Homepage Forums General Transition Issues Repowering the electric utility industry

This topic contains 55 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Brian H 10 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #511
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    Rematog
    Member

    The Fusion Future

    #2769
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    Rematog
    Member

    How I see it happening.
    Yes, this is just my opinion. But, I would submit that it is an educated opinion. I base it on the way the power industry exists today, in the United States, with it

    #2774
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    Rematog
    Member

    I would also expect this model to be common in the developed world. In the developing world, without our expensive power transmission network, the Fusion power block will likely be distributed, though still likely with several blocks sited together for ease of maintenance and supervision. If you think about it, they would still be attended (to prevent theft of valuable copper parts if for no other reason).

    The power would then still travel by a local distrbution network to the end users homes and businesses.

    Certain, cheap fusion power would be a massive boon to the developing world. Making life better, allowing heating and cooking without stripping forests for wood and making new economic opportunities available. (pumping water for irrigation, etc). Some of the best foreign aid to deveoping countries could be providing them with fusion power blocks and training in their operation and maintenance.

    BUT…no technology short of fantasy will help the third world unless the third world deals with it’s population increase issues. For countries already overpopulated to have population growth rates of 4% (doubling in about 18 years!!!) is unsupportable for even another lifetime.

    #2775
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    Lerner
    Participant

    I think the single 5 MW units will be more important in developing countries than here. I suspect that something in between single units and huge 200-unit farms will be ideal. I can see the point that it makes sense to have enough together that you have a full-time staff, but that would probably be as low as ten units.

    Also, we have been talking about 0.2 cents per kWh–that is not exactly cents per MWh.

    I don’t agree that FF will be treated like fission for a generation. If it is, it won’t happen, at least not in the US, where no fission plants have been built in decades. People are not that dumb. They accept the use of radioactive materials in medicine, they know that there’s a difference based on amount, so if we can show that we are talking about billions of times less radioactivity and NO long-term radioactivity above background, they can understand that.

    #2794
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    Brian H
    Member

    Lerner wrote: I think the single 5 MW units will be more important in developing countries than here. I suspect that something in between single units and huge 200-unit farms will be ideal. I can see the point that it makes sense to have enough together that you have a full-time staff, but that would probably be as low as ten units.

    Also, we have been talking about 0.2 cents per kWh–that is not exactly cents per MWh.

    I don’t agree that FF will be treated like fission for a generation. If it is, it won’t happen, at least not in the US, where no fission plants have been built in decades. People are not that dumb. They accept the use of radioactive materials in medicine, they know that there’s a difference based on amount, so if we can show that we are talking about billions of times less radioactivity and NO long-term radioactivity above background, they can understand that.

    This is a great thread.

    Your points about industrial users having their own makes me wonder about office towers, etc. Given the massive computerization of even purely white-collar work, the draw in a 10-40 story building must be more than 5GW. And if they’re designed with built-in heat pumps for heating/cooling, it could make for a very attractive off-grid option — though there would probably be some value in bing able to upload power in excess of nighttime requirements.

    There is a whole lot to be contemplated in the “Unintended Consequences” category. On the upside, think of all the activities and products etc. that are not now produced because energy is too expensive. Consider the explosive boom in EV manufacturing. On the ??? side, consider the waning of concern about energy efficiency and super-insulated (and airtight, often sick) buildings. Who needs ’em?

    Spin-off consequences include a huge reduction in the cost of aluminum, as power to Bessemer furnaces drops in cost by a factor of 50.

    And building and operating a Space Elevator would suddenly be MUCH less costly.
    😉

    Anyhow, properly presented, I think there would be a possibility that having your own “neighborhood FF generator” would get to be a point of civic pride in some areas, and where the opinion-leaders go, a herd is sure to follow! 😆

    #2805
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    JimmyT
    Participant

    Brian
    Hey! Another space elevator fan. Another worthy project, albiet much less advanced and more complex, but also complimentary to this one.

    #2807
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    Brian H
    Member

    JimmyT wrote: Brian
    Hey! Another space elevator fan. Another worthy project, albiet much less advanced and more complex, but also complimentary to this one.

    The ironies, along the line of “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; …”, abound. A paltry few million holds back progress on FF, which would enable the rapid building and powering of the Space Elevator for a paltry few billion, which would enable access to asteroid resources worth quadrillions.

