back to article Brits and Yanks join forces to make fusion magnets cool again

UK nuclear fusion outfit Tokamak Energy is teaming up with General Atomics in the US to work on high temperature superconducting magnets for fusion reactors and other potential industry applications. The company, based near Oxford, recently announced a breakthrough in magnet systems for containing the high temperature fusion …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF)

    Pronounced JIF

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF)

      Or CIF if you are European.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF)

        That was a clean pun...

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    If you want a second unit of temperature ...

    please use Kelvin, not Fahrenheit

    1. Down not across

      Re: If you want a second unit of temperature ...

      Primary unit should've been Kelvin to begin with (IMHO). No objection to having Celsius as secondary.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: If you want a second unit of temperature ...

        If you are discussing temperatures of liquid Helium then perhaps Rankine ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If you want a second unit of temperature ...

          Rankine? Please, this is el Reg. The primary unit for temperature around these parts is the Hilton.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: If you want a second unit of temperature ...

            The Hilton might be appropriate for the range at which pert-ness can be measured. But at -250C we do have to use the Geordie mini-dress/T-shirt scale

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: If you want a second unit of temperature ...

      Rankine scale or bust!

  3. Flak
    Coat

    Seriously Cool!

    (drop mic)

  4. DJO Silver badge

    Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

    One kilogram of fusion fuel releases the same amount of energy as burning around 10 million kilograms of coal

    1 kilo of Deuterium costs about $4,000

    1 kilo of Tritium costs about $10,000,000 (if you could buy that much, which you cannot)

    10 million kg of coal costs about $420,000

    While there is a good argument for fusion on ecological grounds and the size of the reactor, it's never going to be cheaper than coal.

    It should be possible to manufacture tritium in the reactor using the Neutron-Boron reaction - unfortunately that needs a rare isotope of Boron and that's even more expensive costing maybe $2,000,000,000 per kilo of Tritium produced but this artificial Tritium production would be essential for commercial fusion as there is only about 4 to 5 kilos of natural Tritium on Earth.

    Footnote: Boys and girls, if you want to be rich beyond the dreams of Croesus, find a (relatively) cheap way to make Tritium.

    1. tony72

      Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

      it's never going to be cheaper than coal.

      Never say never. People used to think photovoltaics would never be a practical way to generate energy on a large scale; they were exotic and expensive things that the likes of NASA used on spacecraft. They didn't foresee prices tumbling by orders of magnitude as they did in reality, and now they're one of the cheapest ways to generate power.

      Cheaper ways to produce deuterium have been proposed, such as quantum sieves. Current methods could probably be optimised if there was demand also. There may be alternatives to tritium; Helion is using Helium-3 which they will produce as part of their process, so they say. And if course there's all that Helium-3 on the moon. Can't predict the future, but it would be somewhat foolhardy to claim that current prices can't possibly be significantly improved upon.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

        Deuterium is not the problem. Tritium is vanishingly rare and commensurately expensive and all the synthesis methods so far are even more expensive than extracting natural Tritium.

        He3 is only about $100,000 per kilo but nobody is anywhere near working He3 fusion, it might happen but not for a while. As for the He3 on the moon I suspect the costs to mine and ship back to Earth would be prohibitive.

        foolhardy to claim that current prices can't possibly be significantly improved upon.

        I didn't, look at my last line suggesting that a good way to get really rich would be to find a cheaper way to make Tritium but even then considering H2/H3 fusion fuel is over 10 times the cost of fossil fuel to generate the same amount of energy and given a fusion reactor is going to cost a lot more than a simple thermal generator and have a shorter life and cost more to decommission the reduction in fuel costs would have to be beyond reasonable probability to get to near to parity with thermal generation.

        Maybe before your time but when Calder Hall was switched on we were promised "Electricity too cheap to meter" - that turned out well didn't it?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

          > Tritium is vanishingly rare and commensurately expensive and all the synthesis methods so far are even more expensive than extracting natural Tritium.

