back to article Fusion won't avert need for climate change 'sacrifice', says nuclear energy expert

Nuclear fusion will not provide an answer to the medium-term "sacrifice" the world population will have to endure to get to net-zero carbon emission by 2050 — the target for keeping average global heating within the 1.5˚C margin. This is according to scientists making testimony to the UK's Parliamentary Science and Technology …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

    Ie $200 million/year. The 2022 USA military budget is $715 billion, some 3,500 times as much. It seems to me that the priorities are not quite right here.

    OK: I know that increasing funding can only speed up R&D so much but given the huge cost of impending climate change - surely we should be investing more; we being more than just the USA.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion..."

      Meanwhile, almost 40% of the world's population subsists on around $2.00 per day and commonly doesn't even have access to electric power. Climate change 'sacrifice' is well surrounded by quotes - all it really means is reining in the ever increasing demands of the 60% on finite resources that are not distributed equitably.

    2. sreynolds Silver badge

      Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

      I think that he has a point. If you are sucking 200 - 250% of the energy out of the earth most of it from stored carbon, then even if you have fusion working today you will still need to ween yourself off the fossil fuel teat.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

      Well, as I recall the MANHATTAN PROJECT was funded by the military and was part of the war effort in WW2, where they invented CONTROLLABLE FISSION.

      So I'd consider DOUBLING the military budget and TASK THEM with making fusion electricity a practical reality.

      1. Little Mouse Silver badge

        Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

        Nice plan, but unfortunately, the science to bring people back from the dead is still 20-30 years away.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

        They made a fission bomb in the Manhattan Project. I'm not sure the military made useful fusion reactors. As for paying them to make a fusion bomb, it's already been done. All the best Nukes are fusion devices these days.

        1. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

          I don't think the military made useful fission reactors, at least not at that point, but they did make quite a lot of the research that went into them. I guess bob was referencing e.g. the Fermi pile, which IIRC was developed as part of the Manhattan project.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

            "I guess bob was referencing e.g. the Fermi pile,"

            There are also the reactors still needing cleanup at the Hanford site where the goal was producing Pu, but they were still reactors.

      3. annodomini2

        Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

        They are DARPA have a few running, being military they'd likely keep it top secret to give themselves a competitive advantage.

        Planes, Tanks, smaller ships will relatively "infinite" range (if they can build them that small), would be a serious advantage.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "US government has promised around $1 billion in investment in nuclear fusion over five years"

      This funding won't last.

      Why?

      Most of the GQP do not believe in climate change and if you mention 'Green New Deal' they get very apoplectic. I fully expect a GQP bill in 2023 that outlaws the following:-

      - Evolution is prohibited to be taught in schools and universities

      - Teaching kids that the world is basically a sphere would be made illegal and that the earth is flat.

      - all Science is bunkum (according to Marjorie Trailer-Trash Green) and should be regarded as Heresy.

      - All schools will only teach the scriptures, reading and writing. For everything else, God will provide.

      - Church on Sunday will become mandatory no matter what religion you follow. Failure to attend will result in jail time

  2. Little Mouse Silver badge
    Trollface

    If it wasn't for "Physics" constantly getting in the way...

    ...we'd have cracked fusion decades ago.

    1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

      Re: If it wasn't for "Physics" constantly getting in the way...

      Maybe the fusion researchers need to upgrade to quantum computers powered by dark energy, then we'll get there faster.

  3. Filippo Silver badge

    There's also the fact that, so far, every time we've managed to come up with a new energy source, instead of replacing polluting or inefficient sources, we've just increased energy consumption. If somebody cracks fusion, is the power going into dismissing combustion plants, or is it going into flying cars?

    It's a question for politics, not for science; unfortunately, politics, as a field, is nowhere near as eager to go looking for answers.

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      I realize you got downvoted, but you're right - coal, for example, is still with us in a big way in the world.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "There's also the fact that, so far, every time we've managed to come up with a new energy source, instead of replacing polluting or inefficient sources, we've just increased energy consumption."

      Nuclear reactors are being decommissioned faster than new ones are coming online. New designs can't get approved because they are "unproven". Anything that the masses don't understand is immediately suspect and regulated or litigated into the bin. Part of the problem is the falling literacy rate in science at a time when it should be emphasized more in school rather than indoctrination classes that tell kids about how racist or victimized they are based on whatever.

  4. Little Mouse Silver badge
    Flame

    One of Arthur C. Clarke's books (maybe 3001...?) touched on the idea that the transition to fusion could actually make Global Warming worse.

    Limitless free energy for everyone, but nowhere to dump the excess heat...

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Doing the maths we currently get ~25MW of incident solar energy for every human being on this planet. its not terribly significant.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        unfortunately the power density is not high enough to utilize properly unless we can manage to build a giant magnifying lens... (solar cells can do around 200W per square meter, requiring a LOT of square meters for panels, especially when you consider electric cars and 30kwh or so per week needed for average driving)

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          The point is that if we currently get 25MW/person of sparkling sunshine - the concern that we are going to cook everyone by having 8bn smart speakers on standby is overblown.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "unfortunately the power density is not high enough"

          I have to agree density is a big issue. It can be overcome by making it more advantageous for some power hungry industries to locate to areas with marginal land that can be covered by solar PV or wind turbines. Ammonia production is one that I bang on about all of the time where it can be possible to have automated production cells located at the base of wind turbines that run when power is available. In the US, there are thousands of miles of underground Ammonia pipelines which makes it much easier to site an installation so it feeds directly into a distribution network. Right now companies locate facilities based on what city, state, region will give them free land and a multi-decade tax abatement. Not exactly an ideal way to make use of resources.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      This makes some kind of sci-fi sense. In the real world, though, the orders of magnitude are wrong.

      It's a bit like worrying that if we start seriously exploiting tidal power generation, then the Moon is going to fall.

  5. quadibloc2

    We Have an Acceptable Option

    We don't have fusion power yet, but we do have fission power. So we should be producing enough energy so that we can get to net zero carbon emissions immediately without any major economic sacrifice.

    There will still be some adjustments, such as people using trolley buses instead of cars to get to work. Although methanol fuel could allow people to have cars even if they can't afford an electric car.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

      fission ain't free, it ain't green, and with all the radioactive waste, it ain't safe.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

        fission ain't free...

        Nope, and it's also not cheap (one of the reasons for which is imposition on it of safety standards far higher than those imposed on any other type of energy generation). Even so, it's not prohibitively expensive, and certainly within the bands of what we should be willing to pay. (Also note that if externalities such as dumping waste CO2 and particulates into the air were correctly priced into coal/oil/gas generation, they wouldn't be so cheap either)

        ...it ain't green...

        What do you mean by green? Land use per power generated for fission is comfortably as good as the best combined cycle gas, better than hydroelectric; and far, far, far better then wind or solar. It doesn't produce CO2 or particulate matter, doesn't play havoc with bird migrations and doesn't require flooding vast areas (usually in mountainous valleys of ecological importance).

