear fusion reactors. If such technology can ever be made practical, then it may be preferable to bring the era of fission reactors to an end.

We, as a planet, produce 12,000 tonnes of the stuff every year (not to mention everything which is already buried). So it's way beyond a financially viable way of getting rid of the problem (hence the joke bit)

How about a hole to the Earth's core instead?
 

Dotini

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CR80_Shifty
How about a hole to the Earth's core instead?
Not a bad idea, I think. But I vaguely recall (Russian?) efforts to drill the world's deepest hole resulted in failure due to heat encountered before getting terribly far. Such boreholes would have to be stoutly lined due to failure resulting in ground water contamination.
 
3,062
Norway
Norway
If the alternative is hydrocarbon based power then yes, I support nuclear energy.
I do hope that the old fission reactors will be replaced by fusion reactors sooner rather than later though.
Excited to see what progress can be made when ITER is ready for operation.

Here's a good video about fusion reactors by Professor Ian Chapman:
 

Zona

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782
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Derbyshire
It's an interesting subject. I think if we could find a safer way to harness nuclear energy without the risk of the waste, we could be on to a winner.

A Thorium reactor would be quite cool to see in the future.
 
4,019
Latvia
Riga
Who would like to live next to a nuclear power plant? Would houses be cheaper or more expensive next to nuclear power plant?
 

Danoff

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Who would like to live next to a nuclear power plant? Would houses be cheaper or more expensive next to nuclear power plant?

What if instead of living next to a powerplant we did other things next to it. Like make a landfill for garbage.
 

Liquid

Fission Mailed
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How far away are we from fusion? For undecided folks like me, fusion seems to be a more acceptable solution than fission and with fewer risks.
 
22,409
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Here to Eternity
TexRex72
Negligible risk of catastrophic failure versus constant spewing of pollutants.
 

Danoff

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How far away are we from fusion? For undecided folks like me, fusion seems to be a more acceptable solution than fission and with fewer risks.

Fusion "seems more acceptable"? Fusion is the holy grail. Completely safe, stable free energy out of seawater with no pollution. It's "more acceptable" than anything humanity has ever had because it has no drawbacks (other than being difficult to do).
 

Liquid

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Fusion "seems more acceptable"? Fusion is the holy grail. Completely safe, stable free energy out of seawater with no pollution. It's "more acceptable" than anything humanity has ever had because it has no drawbacks (other than being difficult to do).

And how far away are we?
 
8,910
United States
Marin County
And how far away are we?

N+10 years.

I actually did live near* a nuclear power plant in Maine. It was eventually shut down for poor maintenance concerns, but it was all but invisible. If a nuclear power plant is in operating normally, they are quite low impact. To be honest I never even noticed it. I will also say that this 350' x 150' building (and associated distribution infrastructure) provided power to nearly the entire state of Maine when it was running at its peak.

*as close as 3900 ft, briefly, but my long term house was about 3 miles away

xmRl1G8.jpg
 
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Danoff

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And how far away are we?

Probably 30 years from commercial fusion powering homes. ITER is supposed to generate more power from a fusion reaction than it takes as input in about 5 years. The 5 years is not based on R&D, it's construction. So right now today someone has penned a design that they believe will generate net power from fusion.

Edit:

Ok so 5 years is the absolute soonest that could happen. Looks like 10 years is also in the window for when net power could be produced.

Edit 2:

I apparently said 2035 last time I looked this up. But I'm seeing articles saying 2030. ITER is operational in 2025 (according to schedule).
 
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BobK

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Massachusetts, USA
How far away are we from fusion? For undecided folks like me, fusion seems to be a more acceptable solution than fission and with fewer risks.

Practical fusion power is right around the corner.

Just like it's been since 1950 or so.
 

Danoff

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Just like it's been since 1950 or so.

No, not "just like". Currently a facility is being constructed that is supposed to be capable of net power output from a fusion reaction for the first time ever. How is that "just like" 1950?
 