          Because all the current synthesis methods are to produce vanishingly small quantities for nuclear weapons and research - that's why it costs a gadzillion $

          ITER will breed Tritium in situ - almost by accident, neutrons from the magic pixies dust in the Tokomak will hit a cheap Lithium jacket and make Tritium. Extracting it is a bit tricky but they don't need the hyper-purity you need for research

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

            cheap Lithium jacket

            Ho ho, that's funny. The isotope of lithium (6) required for the tritium generating neutron/lithium reaction is also incredibly rare and the reaction will not be able to make enough tritium to be self-supporting - extra tritium will be required from somewhere and with ITER using all the commercially available tritium and the US Nuclear weapons people not willing to sell any of their supply it's not looking good for sustainable fusion.

            https://news.newenergytimes.net/2021/10/10/the-fusion-fuel-discrepancy-the-scientific-facts/

            https://www.wired.co.uk/article/nuclear-fusion-is-already-facing-a-fuel-crisis

            https://scientific-publications.ukaea.uk/wp-content/uploads/CCFE-PR1767-1.pdf

            https://vixra.org/pdf/1702.0190v1.pdf

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

              To clarify, ITER will use existing Tritium stockpiles for it's fusion tests (from the UK at least before it left Euratom - hopefully that's still OK) it will generate Tritium in-situ as a test of the methods for a commercial reactor. And although the Tritium reaction only occurs with Li-6, you don't need pure Li-6. It's not like fusion where the wrong isotopes 'poison' the reaction. If you have 10% Li-6 you get 10% of the rate.

              Note that 'newenergytimes' is founded by proponents of cold low-energy fusion and spends most of it's time attacking ITER. There's a lot wrong with ITER politically but that's life in multi-national multi-decade, multi-billion projectes

              1. DJO Silver badge

                Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

                Even if the lithium sleeve was 100% Li6 it could not make enough tritium to sustain the reaction so having less Li6 will just result in a greater shortfall.

                Just to add to the fun the by-products of the Li6/neutron reaction are intensely radioactive (so much for fusion being "clean") and obviously the reactor would need to be shut down each time the Li6 needed replenishment.

                For D/T fusion a new source of tritium is needed, currently there are no feasible or economical processes known. Hopefully it is a solvable problem - time will tell.

                There is some interesting work on mashing deuterium to tritium but so far the energy requirements are prohibitive.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

      There's a lot more to energy cost than the price of the 'fuel'. If that was the only cost wind and solar would be free.

      So even if the cost of the inputs remain more expensive for fusion vs coal that doesn't mean that fusion power would be more expensive. There's also the matter of coal plants fouling up the environment with their emissions (both traditional pollution and CO2) as well as the massive environmental problem of the piles of coal ash that aren't emitted out the smokestack. Coal power plants don't bear anything like the true cost of their environmental impact - if they did, they would all have been shut down many years ago as uneconomic.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

        That's the advantage of killing millions of people slowly over decades - nobody cares.

        It might be the selling point for the new micro fission reactors everyone is excited about. If you put one in every highschool and every day one of them blew up and killed a dozen kids we wouldn't have to do anything to stop it, just send 'thoughts and prayers'.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Tell me again why fusion is such a good idea.

          Micro fission reactors don't kill people, people do.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deja vu ?

    Ah, room-temperature superconductors. Just 5 years away

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Deja vu ?

      Got them now although there is a teeny tiny problem with pressure.

      You need about 1 gigapascal of pressure which is around 10,000 x sea level air pressure so a touch impractical for everyday use.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Deja vu ?

        Interesting that their breakthrough "high temperature" SC is still 20K, there are pure metal SC at around 10K since the first discovery

        We've had "High temperature" SC at 80K for 40 years, still cold enough for a Geordie to wear a coat, but at least liquid Nitrogen rather than Liquid Helium/Hydrogen.

        They were considered for ITER but it was impossible to make wires and tricky to even make these kind of tapes so ITER played it safe and used conventional liquid Helium temperatures

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