        ...and with all the radioactive waste, it ain't safe.

        Modern fission plants burn almost all their fuel and in fact can use spent fuel for older plants as their own fuel (reason being that many older plants were designed to produce weapons-capable nuclear waste as a byproduct). So waste is much less than it was historically. Also, if you know anything about radioactive decay, it is either dangerous (emitting a lot of radiation at one go), or long-lasting (emitting radiation over a very long period of time), but it cannot be both. So for short half-life waste we can store in very secure short-term storage, and move to long-term storage relatively soon (a few years). Waste material in long-term storage (thousands of years) can be shoved into an unused mine or some-such. It might be low-level radioactive for a long time, but not at dangerous levels.

        Frankly while not being ideal it is certainly one of the better options to use in teh next 30 years until fusion can replace it. We ARE having fusion in 30 years, right? Right?

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

          "Modern fission plants burn almost all their fuel "

          Not even close. It's less than 10% before the fuel is too contaminated to be used. The Uranium pellets also start to break up mechanically from gas production as one of the decay chains. (Xenon, I think).

          LFTR might do a much better job. MoX fuel is only useable in a few plants, many in France. It isn't used in the US since reprocessing was banned for a while and nobody was going to take it on when it became unbanned since no reactors were built to take is and the politician might decide to ban it again.

          Fusion is still "20 years away".

      2. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

        There is no large-scale power generation method that is free or green, safety is strictly a trade-off with land usage, and massive reductions in power consumption are simply not going to happen.

        The sooner everyone gets these few hard facts into their heads, the sooner we can start having rational discussions on the issue. I.e. figuring out which options are least-bad, rather than pretending our pet favorite doesn't have any negatives at all.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

          "and massive reductions in power consumption are simply not going to happen."

          I'm a big fan of greater per capita energy consumption. Concurrently, I'm a fan of there being fewer people on the planet using that energy.

          Many studies have shown that energy usage and living standards are related. Oddly, some studies hint that up to a certain point, using more energy (per capita again) can lower pollution. It does turn around rather severely past a breaking point. One study that I'll copy and keep if I find it again shows a relation between goat herding, pollution/environmental damage and electricity usage. Getting rid of goats lowers pollution. Not all of them. Just a reduction in herds and using them as a basis for protein production. A people with access to electricity on a regular basis tend to raise goats less frequently. The spy agencies have a lot of this data.

          1. Persona Silver badge

            Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

            I'm a fan of there being fewer people on the planet

            That's a dangerous route to take. Last time it was done with conviction, the Khmer Rouge policy (which was in retrospect extremely green and eco friendly) killed off 21% to 24% of Cambodia's population.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

              "That's a dangerous route to take. Last time it was done with conviction, the Khmer Rouge policy (which was in retrospect extremely green and eco friendly) killed off 21% to 24% of Cambodia's population."

              I'm not itching that the reduction happens next week. I'm just saying that as we continue to surpass a rational carrying capacity based on petroleum fuels to support the growth, the tension mounts higher. I could be wrong. It might be access to fresh water or more severe and frequent outbreaks of serious disease.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

      I think nuclear is just about the only viable long term option, and now that especially Thorium based MSRs are coming online I think we're in for a good change for once.

      There only problem I see is that most of the patents in that area are in the hands of the Chinese so they'll be the main beneficiaries of that progress, whereas the US dollar is tied so hard to fossil fuel that they used to start wars just to keep that in place - which they cannot do with China.

      I predict a LOT of change in the very nearby future - access to energy that is going to be so significantly cheaper than fossil fuel that government are certain to bury it under tax is going to change a lot of things. I hope for the better.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: We Have an Acceptable Option

      "There will still be some adjustments, such as people using trolley buses instead of cars to get to work"

      It can also make sense that people work near to their home if they have the sort of job where they need to go in or in smaller regional offices rather than high-rise buildings downtown where few want to live (or can afford) and take a lot of time twice a day in commuting. We are long past the time where it's important to have the whole staff of a company in one building. It's been decades since offices have had to employ runners to pickup and deliver inter-office memos from one floor to another. Modern design software allows people separated by half a world work on the same project at the same time. They can even work on the same CAD drawing and be able to tap into all manner of meta-data about that drawing. No more trips to the printer to have blueprints made so a team can sit down in a conference room and review the status. I'm old enough to remember working in places that had their own blueprint room to make those copies and how procedures had to be in place to destroy or archive lots of those prints so old revisions don't get sent out for manufacture.

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Facepalm

    From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

    The ENTIRE "reasoning" (if you can even CALL it that, as it is SO UN-SCIENTIFIC) that man-made CO2 *ALLEGEDLY* causes climate change is the BIGGEST [POWER/CONTROL GRAB] HOAX in CENTURIES. I think "flat earth" and "geocentric universe" (right Gallileo?) come in 2nd and 3rd, respectively (though the only power being grabbed and/or maintained in THOSE cases was from an overbearing church...)

    Hint: CO2 is *terrible* at being a greenhouse gas (especially compared to WATER), is at equilibrium [with plants, rain, bodies of water, etc.], varies based on water temperature (which holds less CO2 at higher temps like a soda going flat when warm) and volcanic activity (which spews CO2), has been seen rising NEAR A SPECIFIC VOLCANO since 1958 which seems to drive "all of those charts" [not a representative sample in other words; volcanoes are known to often spew tons of CO2 when they are not erupting, more than humans even] and CO2 does not even absorb IR radiation well at frequencies that correspond to black body radiation for temperatures ACTUALLY FOUND ON EARTH.

    (it does not take long to find this information, you just have to wade past the MIS-information dump from climate change activists)

    And, you KNOW that there is NO WAY IN HELL that CHINA will become "carbon neutral". Why SHOULD they? They're busy EXPLOITING THE REST OF THE WORLD for being so GULLIBLE as to SHOOT OUR OWN ECONOMIC FEET over this.

    (facepalm icon as well)

    1. Art Slartibartfast
      Boffin

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      In essence what you say is correct, however the malfunctioning caps lock key detracts from what you are trying to say. By the way, the Mauna Loa observatory's measurements are carefully controlled to get a proper reading of the CO2 concentrations.

      Climate science is a very complex field. As an engineer I can see many, many red flags when it comes to what the likes of the IPCC publishes, such as:

      - moving goal posts (we always have ten years to save the planet, but this time we mean it),

      - not even the most basic grasp of statistics. Meaningless averaging of climate model outputs to arrive at a more "exact" outcome when the models can't even correctly predict the climate for 1950, and

      - the concept of an average temperature deviation for the planet, blissfully ignoring that if the poles are way too hot and around the equator it is way too cold, these values might cancel out, but we still have a huge problem.

      I could go on and on about the issues in climate science. But in politics, facts don't matter and our leaders are woefully incompetent when it comes to science.