BobK

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No, not "just like". Currently a facility is being constructed that is supposed to be capable of net power output from a fusion reaction for the first time ever. How is that "just like" 1950?

What I was referring to is that that's what I kept hearing in school, news occasionally, etc.

And we still don't have practical fusion power, let's revisit that when that facility is up and running.

Not being a naysayer here, just that it's "just around the corner" has been almost a refrain for decades.
 

Danoff

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What I was referring to is that that's what I kept hearing in school, news occasionally, etc.

And we still don't have practical fusion power, let's revisit that when that facility is up and running.

Not being a naysayer here, just that it's "just around the corner" has been almost a refrain for decades.

Yea, they were wrong back then. But they didn't have what we have now, which is a theoretical solution.

ITER is being constructed on the notion that this problem has been solved, and needs to be implemented to prove what we think we already know - how to generate net power from a fusion reaction. In some sense, if ITER comes online and produces net power according to schedule, it's because the eureka moment occurred quite some time ago.
 

UKMikey

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N+10 years.

I actually did live near* a nuclear power plant in Maine. It was eventually shut down for poor maintenance concerns, but it was all but invisible. If a nuclear power plant is in operating normally, they are quite low impact. To be honest I never even noticed it. I will also say that this 350' x 150' building (and associated distribution infrastructure) provided power to nearly the entire state of Maine when it was running at its peak.

*as close as 3900 ft, briefly, but my long term house was about 3 miles away

xmRl1G8.jpg
Don't know why but I was hearing the theme tune from The Simpsons running through my head while I was reading the posts leading up to yours.
 
9,401
Australia
Western Sydney
mustafur
Considering how much cheaper Renewables are becoming in the last few years and already proving to be cheaper then Nuclear and Coal in many countries what is the point?
 
938
Switzerland
Zürich
How far away are we from fusion? For undecided folks like me, fusion seems to be a more acceptable solution than fission and with fewer risks.

50 years,

And next year still 50 years.

And in a decade still 50 years.

And in 100 years still 50 years.

Fusion is difficult. It works on paper, but currently it requires more energy to initiate the reaction than we get out of it, and there are significant difficulties in maintaining that reaction - it's not self sustaining, at least not for more than a few seconds.

Actually the truth is that we do have one completely functional fusion reactor that is self sustaining and puts out more energy than we'll ever need, but capturing that energy is still a problem, and we didn't build it.
 
12,250
Australia
Adelaide
GTP_Imari
Yea, they were wrong back then. But they didn't have what we have now, which is a theoretical solution.

ITER is being constructed on the notion that this problem has been solved, and needs to be implemented to prove what we think we already know - how to generate net power from a fusion reaction. In some sense, if ITER comes online and produces net power according to schedule, it's because the eureka moment occurred quite some time ago.

But let's be honest, turning theoretical predictions into real world technology is almost always the hard bit. That's why we have experiments, in order to find out whether things actually work as expected. The problem with fusion is that it turns out you can't really start small and work your way up. You have to start with massive multi-million dollar projects and then scale up from there.

ITER may work, but I'll believe it when I see it. @BobK isn't far wrong when he says that people have been thinking that they've had it basically solved since the 50's, and it's just that they had to build their design and work the kinks out. There have been dozens of groups building fusion reactors with much the same optimism that there is around ITER. The kinks always turn out to be far more significant than expected, hence the running joke of "we've been 30 years away from fusion since the 50's".

No one's even really come particularly close to breaking even on energy yet, which seems like an issue. Even once you have a functional prototype that is energy positive, there are still going to be issues with commercialising it into something that is safe and reliable and profitable enough to be a viable civilian power source.

If you look at it on a scale like the NASA Technology Readiness Levels, then fusion is probably somewhere around a TRL4. Proof of concept works, seems technically feasible, still working on actually validating the tech in a benchtop scenario. Admittedly the benchtop in this case is very large and very expensive, but it still fits in as the stage of "demonstrate the technology working in an experimental environment". And it shows that even if ITER works exactly as expected, there's still a long road after that to a final robust product at TRL8-9.

