My question is how do they know that alternative concepts are economically competitive?
As always these are based on the starting assumption of “... if a particular method works.”
If it is assumed that a given aneutronic process works, such as Focus Fusion or Polywell, then the basic order of magnitude costs of those generators have already been gamed out. They work or they don’t. Others such as Tri-Alpha’s (whatever they’ll call it) still have insufficient public info as to base costs.
But the primary driver of baseload-class plant costs is not the power source. It’s the generators that turn that power into electricity.
So if one speaks of proton-Boron fusion as Hirsch does and as we do here, then one is perforce speaking of direct conversion of fusion energy to electricity. No turbines.
Direct conversion is not a mystery, we’ve just not had much use for it in power generation up till now. But there would be no turbines.
And that would, without a doubt, mean massive savings over the equivalent structures in any given fossil or fission power plant. Baseload electricity generation via turbines is expensive. Massive arrays of costly moving parts constantly wearing themselves down.
So in order for the cost of a given aneutronic process to be non-competitive it would not only have to exceed the cost of its fossil or fission equivalent power source but it would also have to exceed the cost of the associated generation gear.
Not going to happen. FF units, for example, would need to have their current estimated costs come in at over *50* times the current budget in order to… draw even with current power sources. Co-gen, using the waste FF heat as industrial process heat etc etc, more than doubles that margin.
*If* a given aneutronic process works it will be competitive… and then some
This has been the bane of the mainline ICF and MCF programs for years. Claims of clean, cheap energy without a configuration that is capable of producing more energy than it takes in. Doesn’t it seem premature to assume the economics are known before the physics is demonstrated to work?
Nope. Not with the scale of savings that the basic concept of aneutronic fusion brings to the table.
Doesn’t engineering the system need to be done to understand the components and people that are the real cost of fusion? This will provide the inputs to decide if carbon free energy from fusion is worth the investment.
Sorry, no. A working aneutronic fusion process has a completely different set of cost assessments associated with it than any other power source. It has neither the noxious chemical outputs of fossil or the radioactive waste output of fission. It can provide both baseload and on-demand power. It can be both centralized and distributed….
It won’t be perfect, nothing ever is, but it will be far closer to an ideal power source than anything currently in use or planned.
It frustrates me to no end that national lab folks talk about clean, cheap energy as a way to keep pouring money into programs they know are not viable for producing energy.
And that’s why the aneutronic contenders struggle for funding to complete their research. Do you believe they are wrong for doing that research with the clearly stated goals of achieving aneutronic fusion power sources?