      1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        -- carefully controlled to get a proper reading of the CO2 concentrations --

        Does that translate to fudged or possibly fixed?

        -- But in politics, facts don't matter and our leaders are woefully incompetent when it comes to science. --

        Just to show I understand science I agree 400%

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      This is a science/technology site, bob, not the comments section of the Daily Mail, so most people here know enough basic physics to be able to see through this kind of conspiracy theory nonsense.

      Not that there aren't conspiracies around CO2 release, of course there are- after all, either you're being paid by one to post this nonsense, or you should be profoundly embarrassed to be working for some of the richest corporations that have ever existed free of charge.

      1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        Bob does get a bit carried away but here's a little question - which of the current climate models can, using known data from the past "predict" what the climate was at that point in the past?

        Until they can "predict" the past my belief in their ability to predict the future is rather limited.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      Mixing half-truths generally produces bullshit and that's what you've managed to do here.

      There are lots of aspects of climate science which should be treated sceptically; but this doesn't mean they're fundamentally wrong.

      For example, CO2 is no longer in equilibrium because we're burning fossil fuel faster than the released CO2 can be recaptured. Over time, and we're talking geological time, a new equilibrium will probably be established.

      The temperature of the ocean is less relevant for how much CO2 can be dissolved, though note that this also contradicts your point about equilibrium, than what temperature increases actually represent: energy stored. Though current changes are to surface temperature. This is why apparently minor changes in temperature can lead to greater storms and also why greater absorption is also making surface water more acidic.

      China is going hell for leather on renewables, not least because it's getting worried about potentially more catastrophic weather events. It will take a while to get there but it has already started to affect its coal-based generation capacity. And, in any case, it's not that much more of an emitter than the US was.

      But all this doesn't detract from the answer to parliament: even if we can get fusion working soonish, we won't be able to build up capacity sufficiently before 2050 to meet our goals; whether these are related to climate change or energy independence.

      1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        -- There are lots of aspects of climate science which should be treated sceptically; but this doesn't mean they're fundamentally wrong --

        Why not? When "the science" starts with a lie, is supported by adjusting facts and, according to saint G, is complete what are the fundamentals that are not wrong?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          It starts with a hypothesis: burning fossil fuels produces sufficient CO2 to drive global warming. From various records we know that CO2 can act as insulator and there have been periods of global warming (and cooling) driven by this. We can also observe a correlation between CO2 emitted and global temperatures over the last couple of centuries and there aren't a lot of other theories that can explain this well.

          Other factors, volcanic activity, asteroids and especially the sun can have greater effects on the climate and we will have no control over them, but what's the risk with taking manmade climate seriously? That's not to say that many of the proposed measures aren't bunk, evidence of regulatory capture abounds; but for those of us in the northern hemisphere without access to limitless fossil fuels, there are other, more immediate risks to consider as well.

      2. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        China is practically talking about covering the entire Gobi desert with renewable generation; enough of it to put very significant numbers of kwh per head on the table. That's a big bill for importing fuel they can avoid; and a way to avoid political leverage from hostile or opposing states that might take offence at their actions on the world stage.

        Climate change goals are a bonus over and above the economic rationale.

        The major difference is, of course, that China's power is state owned; and no dividends leaching off at every single level to prop up ailing pension funds and/or the uber-wealthy.

        Regardless of how abhorrent you view the CCP, this particular area of their strategy is a good one.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          The renewables talk is just that. Whilst playing with solar, they are continuing to support their economy by using cheap, plentiful coal. They will only switch to solar when it makes economic sense. In the meantime, we kill our heavy industry with comical energy costs.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

            China's solar and wind power deployments have already led to a reduction in the number of coal-fired power stations in use. Sure, they're still building new ones (and nuclear as well) but that has as much to do with jobs for the construction industry as anything else: the renewables base has grown from around zero to the world's largest in a decade. There's still a long way to go but China is serious about renewables.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          "Regardless of how abhorrent you view the CCP, this particular area of their strategy is a good one."

          I'm not a fan of major government control, but I do believe that there needs to be a lot more oversight when it come to something such as electricity. It underpins the entire economy. I should say "energy" but electricity is very flexible for doing work. Utilities have a need to be quasi-monopolies or we wind up with every street torn up for underground works and the rats nest of overhead lines still prevalent in 2nd and 3rd world cities. If they are going to be monopolies, they can't be driven by quarterly profit goals and executive bonuses measure in the tens of millions annually. They do need to concentrate on making sure plans are in place to add capability and continuous improvements. With more EV's, high speed trains and city trams/subways/trollies, there will be more of a demand on current electrical grids. Some of the need will be met (hopefully) by a reduction in the power used to refine oil into fuels.

          All governments should have an active energy policy that is always looking at least 15 years into the future. The US hasn't had one for ages and Congress seems to thrash and writhe when it comes to energy in a way that is obviously meant to enrich themselves at every turn rather than keeping a solid foundation upon which the country can operate. Fissures have already opened up and swallow entire industries that are now located in other countries that may or may not be friendly next week. The glaring example at the moment is how deep the Russian talons have dug into Europe's economy.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        burning fossil fuel faster than the released CO2 can be recaptured

        No.

        you have never done an actual phosphate titration, have you? Consider the HUGE amount of reagent that is needed to get "past the hump" to the next equilibrium point. Then re-read what I quoted.

        (most of the good stuff I reserve for #ClimateChangeHoax )

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      ALL this work done on CLIMATE change, all THIS worry, and IT'S ALL for NOTHING!

      LET the WORLD know that CAPSO-BOB has the ANSWER!

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        correct! (even if you were being cynical)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          lol, As the anon coward you are replying too, I can only say well played sir, well played.

    5. jmch Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      Not going to argue about man-made climate change, you wouldn't listen anyway....

      However regardless of your opinion on climate change, there are 2 prime reasons to stop burning hydrocarbons that have nothing to do with CO2 emissions.

      1) The west's dependence on oil or gas sources controlled by regimes that range from dodgy to outright evil.... not just the Middle East and Russia but large swathes of Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa, Latin America.

      2) Doesn't matter if it's in 50 years, 100 or 150, at some point the oil and gas will run out. And humanity will have burnt up hundreds of millions of years' worth of stored sunlight in a little over a century. That's a one-time bonus that's never coming back, and it might even be prudent to leave some of the stuff where it is, just in case we might need some of it in centuries to come.

      Because of both those reasons, the quicker we move to 100% renewables + fission, the better. And on to fusion as and when (and IF!!) it becomes available.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        The west's dependence on oil or gas sources controlled by regimes that range from dodgy to outright evil

        True, except when the USA becomes a net EXPORTER of oil again, which we were doing a couple o' years ago, and EASILY can, again. Then we stop funding evil regimes through the blockage of U.S. (and indidrectly Canadian) oil drilling.

        humanity will have burnt up hundreds of millions of years' worth of stored sunlight in a little over a century

        Most of the world's carbon (I think it is the eighth most abundant element in the universe, or something like that) is in the MANTLE, and is often gassed up by volcanoes and (indirectly) the surrounding area, which is (one of several reasons) why CO2 levels measured near Mauna Loa are skewed.

        of course, the REAL problem is not so much evil regimes producing oil. The BIGGEST problem is that no matter HOW MUCH every OTHER country that is "not china" increases our own cost of energy [and wrecks our economies] through unnecessary carbon fuel taxes and bans, CHINA WILL NOT DO IT. That should frighten people.