Actually the truth is that we do have one completely functional fusion reactor that is self sustaining and puts out more energy than we'll ever need, but capturing that energy is still a problem, and we didn't build it.

The whole "requires 150 million kilometers of stand off distance" is a bit of a restriction on practical applications.
 

Danoff

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But let's be honest, turning theoretical predictions into real world technology is almost always the hard bit. That's why we have experiments, in order to find out whether things actually work as expected. The problem with fusion is that it turns out you can't really start small and work your way up. You have to start with massive multi-million dollar projects and then scale up from there.

ITER may work, but I'll believe it when I see it. @BobK isn't far wrong when he says that people have been thinking that they've had it basically solved since the 50's, and it's just that they had to build their design and work the kinks out. There have been dozens of groups building fusion reactors with much the same optimism that there is around ITER. The kinks always turn out to be far more significant than expected, hence the running joke of "we've been 30 years away from fusion since the 50's".

It's not the same situation today as it was then. We know a lot more about it now and have way more experience producing actual results now. I get that it's hard, but I don't think we're in an equivalent position.

Even once you have a functional prototype that is energy positive, there are still going to be issues with commercialising it into something that is safe and reliable and profitable enough to be a viable civilian power source.

For sure. There is much work to be done. The big development that is helping fusion along is AI, and AI is expanding its capabilities really quickly. It's possible (not guaranteed obviously) that timelines for commercialization will shrink rather than grow.


Considering how much cheaper Renewables are becoming in the last few years and already proving to be cheaper then Nuclear and Coal in many countries what is the point?

This may actually be a big problem for nuclear, which is that people think solar has it solved. Really solar is a great stepping stone, but it's not a long term solution the way fusion is.
 
12,250
Australia
Adelaide
GTP_Imari
It's not the same situation today as it was then. We know a lot more about it now and have way more experience producing actual results now. I get that it's hard, but I don't think we're in an equivalent position.

We know more, but we have no idea how close to the end we are. We knew more in the 60's than the 50's, but it didn't happen. Ditto 70's, 80's, 90's, etc. The argument that we know more now than we did so it'll work isn't logically sound.

When they have a prototype that's actually energy positive and the work to be done is refining that and turning it into a viable product, then I'll accept that we can put some reasonable timelines on when the project is expected to produce results visible to the consumer. Until then it's a guess, and it's a guess that's more based on optimism than any actual data as you can't make reasonable estimates about something that you know you don't know.

For sure. There is much work to be done. The big development that is helping fusion along is AI, and AI is expanding its capabilities really quickly. It's possible (not guaranteed obviously) that timelines for commercialization will shrink rather than grow.

Er, when you say AI, what do you mean for this specific application? Depending on what you mean I probably agree with you, but AI is such a loaded buzzword that can mean anything from Skynet to simply processing large amounts of data that I don't want to argue against something that could be so easily misinterpreted.
 

Danoff

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We know more, but we have no idea how close to the end we are. We knew more in the 60's than the 50's, but it didn't happen. Ditto 70's, 80's, 90's, etc. The argument that we know more now than we did so it'll work isn't logically sound.

When they have a prototype that's actually energy positive and the work to be done is refining that and turning it into a viable product, then I'll accept that we can put some reasonable timelines on when the project is expected to produce results visible to the consumer. Until then it's a guess, and it's a guess that's more based on optimism than any actual data as you can't make reasonable estimates about something that you know you don't know.

Well you still won't know until you have an actual product that's viable to the consumer. Until then it's just a guess. You can't make reasonable estimates about something you don't know right? Technological development can be forecast, even when we don't know it. And the forecast for net energy from fusion is short.

Er, when you say AI, what do you mean for this specific application? Depending on what you mean I probably agree with you, but AI is such a loaded buzzword that can mean anything from Skynet to simply processing large amounts of data that I don't want to argue against something that could be so easily misinterpreted.