    #2831
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    Rematog
    Member

    Brian….I assume you mean 5 MW. 5 GW would be enough to power a medium sized city.

    Placing in individual buildings….maybe in medium to long range future.

    I know Mr. Lerner feels this will happen sooner rather than later. I just disagree. It is still a reactor, so will be regulated. And it has a very dangerous chemical for a fuel…not something you can leave un-attended. Maintenance will require trained crafts with engineering/physics and management support. The cost trade-off between transmission system costs vs extra cost to operate the Focus Fusion unit’s distributed will in end drive the decision.

    Why would it cost more to operate distributed? Distributed intallation would have travel time and other costs for maintenance personnel to visit for repairs that a central facility would avoid for one. Distrubuted installation would also have added cost for security and monitoring of remote locations. Higher cost to install one here, one there (placing a hundred Focus Fusion block at a central facility would reduce unit cost to install). How would haz-mat response be done for distributed focus fusion units?

    Think about the building managers and building maintenance personnel you’ve known. Do you want to work/live in building where they would be running a fusion reactor? With neurotoxic fuel?

    #2832
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    Rematog
    Member

    Do not think that my disagreement with distributed installation means I am “against” Focus Fusion. If it works at 10 times the cost that is claimed on this site, it would still quickly come to dominate power generation. Even if more expensive then coal or fission, it would be much better from an envionmental standpoint alone.

    And if it’s costs are close to what I have estimated, based on information from this site, I would see my home power bill drop to 1/2 or even 1/3 it’s current amount. And, it would provide the potential for growth to take over from other power sources for transportion, whether from electric vehicles or synthetic fuel production, without increasing envionmental impact from fossil fuels or fission byproducts.

    And the cost savings and envionmental benefits would ripple thru the industrial sector, resulting in most manufactured items dropping in price, and having less environmental impacts. The greater real wealth this would provide, for both developed economies and the developing world, would allow more concern for the environment to be practical.

    So, while I may debate the details… I agree that if it can be developed, this would be a world changing technology.

    #2834
    Avatar
    Brian H
    Member

    Rematog wrote: Brian….I assume you mean 5 MW. 5 GW would be enough to power a medium sized city.

    Placing in individual buildings….maybe in medium to long range future.

    I know Mr. Lerner feels this will happen sooner rather than later. I just disagree. It is still a reactor, so will be regulated. And it has a very dangerous chemical for a fuel…not something you can leave un-attended. Maintenance will require trained crafts with engineering/physics and management support. The cost trade-off between transmission system costs vs extra cost to operate the Focus Fusion unit’s distributed will in end drive the decision.

    Why would it cost more to operate distributed? Distributed intallation would have travel time and other costs for maintenance personnel to visit for repairs that a central facility would avoid for one. Distrubuted installation would also have added cost for security and monitoring of remote locations. Higher cost to install one here, one there (placing a hundred Focus Fusion block at a central facility would reduce unit cost to install). How would haz-mat response be done for distributed focus fusion units?

    Think about the building managers and building maintenance personnel you’ve known. Do you want to work/live in building where they would be running a fission reactor? With neurotoxic fuel?

    I assume you mean “running a fusion reactor”. The “running” is kind of the point of disagreement. The running would be remote, local supervision would be nominal, limited to controlling access, I’d think.

    I envisage distributed distribution as enabling more flexible decision-making about siting of industrial, commercial and even residential activity. Offsetting travel and maintenance costs would be reduction of transmission and transformer sub-station “layering”, not to mention transmission losses. There are dis-economies of scale, too.

    #2838
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    Rematog
    Member

    Brian,

    My bad on that, fusion/fission thing. I’ve corrected my original post.

    You are right about transmission losses and cost of transmission facilities. I agree, focus fusion would lend itself to smaller facilities, and eventually, they could be close to urban areas.

    And, what is not being stressed enough, is the possible use of focus fusion (both for power and heat) in industrial facilities. Again, it would start with the big, power intensive industries, aluminum, steel, paper, chemical etc. With time, both acceptance, and a work force skilled in operation would allow use in smaller industrial facilities. And, lower cost power would make new things possible. Heavy industrial users would get full benefit of the cost reductions, and this would eventually result in lower prices on the goods they make, benefiting everyone.