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          The west's dependence on oil or gas sources controlled by regimes that range from dodgy to outright evil..

          the USA becomes a net EXPORTER of oil again, which we were doing a couple o' years ago, and EASILY can, again

          ... exactly.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          > True, except when the USA becomes a net EXPORTER of oil again, which we were doing a couple o' years ago, and EASILY can, again. Then we stop funding evil regimes through the blockage of U.S. (and indidrectly Canadian) oil drilling.

          2 year ago.... And what changed 2 years, we wonder.... Except we don't. We know exactly what you are referring to.

          The thing is Bob, you aren't stupid, but it's hard for anyone to take you seriously when you are so politically biased. Most of your opinions aren't based on fact, they are based on which political party enacted them, and whether you can shout "SOCIALISM!"

          You know full well that there were very serious concerns about the impact on the drilling.

          You also know that the Dakota and Keystone pipelines that were stopped were just to increase capacity, and one of them (I forget which) was solely intended on taking Canadian low quality fracked oil to ports to ship overseas.

          Neither were benefits to the USA - they were both private companies, who would have made more profits for shareholders by seriously compromising the environment in your very own country.

          So, you can NEVER use the argument that home sourced oil will help your country unless you are advocating for it to be state owned. A hell of a lot of USA used oil is sourced locally - it's still as expensive for you because the private American companies sell it based on the global price of oil.... More profit for them.

          But state ownership is evil SOCIALISM!! And we know you think it's evil - you even say so on your own company website *rollseyes*

          One question. Your Trump said wind turbines cause cancer. He also praised coal as being clean... "Beautiful clean coal". Now, do you agree that he was wrong?

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

            "You also know that the Dakota and Keystone pipelines that were stopped were just to increase capacity, and one of them (I forget which) was solely intended on taking Canadian low quality fracked oil to ports to ship overseas.

            "

            Not even "fracked" oil, but tar sand products. Looking into that stuff should turn your stomach and make you want to wear hemp undies and ride your bike everywhere.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

              Yes, you're right, of course. It was tar sand.

              My memory is going with old age!

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

                "My memory is going with old age!"

                What's this memory thing you speak of?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        "2) Doesn't matter if it's in 50 years, 100 or 150, at some point the oil and gas will run out."

        I don't think the oil will ever run out, but it will become so expensive that burning it for a Sunday drive in the country will be out of the question except for the very wealthy. The other way to look at it is the EROI will drop below unity meaning it will take more energy to get the oil in comparison to the energy contained in it. While petroleum is useful in all sorts of ways, the ability to use it as an energy source will go away. It will have to be reserved exclusively for food (in food, not in production of food), medicine, pesticides, plastics, etc. All of the militaries will lay claim to as much as they can for "national security" needs since the limitation of supply will lead to wars if replacements aren't already in hand. Never mind that the military is the most inefficient user on the planet. A B-52 training mission burns up a couple of million dollars in fuel (wholesale without tax).

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      Been listening to Marjorie Trainwreck Green lessons on science again then Bob? In her world, all science is bunkum and that the good book is the only thing we need to learn (apart from how to shoot an AR-15).

      Mention 'Green New Deal' to the likes of her and watch the foaming at the mouth commence.

      Her GQP pals want to continue burning oil and gas like there is no tomorrow.

      The problem is that there won't be a tomorrow if we do that.

      Then there is the Wall St Banker who says 'No one cares if Miami sinks into the sea'.

      Almost half of people in Congress have the same sort of views.

      God help your country if MTG gets any power next January.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        Ad hom. You just lost the argument.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

          Where? MTG is one of the biggest morons to walk the planet, but the reply wasn't directed at her.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      I'd check your dosage if I were you.

      And your shift key.

    8. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

      "CO2 is *terrible* at being a greenhouse gas "

      It's not the most efficient greenhouse gas, certainly. There is quite a lot of it, though. Photosynthesizing plants can only utilize so much CO2 and the useful plants are as quick to grow as would be required to soak up the excess. If you can find a use for algae that makes sense, that could be a good carbon sink but it's usually a scourge to get rid of before it clogs up other things.

      I haven't seen any sensible industrial carbon capture processes. Most of them would add so much cost that we would be better off just going solar and huddling in the dark together for warmth when solar isn't available. Could we bootstrap up in the Sahara and use the sand to create more and more PV panels while adding shade at the same time? I would like to see specialized agricultural facilities put next to fossil power plants. The waste heat and CO2 output make for great inputs to something like a hydroponic lettuce growing venture. I see that as better than pumping up underground reservoirs with spare CO2 until they start leaking and killing things.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: From the cheap seats: NO SACRIFICE IS NEEDED (and you KNOW China will not do it ANYWAY)

        "and the useful plants are as quick to grow "

        AREN'T as quick to grow. Yeah, I need to do more review before hitting "submit"

  7. Persona Silver badge

    Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

    The big problem of fusion is that despite progress it's still a long long way from delivering and may well never deliver energy at an affordable cost.

    Meanwhile there are alternatives that are technically orders of magnitude easier.

    Solar is good but doesn't fit the UK climate. The Xlinks project aims to deliver power from Morocco where solar is 5 times more efficient in winter than the UK. The technology it needs is 3,800km high voltage undersea cables, which sounds absurd but it's existing technology. It incorporates wind and battery backup too to match our electricity demand curve. https://xlinks.co/morocco-uk-power-project/

    Quaise Energy are using powerful gyrotron microwave devices that were developed to heat the plasma in fusion research. They cut through rock and will be used to drill down to hot strata for geothermal power. As they use RF rather than conventional mud cooled drill bits they can drill much much deeper and vastly quicker. They will be used to drill 10 to 20km into the earths crust where the temperature is going to be 500C just about everywhere, making geothermal possible just about everywhere. If it works (possibly a big "if" but much more feasible that any fusion concept) the plan is to "repower" existing fossil fuel power stations with geothermal energy extracted from deep underneath them. https://www.quaise.energy/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

      That repowering idea sounds good. Not sure whether steam pressure and temperature matter, but I like the idea of not throwing away huge chunks of existing infrastructure.

      1. Persona Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        They plan to drill multiple bore holes using differing depths and flow rates to match the pressure and temperature needed by the fossil fuel plant.

