JASON on Producing Tritium for Fusion Reactors

If nuclear fusion were ever to become a practical method of generating electrical  energy, there would be a continuing requirement to produce significant quantities of tritium for fusion reactor fuel.  The JASON scientific advisory panel was asked by the Department of Energy to assess the feasibility of large scale tritium production.  Its findings were presented in a new report obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Tritium,” November 2011.

7 Responses to “JASON on Producing Tritium for Fusion Reactors”

  1. James January 2, 2012 at 1:05 PM #

    The idea with fusion reactors is to breed the Tritium from the process itself. The neutron flux from a fusion reactor will be captured in a Lithium “Blanket” where the energy will be converted into heat then used conventionally to run turbines and generate electricity. The main bi-product is Helium, which must be extracted from the Lithium system (not too hard) but there will also be Tritium, which will be “scrubbed” from the energy capture system and reprocessed to make the fuel (a 50:50 mix with Deuterium).
    The call for manufacture of Tritium will be for the “start-up” inventory which allows each plant to begin breeding its own Tritium. This is not a trivial issue however, and should be taken seriously by the DoE, (and anyone else interested in a long-term energy source) since each fusion power plant will require a startup inventory and, once controlled fusion has been harnessed as a commercially viable power source, many power plants will need to be constructed and brought online. Watch in the next year or two for progress on fusion energy research at the National Ignition Facility lasers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
    We all need fusion… if we want to keep the lights on in the future !

  2. Roger January 2, 2012 at 1:32 PM #

    Aneutronic fusion does not depend on tritium to work. It uses boron-11 that is plentiful in the Earth’s crust. There is no need of mechanical steam turbines, it can produce electricity directly.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqnk19hn7Rc

  3. James January 2, 2012 at 5:39 PM #

    Thanks Roger,
    I’ll be interested to know when the first commercial power plant is up and running on aneutronic fusion.
    Regards,
    James

  4. Marylia Kelley January 2, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

    James says, “…Watch in the next year or two for progress on fusion energy research at the National Ignition Facility lasers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”

    I have been watching NIF at LLNL since it was called the Nova Upgrade in 1992. I used to serve as a community watchdog on an LLNL NIF task force. I have seen ignition at NIF promised by LLNL management in 2002, then 2003, then rebaselined to 2010 (absolutely for certain by 2010 we were all told), and now James says to “watch in the next year or two for progress on… research”

    Really? Progress on research is a mighty low bar for a program that has already burned around $7 billion (depending on what you include as NIF R&D costs as well as direct construction). Moreover, NIF is slated to cost the tax-payers nearly $500 million annually every year into the future, according to the NNSA “greenbook” and other documents.

    I am not calling fusion ignition at NIF impossible, but it is uncertain (and even unlikely) as we enter 2012.

    Further, at what cost will we continue to pursue it?

    No one who is serious thinks a fusion energy facility will be a giant glass laser (like NIF) and many think NIF’s utility to the commercial fusion energy enterprise is being vastly overstated by NIF proponents, leaving aside for the moment the bigger question of whether fusion energy is well – or ill – advised as an energy path.

    I would advise a bit more skepticism, lest we tax-payers continue to get fleeced for many billions more.

  5. Dirk Bruere January 4, 2012 at 8:11 PM #

    Aneutronic fusion eg Polywell and Dense Plasma Focus
    Timescale, possibly within 5 years

  6. HARM January 4, 2012 at 8:43 PM #

    Marylia Kelley Said: “Really? Progress on research is a mighty low bar for a program that has already burned around $7 billion (depending on what you include as NIF R&D costs as well as direct construction). Moreover, NIF is slated to cost the tax-payers nearly $500 million annually every year into the future, according to the NNSA “greenbook” and other documents.”

    $7 billion is certainly a lot of money, however when you consider that it represents:
    1. cumulative R&D costs spread over a 20-year period
    2. a potentially gargantuan payout (virtually free, limitless energy)
    3. pales in comparison to the money spent on failed/cancelled military D&R projects, bankster bailouts, graft, corruption, etc.

    Then it doesn’t seem that much at all. Nothing is ever certain, and cutting edge R&D is the very definition of uncertain, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad idea, does it? Or perhaps we should stop ever trying to do new things because they’ve never been done before and just stick with 2012 technology forever.

  7. defender January 10, 2012 at 6:51 PM #

    Marylia Kelley gives me hope that otherwise brilliant (hopefully) brains can occasionally also think, not just try to outdo each other in the rush to selfdestruction.

    The assumption that NO OTHER adequate (or even more so) sources of energy can be – or perhaps even are – developed is a malaise equal to a middle ages plague. May “The Force” guide us better…