    Depending on costs, electrolysis of water for hydrogen, with nitrogen taken from the air, would allow ammonia production without natural gas feed stocks (currently most common method). Not only can ammonia be used as a fertilizer, it may also be usable as a fuel for a fuel cell. This could be a possible means to move to a hydrogen economy.

    I have worked for a very small (privately owned) facility. I’ve seen the short cuts they took. I’d be very uncomfortable about that kind of operation running a fission plant. I’m not saying all small operators would be bad…but some certainly would be. At least large companies, as they are run today, are VERY afraid of risk. They would be quite concerned with safety and avoiding accidents. The fact they have deep pockets means they don’t want to be in a situation of having a serious liability issue come up at plants they run. Again, certainly not saying they are perfect (they certainly are not). But this is why I’m not a believer in distributed use as realistic in the first phase of deployment (first 20 years). After that, we would have to see.

    #2839
    Avatar
    Lerner
    Participant

    Ther are two issues here. One is the safety of focus fusion reactors. The second is the economies of distributed vs. centralized power supply.

    On safety, let’s look at the chemical and the nuclear angels. Being alarmed at the chemotoxicity of decaborane seems to me to be a big distortion of the dangers involved. I think you have to compare the toxicity of a few kg of decaborane with the toxicity of many tanker-fulls of petroleum, which people do use to heat their own homes. Modern society can’t operate without having toxic and flammable materials in close proximity to population concentrations. Would you locate university chemistry departments outside of cities? They do not have 24/7 personnel either.

    On the nuclear side , you can not make the equation fusion reactor= fission reactor. The only thing they have in common is nuclear reactions. A fission reactor, even a small one, has a huge inventory of radioactive materials. FF will have a quite tiny one, all shortlived. We can’t calculate exactly how much right now but we are certainly talking about millions-fold less. Quantity does matter. Remember, folks, we all have radioactive materials in our own homes–smoke detectors.

    On economics, there are fairly big savings from distributed energy. If we are talking about expanding energy production, the cost of distribution is significant and would be greatly reduced with distributed production, as would the costs of large-scale outages. Will that counter-balance travel time for skilled labor? You would have to look at some realistic numbers. But distribution from remote centralized GW generators is not free.

    #2840
    Avatar
    Lerner
    Participant

    C’mon Rematog, the grass is always greener, right? You think small companies cut corners on safety because you work for one and see it. From what I have read, if you worked for a big one, especially a non-union one, you would think they are the ones that cut more corners on safety.

    Actually, even in this land of private enterprise, there are state-owned utilities. I suspect that they will be the first to take up FF and they will have a lot less motivation for cutting corners and a lot less ability to do so without detection. In fact, I suspect that a lot of cites that don’t have municipal power will want to set them up when they realize how much cheaper it will be.

    In many countries power is still state-owned. Obviously states can be careless, too. The cure is a transparent system, with workers empowered to point out ways safety can be enahnced.

    Most of this has to be worked out politically by mobilizing the population. But some of it can be built into the licensing agreements we eventually work out.

    #2843
    Avatar
    Brian H
    Member

    Rematog wrote: Brian,

    My bad on that, fusion/fission thing. I’ve corrected my original post.

    Actually, it was the comment immediately above mine I was referencing. And it’s still not corrected. 🙂 😉

    Actually, as Eric notes, there are lots of ways to skin these cats. I personally fervently hope the point comes ASAP that these are the kinds of worries FF has. The campaign to get it deployed, once proven, will be terrific fun! :coolgrin:

    Come to think of it, one of the professions having the most fun will be accountants trying to minimize the damage of having to write off trillions of dollars worth of obsolete plant! 😆

    #2845
    Avatar
    Brian H
    Member

    Rematog wrote:

    Certain, cheap fusion power would be a massive boon to the developing world. Making life better, allowing heating and cooking without stripping forests for wood and making new economic opertunities available. (pumping water for irrigation, etc). Some of the best foreign add to deveoping countries could be providing them with fusion power blocks and training in their operation and maintenance.

    BUT…no technology short of fantasy will help the third world unless the third world deals with it’s population increase issues. For countries already overpopulated to have population growth rates of 4% (doubling in about 18 years!!!) to unsupportable for even another lifetime.

    I think you answered yourself. It is a universal observation that as soon as economic stability and prospects improve substantively, parents stop popping babies and begin to attend to quality instead of quantity of life as a strategy to optimize survival.

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