        The great thing about reusing the existing turbine, generator and electrical distribution infrastructure is that it make it much cheaper, so you can afford to do more of it.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          the method of heat generation for a typical steam plant can be radically different, but the steam produced generates electricity in roughly the same way (superheaters and operating temperatures notwithstanding) and require the same kinds of "infrastructure" to control the electrical generation systems and deliver power onto the grid. So yeah.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

      Those long cables are the weak link in the Xlinks project. Underground, and undersea cables are both expensive and notoriously difficult to maintain, for largely obvious reasons.

      Copper prices more or less doubling in the space of 12 months is, I imagine, also a serious risk to the project and/or cable manufacturers.

      The converter stations required are at least a known quantity, if only a few built at that scale so far.

      There's good power to be had much closer to home (wind), and could be made much more reliable for the sake of sorting out some transmission scale storage. Maybe 20GW would do it. The only viable places for that "at a single node" in the UK would be a Severn barrage, or using the Scottish lochs. More distributed variants of storage would do the trick.

      The current government is mostly blind to storage and incentivising it, because in a free market, storage reduces the ability of wholesalers to profiteer off price spikes. Funny that, what we've just seen the last few months.

      But doing nothing, with no long term plan to speak of has been the hallmark of the last 40 years of UK government, red or blue.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        The only viable places for that "at a single node" in the UK would be a Severn barrage

        A Severn barrage would have adverse environmental impact.

        1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          A Severn barrage would be disastrous, environmentally, but tidal lagoons* would be feasible with much less environmental impact, albeit with less energy produced, so less cost-effective.

          *Very large concrete donuts in the water, that retain water at high tide and slow release to generate power.

        2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

          Re: A Severn barrage would have adverse environmental impact.

          Correct, but that's only talking about half the problem. So:

          Would a Severn barrage cause more environmental problems than it would solve? (e.g. by replacing fossil burning)?

          Mind you, it is not at all clear to me how you might balance and/or compare the two different impacts.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        "The current government is mostly blind to storage and incentivising it, because in a free market, storage reduces the ability of wholesalers to profiteer off price spikes."

        Governments are largely blind to anything that takes longer than the life of a Parliament.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          Government may also be aware of the cost of grid-scale storage, especially batteries. Or possibly the HF and other toxic products released when those batteries inevitably catch fire. They may also be becoming sceptical about the feasibility of the infinite lithium extraction that would be required to support 'decarbonisation' policies.

          Ok, so mining for the raw materials needed to transition away from fossil fuels is someone else's environmental problem. AFAIK, the UK has very little lithium to extract. We do have some uranium though..

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

            I think everyone knows that batteries aren't the solution… and have realised it's time to get aboard the gravy train!

            1. Roj Blake

              Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

              Gravy is an excellent energy-storage medium.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

            Storage doesn't have to involve a lead-acid or lithium-ion battery.

            Pumped storage has been around over a hundred years, and there are outfits evolving the technology to work at distributed levels that would be very effective.

            Car batteries contributing to the storage system is also a "thing" albeit one that needs a lot of reform of the market, and "ownership / wear and tear" on the battery issues working out.

            Even the use of electrolyzers to produce hydrogen is half-about viable if the energy going into it is otherwise "free" in the sense of letting a windmill operate to keep it running.

            The alternative to decarbonisation, in the absence of a massive expansion of nuclear, or a fusion miracle, is to carry on burning whatever we can find. Whatever your stance on climate change, burning everything economically is an eventual cycle to destruction of the species.

            Necessity is the mother of invention, and we will either come through this a better species on the other side, or destroy ourselves in the process. Happy Wednesday!

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

              The alternative to decarbonisation, in the absence of a massive expansion of nuclear, or a fusion miracle, is to carry on burning whatever we can find. Whatever your stance on climate change, burning everything economically is an eventual cycle to destruction of the species.

              Partly true. Ever increasing energy costs and burning food will eventually destroy much of our species. Or just greatly reduce the standand of living.

              But that's a small price to pay to appease the eco-facists.

              Rest involves some science. So there's a theory that CO2=Warming. Even when there are record low temperatures set. Ok, so this is trivially true. CO2 as 4 emission/absorption points in it's spectrum, which is old news. 3 overlap with H2O, and H2O dominates in our atmosphere. Handy visual here-

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_window#/media/File:Atmospheric_Transmission.svg

              So more CO2, more absorption. So basically CO2 molecule absorbs a passing photon, reaches a higher energy state, then generally spits the photon back out again in a random direction. Some climate 'scientists' assume that means most of the energy is re-radiated back to the surface, thus trapping energy, thus heat. But that isn't really physics. The higher up the CO2 molecule, the more likely the emitted photon misses the ground.

              Then-

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_sensitivity#Equilibrium_climate_sensitivity

              The CO2 level in 2016 was 403 ppm, which is less than 50% higher than the pre-industrial CO2 concentration of 278 ppm. However, because increased concentrations have a progressively-smaller warming effect, the Earth was already more than halfway to doubling of radiative forcing caused by CO2

              Sure, it's wiki, but wiki has the world's best and brightest climate 'scientists' ensuring it's accuracy and impartiality. So then-

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_sensitivity#Equilibrium_climate_sensitivity

              The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) stated that there is high confidence that ECS is within the range of 2.5°C to 4°C, with a best estimate of 3°C

              So assuming Year 0 was say, 1850, and CO2 levels were 275ppmv so the first 'doubling' would be 275-550ppmv, which should result in around 3°C warming. We can only observe less than half that amount. So that strongly suggests that ECS assumptions are too high, or there are negative feedbacks reducing warming.

              So since 1850, we've burned gigatonnes of carbon, and boosted CO2 levels to around 420ppmv. To hit the next doubling, we'd need to 550-1100ppmv. Slight snag is based on overall CO2 increase and fossil fuel usage, we'd have to pretty much de-carbonise the entire planet to produce enough CO2.

              Basically you can't get there from here, we don't have enough CO2 to create Thermageddon, there is no climate 'emergency'. Especially if ECS is really closer to 1.2-1.5°C. Especially as the science says the CO2/temperature response is logarithmic, ie "because increased concentrations have a progressively-smaller warming effect. So basically we've already seen and 'locked in' pretty much all the warming for the post-industrial doubling.

              But that's where mainstream climate 'science' demands a few leaps of faith. Like a mechanism that really supports that view, or can explain why we've only seen <1.5°C warming in the post-industrial era. So according to the 'science', that damage is done, the next crisis will be when we get to the next doubling, and the amplification effect of going from say, 550ppmv-750ppmv. Which is a very long way off.

              But there's also no real physical basis for that view. A more amusing thing to thing about is if the logarithmic assumption is correct, and it's a nice, constant 3°C per doubling, we should be able to work that backwards. So from 1ppmv to 2ppmv= 3°C, so the less CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the greater the warming effect.