Yes, for this specific application. But this specific application is also benefiting from AI technique refinement.
 
12,250
Australia
Adelaide
GTP_Imari
Well you still won't know until you have an actual product that's viable to the consumer. Until then it's just a guess. You can't make reasonable estimates about something you don't know right? Technological development can be forecast, even when we don't know it. And the forecast for net energy from fusion is short.

And has been short since the 50's, hence the joke.

I doubt we're going to come to an agreement on this. I've worked in product development long enough that I know that you can have reasonable estimates on how long a prototype will take to bring to market, assuming that you have a good understanding of your technology. You can be wrong, but these things can be planned out with reasonable allowances for the unforeseen or unexpected and you can explain how and why you chose those numbers. Once you have a functional prototype, the path to final product is usually more about how much time and money are you willing to invest in getting there, not is it possible at all.

I had a product proposal once where I knew from practical experience that what the customer wanted was possible, it needed some work on tweaking the design to their specific application and some testing to verify that it would function as required. Estimated cost to do the work ~$40,000, based on the materials I would need, the time I would need to spend on it, a reasonable appreciation of how much extra time might be required should certain things not work out as I expected and some profit for the company. As part of my proposal, I had to provide reasoning and justification for all of those.

(The customer wanted it done for under $3,000. Thank you very much, but we will not be proceeding with this project.)

Try doing the same for "fusion in 30 years". The problem is that you have a process that works on paper, but has never been observed working in practice. You're not even at the prototype stage yet, so you don't even know whether this particular technology is on the path to a final product. Until you have a working prototype, estimates are based on assumptions that your experiments will function more or less as expected. Experiments that you're doing precisely because you're not sure whether they will function as expected. Estimates of what might be required if the experiments fail is even harder, because you sort of need that data in order to map out the development space to see what might be a viable solution. You don't have the luxury of "I want to try this cheap and easy thing to see if it works, but if it doesn't I know I can fall back on this more expensive but proven solution". It's possible that no amount of time and money will make this particular design functional, hence why any planning is more optimism than actual data.

You can plan this stuff out if you want, but the dependencies and the variability means that you end up with something that is more like "fusion probably in 30 years, but almost certainly somewhere between 25 and 150 years". The spread on the reasonable estimates gets so large that I question the meaningfulness of giving a number at all, as it tends to just be misleading. Whereas with a traditional project where a functional prototype exists, it's more like "commercially viable product in 3 years, or 4 if everything goes wrong". The absolute worst case scenario is something like the F35 where it ends up being really late and really over-budget, but there was still never any real doubt that it could get built because there was a functional prototype before they started pinning time-lines on it.

Yes, for this specific application. But this specific application is also benefiting from AI technique refinement.

"Yes" is not an answer to "when you say AI, what do you mean for this specific application?"

I'm asking what you mean by AI so that we can have a reasonable discussion without me putting words in your mouth. If you don't want to talk about it, just say so.
 

Danoff

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And has been short since the 50's, hence the joke.

When in the last 70 years have we been building a reactor that we expect to generate net positive fusion power? I'm genuinely asking, I don't know if there is an answer.


I doubt we're going to come to an agreement on this.

This isn't something I'm basing the profitability of a company on. I'm just speculating based on what we know. If you want to know how much stock I put in the numbers, I'd say we have a better chance of generating net power gain from a fusion reaction by 2030 than Trump does of quitting the election. Doesn't stop people from dreaming about President Pelosi in the America thread though.

It sounds like you're simply not going to be convinced of a timeline until you're very confident in how it's going to come together. So I think you're right that we're not going to come to agreement.


"Yes" is not an answer to "when you say AI, what do you mean for this specific application?"

I misread you. I thought you said "when you say AI, do you mean for this specific application?". To which I said "yes". To answer your actual question, I mean the active control of containment of the fusion reaction to prevent damage to the reactor.
 
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