              So basically that viewpoint is essentially homeopathy. Trace amounts of CO2 have a larger global warming effect because CO2 molecules retain memories of heat. But that's mostly back to goal seeking and some base-line assumptions. Like the Earth's climate has been in 'equilibrium' pre-industry. There's a huge amount of evidence that shows this is untrue, and the Earth's been oscillating around a mean for a few million years. The other huge assumption is starting a gish-gallop of junk science by stating that the Earth's a 'black body', therefore it's baseline temperature should be X.

              Of course the Earth isn't, and never has been a black body.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

            "AFAIK, the UK has very little lithium to extract."

            It is being found down old mines in Devon and Cornwall. There wasn't a market for it ages ago so few records of where it might be are recorded.

      3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        We already have undersea interconnects to France, Ireland, and a new 720km link to Norway - the undersea cable business is booming, apparently (sorry, subscription required but the gist of the article is clear from the headline).

        I appreciate long interconnects are difficult, but you could have made the same statement about offshore wind 15 years ago and now look at us. So I'm not sure it's an insurmountable problem. But yes, I do kind of wonder why they don't just do the interconnect to northern Spain and use the grid there. Brief scan of the Wikipedia article makes me think Spain/Portugal would be pleased to have that cable too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          The short hops across the channel are reasonably reliable; because short length and relatively calm seabed translates to lower probability of failure.

          The long cable in the Irish sea was nearly the bankruptcy of Prysmian (who made the cable) with the faults and failures it’s had since.

          Going deep in the Atlantic is a step above again in difficulty and livability. It’s an ambitious, risky project. Then again, so was the space shuttle.

      4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        The only viable places for that "at a single node" in the UK would be a Severn barrage, or using the Scottish lochs. More distributed variants of storage would do the trick.

        The Severn Barrage is basically a land banking scam. It costs too much, doesn't produce energy when required, and it's biggest advantage comes later. So basically wait for the lagoon to silt up, add some building rubble and create an exciting (and profitable) new waterfront development on the new land you've created.

        Kinda borrows off old US developments where islands around NY and SF were built out of garbage. Obviously would impact the Severn's ecosystem, but that's 'renewables' for you. They're saving the environment by destroying it.

        The current government is mostly blind to storage and incentivising it, because in a free market, storage reduces the ability of wholesalers to profiteer off price spikes. Funny that, what we've just seen the last few months.

        You basically have that bass-ackwards. The whole point of 'storage' is arbitrage, ie fill when electricity prices are low, sell when prices are high. But the big money comes from grid stabilisation services, which are only needed because the 'renewables' scum sucking parastites have lobbyed for 1,000yr old technology that's dependent on the weather. Because wind's intermittent, you then need to spend a lot of money keeping the grid in sync.

        So it's a mechanism that's set up entirely to profit from price spikes that the 'renewables' industry has generated. And of course they've also trousered a lot of extra profits due to both rising inflation (ie indexed subsidies) and the general price of electricity.

        It's one of life's little mysteries. The current shower of shite in both the UK and EU want to 'invest' over $1tn in the next few years to build even more wind. For some reason, they don't seem to notice that subsidising all this scrap is exactly why electricity prices have increased, along with demand for gas. No wind? Well, fire up your CCGT plant to prevent the lights going out. It's ironic that 'investment' in wind actually increases the demand for gas.

        Oh, and before anyone comes out with the 'renewables' lobby's biggest lie, 'It's cheap!'.. just ask why, depsite all the wind generation added to the grids in UK and EU, electricity prices have done nothing but rise.

        Oh, and for the slightly more sophisticated 'rewebles' fanboi, yes, I know about CfDs. I also read this-

        https://www.current-news.co.uk/news/offshore-wind-smashes-price-records-in-third-cfd-auction-round

        The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this morning unveiled the hotly anticipated auction results, confirming that 6GW of new offshore wind capacity will be delivered at prices as low as £39.65/MWh.

        Which lead to a bunch of useful idiots (ie the Bbc) treating that as a firm price. Neglecting to mention that the operator has 3yrs to decide whether to take up that contract. And with prices considerably higher than £39.65, for some.. strange reason, the operator has chosen not to.

        Kinda begs the question that if the operator contracted to that price, there must have been some expectation of profit. Currently selling electricity for far more than £40 seems like quite a.. well, windfall. Especially given all the other subsidies (around £1bn a month) being trousered by the 'renewables' lobby.

        So we should be building nuclear instead. And fast. Especially given around half of France's nuclear fleet is currently offline, and EDF generates a lot of money exporting electricity to it's neighbors. Especially those that drank deeply of the Green Kool-Aid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          Thank-you for writing that as an unhinged and childish rant - at least now no-one ignorant on the subject will be fooled into thinking that you know what you're talking about.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

            My bad. I realise it's not always easy to fool the ignorant into thinking. But we're forced to donate around £1bn a month to the 'renewables' lobby, and obviously that's disastrous for energy poverty and the economy in general.

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

              Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

              £1bn a month just about covers my gas bill

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          OP disagrees with the rant about green, but does agree a lot more nuke should be on the way.

          The CEGB plans of the 80s had sizewell B as the prototype for 5 to 10 more reactors; to be backed up with transmission scale windmills in fact.

          Thatcher declared war on the CEGB; tore it up and we burned gas instead. And now have to revert to the original plan anyway. While also paying a whole bunch more dividends and middlemen.

      5. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        Copper is not the only option for power cables. Aluminium is commonly used as well, I don’t know if heat dissipation is an issue (or the practicality of handling aluminium cables of those dimensions)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          If trying to shunt 3000A back and forward at 400kV+ the additional resistance of aluminium means you need probably four cables for every two in copper.

          Alu cable has its place, it’s useful on lower demand connections; but not a lot of help trying to shunt Multiple GW around.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

            The Economist article I linked to above specifically referred to Aluminium - "150kg/m and thick as a tree trunk" - no mention of copper. So it seems there are other priorities in play than just conductivity when you're doing long range HVDC interconnects.

            As I revisited the article to check this - I thought it was interesting it notes that new tech allows laying down to 3km, up from about 1.2km. A comment above on the relatively shallow north sea making life easy might be true in terms of laying it, but shallow seas invite trawlers and anchors too. Barring undersea volcanoes, maybe going deep isn't such a bad idea.

            Here's the boat in question by the way: Nexans Aurora

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

              Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

              Following myself up: this article states they are made from "copper or aluminium". Thinking about it, on a 3800km you're probably right it would be copper.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

              The increased diameter of a conductor gives diminishing returns; noting that power does not actually "flow" in the conductor. That's the simplification they teach in school.

              As a result, the difference in the ampacity of a 600 and 1200mm^2 cable is not double. 2500mm^2, the largest standard diameter widely manufactured is significantly less than double the capability of a 1200.

              Going to a boat obviously opens up options, but thicker cable is less flexible; which can lead to problems with stresses at the joints where cables flex in the sea; or at the terminations. And there isn't a production line tooled anywhere for >3000mm^2 to date.

              I have a bunch of models based on IEC60287 to do the necessary calculations. Apart from marginal edge cases, said standard has proven pretty accurate for best part of 50 years. Better mathematicians than I designed it and tested it on real equipment; back in the days when we could do such things ourselves - and were willing to throw money at it.

              If I were designing this Xlinks for the capacity numbers they are talking, I'd be thinking 6 to 8 independent circuits to ensure uptime while keeping enough deliverability of power while resolving the inevitable faults.

              6 to 8 3500km ccts at 2500mm^2 (or larger!) represents most of the worlds copper mining output for a significant period.

              Cable manufacturers don't like recycled copper, because impurities can bugger up your performance calculations.

              The project is possible, but as I noted above, it's ambitious the way the space shuttle was. There are lower hanging fruit I would target first before this one - if I had the kind of budget Xlinks must have to back this.

              As a somewhat long in the tooth cable engineer, my first advice is "use an overhead line" if you possibly can. Remember that Xlinks are looking to come to the UK because the regulatory market favours it over going into Spain. (Also, Spanish transmission capacity over the French and Portuguese borders would limit sales... England on the other hand with it's interconnectors going every which way, ideal place to trade).

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

                Another problem with increasing cable diameter is it also increases tidal effects. So cable may drift more, or drag and get abraded. Then shunt faults and steam generation. Weight also becomes an issue making jointing a lot harder. Also curious if increased flexing would lead to work hardening and more failures, ie cracks, arcs and very expensive dead cables.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

                  Hey, Jellied Eel, we found something we agree on! Your concerns are absolutely the problems could arise with a flexing cable. The electrical stress in the cable is at a maximum at the interface between the conductor and insulation, which also happens to be the part most prone to movement...

                  High temperatures lead to the plastics in the cable becoming amorphous so the double whammy of high load and offshore conditions can ruin such an asset pretty quickly.

                  Onshore; we're looking at lifetimes from 40 to 100 years; because transmission on a mesh network is very different to radial connections being ragged to limits. Offshore, I know of networks changing assets at 20 years old.

                  Operating anything offshore is a brutal business. Just look at the mess that is made of ships in no time at all at sea.

                  1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                    Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

                    Hey, Jellied Eel, we found something we agree on!

                    In sensible debates, we should. But I've worked on submarine cable systems in the past for telecomms, and even though we tend to use a lot of DC, I generally try to avoid it. PFEs and SLTs have more than enough juice to spoil your day.

                    There was also the time when a civil war in Africa lead to copper shortages, so UK ended up with some alumininium instead of copper phone cables. I think they've all pretty much been replaced now, but they deteriorated pretty fast and generated lots of faults.

                  2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                    Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

                    Thanks for your input AC, I consider myself schooled.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          Aluminum is lighter but has higher resistance than copper. For super high voltage lines over long distances, I would expect aluminum cables to be of practical use, though.

          Also because of 'skin effect' the high capacity distribution lines are really hollow pipes.

        3. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          Aluminium is used for overhead cables. You need a greater cross sectional area than with copper, but the much lower density of aluminium means less mass to support. I believe aluminium is used for household wiring in the USA. I am not sure of the reason for that. Possibly it is just cost. The cost of aluminium is mainly the energy input needed for electrolysis. Aluminium ore is plentiful and dirt cheap, as far as I know.

      6. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        "Those long cables are the weak link in the Xlinks project."

        Yes, but it's still something within reach of current engineering knowhow. Current longest HVDC is 2500km (albeit not undersea). Current longest undersea is 580km (operational) and 765km (being built), so 3800km undersea IS going to be a stretch, but the greatest risk is cost not engineering incapability.

        Properly built it should be maintenance-free for decades. While ships might be cavalier about dragging an anchor through a comms line I suspect they might be a bit more careful about dragging a metal object connected to their metal hull by a metal chain around a 100+kV cable.

        3.6 GW for, conservatively, 12h/day is 43.2GWh/day or over 15,000GWh/year. Even selling electricity at a fairly low £0.20/kWh, and even considering overhead costs, that's a cool £3bn/yr in projected revenue - I'm sure they can raise (probably already have raised) the required capital, even to absorb the spike in Copper prices.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          I can assure you no cable sold as maintenance free, is.

          6 to 12 yearly inspections are not unusual for onshore. It's worse offshore because the cables can move.

          But yes, otherwise your analysis of the sales figures is plausible. I'd love to know how xlinks are hedging the copper issue... Prices have already gone up massively and a bunch of politics are blockers to opening up new copper mines (this was in fact a central issue in the recent Chilean general election).

      7. Persona Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        (wind), and could be made much more reliable for the sake of sorting out some transmission scale storage

        The problem I have with UK wind power is that it is so variable. As I'm writing, wind is generating just 0.57GW. We can and do get spells where wind is insignificant for a couple of weeks. Storage would indeed help, but to cover that sort of outage would need (I recall) about 6,000 Dinorwig pumped storage systems.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          Precisely why we need more interconnects. It's always windy somewhere.

      8. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        "for the sake of sorting out some transmission scale storage"

        If EV's are to be the dominate form of transportation in 5 years (according to the Bentley/Range Rover driving politicians), forget adding super scale batteries to the grid and work more in integrating those EV's to be used as the reserve when they are plugged in. Having distributed storage is much better than putting everything into a few discrete facilities.

    3. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

      Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

      Geothermal drilling in Cornwall recently caused earth tremors, of much the same magnitude as fracking caused, which were used to get fracking suspended in the UK.

      The fact that we have just had a natural earthquake in the UK somewhat more powerful and which caused no significant damage and no injuries is unlikely to have the slightest impact on the fracking argument.

      So Geothermal - yup, good idea, and the technology seems to work and be able to provide reliable 24 hours/day energy. However, be prepared for objections from the self-proclaimed environmentalists.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        Geothermal drilling in Cornwall recently caused earth tremors, of much the same magnitude as fracking caused, which were used to get fracking suspended in the UK.

        That's basically because they were fraccing. Although they go to great lengths to avoid using the 'f' word. Geothermal fraccing is even more risky than plain'ol gas given the thermal shocks. The Eden Project's fraccing is even more amusing because Cornwall. So due to granite and naturally high radiation, their 'Green' project actually generates radioactive waste, and irradiates much of it's piping, heat exchangers etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        Geothermal at scale to subsitute burning gas is not really practical in UK. Iceland; yes.

        Minor problem of getting power from Iceland to somewhere useful. Like xlinks, there is such a project underway.

        Of course, rather than bringing power to the data centre; we could take the data centre to Iceland instead where it has better cooling. And telecoms long distance is a lot cheaper & easier than GW scale power transmission.

      3. Persona Silver badge

        Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

        Traditional geothermal uses two pipes and water flowing between them possibly with a type of fracking used to enhance the flow. The gyrotron drilling is very different. It's a single hole that is very very deep to get high temperature and high heat transfer. The hole is vitrified and sealed so there should be no chance of it causing earthquakes.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

          The hole is vitrified and sealed so there should be no chance of it causing earthquakes.

          Quakes are pretty much inevitable. You're taking heat out of hot rocks, which then contract and you get a quake. Probably minor, but not always. On the plus side, thermal stresses and fractures would increase the contact area and heat transfer. On the minus, you might lose your working fluid.

          But basically every argument eco-facists use against fraccing also apply to geothermal fraccing, because after all it's the same thing. Some geothermal effects are arguably worse, ie because the fluid's recirculated in geothermal systems, it'll accumulate more 'toxins' than in gas fraccing. The more hot water is circulated through a few km's of rock, the more minerals etc it'll accumulate.

          Again Eden became more fun due to granite and radon adding to the challenge. There's also been some other fun geothermal side-effects, like creating mud volcanoes. I'm also curious just how sustainable geothermal actually is, ie if you're extracting heat from rocks, presumably eventually those will cool down and you'd then have to wait for them to warm up again and recharge.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

      geothermal is GREAT news, but here is a problem: think of the reaction by environmentalists to FRACKING, which just might double the amount of oil that can be extracted economically from an oil well (and if I remember correctly, helps TREMENDOUSLY with natural gas extraction, which carbon-neutral people should LOVE).

      Then consider how many "it affected my cows" claims will fling multiple lawsuits at ANYONE trying to produce energy from geothermal, regardless of how much you AND *I* like the idea.

      Because, it is NOT about the environment, about some farmer's cows, or about saving the planet. It is about ECONOMIC CONTROL. (snip the rest, it's what I've said many times about taxation and elitists and whatnot)

      Still, practical geothermal plants. I like that.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Fusion quite possibly will never work but there are alternatives

      "The technology it needs is 3,800km high voltage undersea cables, which sounds absurd"

      Yes, it does sound absurd. Why not just site power hungry industries nearby and use the power locally? I do believe that countries can't slave themselves to a foreign state if they expect to survive in the long term. Let's face it, people are already doing it to themselves every time they buy cheap tat made in China at the local big box store.

  8. Binraider Silver badge

    Assuming working commercial designs can be up and running within 28 years (Hmmm....!), one then has to stamp them out in adequate numbers to meet demand; plus transmission and, most crucially, the distribution capacity to use them in all the places where oil and gas need to be substituted.

    Given the lead time on even a bog standard CCGT is at least 5 years one does not suppose the transition away will be especially quick.

    I don't dispute the potential of fusion to end a lot of the worlds problems with energy, but companies don't just decommission perfectly good equipment with decades of life left in it.

    Not unless you outlaw / hard end date the older technology through other means.

  9. msobkow Silver badge

    Fusion is still a better bet than the "Small Modular Reactors" our clown premier, Moe, is funding here in Saskatchewan. And carbon capture. Anything and everything is being done here to avoid actually TACKLING the problem at hand. :(

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Beware of false dichotomy.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        I don't see one in the conclusion: the subsidy industry is up and running and, largely, driving policy.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Just like it is/was for nuclear: in the UK, the non-fossil levy used to be largely a subsidy for economically unviable nuclear plants

    2. sitta_europea

      [quote]

      Fusion is still a better bet than the "Small Modular Reactors" ...

      [/quote]

      Haven't you been paying attention?

      1. msobkow Silver badge

        Scott Moe insists on funding the development of made-in-Canada SMRs instead of buying something that already exists. Hence it being a taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Oops.

    ...keeping average global heating within the 1.5˚C margin.

    That ship has sailed, reached its destination, docked, unloaded, taken on new cargo and started back. Anyone who thinks that target is in any way achievable is talking out of their bum.

    We need to be spending cash on solutions for living with a warmer climate, not pissing it up the wall in a grandiose "King Cnut" exercise at the behest of the agitprop brigade[1].

    [1] Who, if you really do everything they ask, will just repay you by finding some other reason to chuck bricks through your windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oops.

      Flood defences on standby. See Thames 2100 for their modelling and which ones the EA is leaving to rot.

  11. Snowy Silver badge

    Shame

    It is the poorest who are asked to make the biggest sacrifice for the climate.

  12. VoiceOfTruth

    I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

    Though I expect it will be a weight around the necks of taxpayers for the next 100 years.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

      Billpayer, rather than taxpayer due to privatisation. But yes, those that want their pound of flesh will continue to demand it somewhere.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

      "Too cheap to meter" was always a red herring based on the 60s experience that the largest cost of supplying power was the fuel. So teh view was - if we can power this thing with seawater it's going to be dirt cheap... forgetting the billions in capital expenditure needed to build and maintain the plants.

      Of course it's not going to be too cheap to meter, it never will be, and there is no problem with that. a few hundred quid a year for all the electricity you can consume is an amazingly good deal for most consumers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

        And you really think that governments are not going to step in with new taxes once that happens?

        Don't forget that fossil fuel sales make up a lot of the money that politicians get to spend on themselves and their pet/mates' projects so as soon as that income starts to wane they'll find other ways to ensure your cost of living stays high.

        As a matter of fact, i's one of the main most immediate issues I see with mass EV adoption.

      2. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

        a few hundred quid a year for all the electricity you can consume is an amazingly good deal for most consumers.
        That is "Too cheap to meter".

        The promise wasn't free electricity, but rather you pay a subscription and it's "all you can drink".

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

          "That is "Too cheap to meter"."

          For western middle-class, sure. For higher incomes it's loose change behind the sofa. Not to say there aren't many people around the poverty line who DO have to be careful with consumption. But even then pretty much everyone, even in the poorest parts of the world that have electricity, can run some lights and a fridge.

          "you pay a subscription and it's "all you can drink". "

          Realistically, a large proportion of the western world uses "all you can drink" at the point of consumption even though they are paying per unit, so yes, right now it is already remarkably cheap. But just as mobile phone connections are still split into PAYG and "all you can use" contracts, I'm sure that even after the advent of "unlimited subscription" electricity there will still be metered connections for low-volume consumers.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I hope that nuclear fusion will be too cheap to meter

      People spend good money on bovine excrement so whenever there is a demand for something, there will be a price attached to it. Electricity will never be too cheap to meter as its perceived value is never going to be zero. It's also been pointed out that even if the generation cost is zero, the transmission cost will never be zero. Nor will the cost of safety, insurance and government regulations.

  13. Palf

    Wot? No fuel?

    Aneutronic fusion - as per e.g. LPPFusion is trying out - requires only hydrogen and boron-11, the most common isotope. Thus there's thousands of years of fuel just lying around.

  14. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

    Sustainable growth?

    Having a virtually unlimited "clean" source of energy from nuclear fusion does not solve the fundamental problem of industrial economies: that they require ever increasing inputs in order to sustain growth. This occurs in developed societies, where population growth has more or less levelled off, so it is not just a case of a Malthusian disaster of exponential population growth. We consume too much stuff, and the economic system demands that we keep on doing that more and more.

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