Nuclear Power

Fusion Power Only Ten Years Away? Would It Solve the Problem of Man-Made Climate Change?

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Fusion Reactor
BusinessInsider

One of the bitter jokes popular among frustrated aficionados of nuclear fusion power is that practical fusion energy is only 20 years away, and always will be. Yesterday, researchers at Lockheed Martin confidently announced that they had made a technological breakthrough that would enable them to build and test a prototype compact fusion reactor in a year and begin deploying them in ten years. Essentially, the Lockheed researchers claimed to have figured out how to confine the hot plasma needed for fusion in a much smaller and less finicky magnetic bottle than the conventional tokamak reactor. How much smaller? According to the BusinessInsider:

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, [Lockheed project head Tom] McGuire told reporters.

In a statement, the company, the Pentagon's largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years. …

Lockheed sees the project as part of a comprehensive approach to solving global energy and climate change problems.

The reactor would fuse deuterium and tritium to produce the heat needed to drive generators. Fusion produces much less radioactive waste than fission reactors and no greenhouse gases that warm the planet's atmosphere. 

Back during the cold fusion brouhaha in the 1980s, Stanford University population doomster Paul Ehrlich notoriously denounced the prospect of cheap, inexhaustible fusion power, declaring that it would be "like giving a machine gun to an idiot child." I wonder what he makes of Lockheed's announcement?

I, for one, really hope that the Lockheed researchers aren't overhyping their results and that we will see safe compact fusion reactors operating within a decade.

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  1. [prays to Yahweh that this pans out]

    1. So that it can solve a problem that hasn’t been proven to actually exist!

      1. it will solve a million problems. Don’t be so narrow minded.

        Desalination will become a non-issue with unlimited energy. Fresh water everywhere.

        Transportation will be thrown on its head. Cross contintental bullet trains – why not, free energy! Low-orbital flights getting you from LA to Paris in 90 minutes? Why not!

        1. Adjust your sarcasm meter. I was referring to the alleged “man-made climate change”. I know it would have many real benefits.

      2. Even without AGW, burning stuff for most of our energy comes with lots of problems.

        1. Not to mention the fact that those fossil fuels are put to far more valuable use as plastics, solvents, lubricants, and other chemical uses than simply being burned up for fuel.

          1. Aren’t those distinct products of refining? I don’t think gasoline can be re-made into motor oil or plastic, can it?

            1. It probably can be made into plastics. I think most hydrocarbons can be used as feed stock for things like that. It can also be further refined into solvents.

              1. Thing is, with cheap, clean primary energy like fusion, you can get hyrogen from seawater, get carbon from any number of sources, and use the 3 in various reactions to build up whatever molecules you need. We’ve used fossil fuels for feed stock prior because the energy required in the reactions is less. With basically unlimited energy, that’s not a concern….

            2. Probably can, it is just too valuable to do so right now compared to feedstocks that are easier to handle. Also, refining and cracking can be tweaked and probably would be if it became more profitable to sell molecules with double bonds for instance.

          2. Actually, not the same part of the crude oil. If we stopped using the fuel for fuel, we’d have a lot of this ‘by-product’ laying around causing issues. There are chemical processes to convert the ‘heavy’ parts of crude to the ‘lighter’ parts, but not so much the other way.

  2. and no greenhouse gases that ALLEGEDLY warm the planet’s atmosphere.

    Tisk, tisk, Ron.

    1. Exactly – and that’s the problem.

      The alleged greenhouse gas heat isn’t showing up. Fusion power would throw off ACTUAL heat.

      Since they are really anti-industry, look for the enviros to oppose it, maybe with more reason this time.

      1. I don’t think climate works that way. That amount of “actual” heat would have far less effect than greenhouse gases.

        1. There was a Green movement against Industrial produced heat in the 1970’s, but when you actually do the math you realize that society doesn’t produce a significant amount of heat when compared to the natural heat from the Earth and the Sun.

          1. We clearly need insulation against that insolation.

  3. Cool.

    But what do the Millennial LaRouchies think of it?

    1. Nuculu’r is dameberbus!

  4. Yeah, I hope it’s real too. Then we can watch the mental contortions the watermelons in the environmental movement will twist themselves into to justify abandoning or outright banning this method of energy.

    1. I don’t think they’ll contort much. It’ll be variations on “this is not a ‘natural’ power source”.

      1. Unlike coal, which is quite natural. A whole lot more natural than photovoltaics.

        1. I find it almost humorous that the watermelons totally ignore the undeniable environmental damage that photovoltaic production wreaks.

          But I guess its OK to leave a bunch of heavy metal waste in some Chinaman’s back yard, long as it’s not Ed Begley, Jr.’s.

          1. Not to mention battery production.

          2. But it’s made from Sunshine! Pure, clean, wholesome, sunshine!

    2. It will be delightfully amusing.

    3. Do you think their reaction to this will be knee-jerk, or something they will have to think about? I wonder how much thought they put into something they oppose.

      1. I am betting on knee-jerk. As I said on the other thread, I fully expect some greenie idiot to panic about all the neutrinos such reactors will emit.

        TBS, I think the TANSTAAFL rule still applies: There will undoubtedly be problems. The most likely one is that the containment vessel will be contaminated with radioactive isotopes. This will be much less than with fission reactors, but it will still be there. It will also be vastly overhyped.

        1. Neutrinos? You’re soaking in them.

          1. I know that. You know that. Anybody with the most basic knowledge of nuclear physics knows that.

            (I have forgotten how many trillion solar neutrinos pass through my body every second.)

            But simple facts have never stopped a greenie from panicking or scaremongering. See the Erlich quote noted by Ron.

            1. I know that you know that I know that you know that. I was just making a Palmolive/physics joke for no good reason.

              1. Ah, so that is how Madge died …

                1. I thought it had to do with the Palmolive being contaminated with substantial amounts of dihydrogen monoxide!

              2. Completely whiffed on the joke. I haven’t seen that commercial in decades.

                1. Me, either, but it’s burned into my brain, like the rest of the 70s.

                  “My husband, some hotshot. Ancient Chinese secret–we use Calgon!”

      2. “Do you think their reaction to this will be knee-jerk, or something they will have to think about? I wonder how much thought they put into something they oppose.”

        First one (which will get largely derided) then the other.

        1. Rinse and repeat.

    4. It would be refreshing if they finally dropped the mask and said that this will further contribute to overpopulation. If you are really crafty (or can ply them with enough alcohol) any true “environmentalist” will admit that what they really want is about two-thirds of the global population culled.

      1. “what they really want is about two-thirds of the global population culled.”

        I’d say they want at least a 2/3rd reduction.

        “To us it seems reasonable to assume that, until cultures and technology change radically, the optimum number of people to exist simultaneously km in the vicinity of 1.5 to 2 billion people.”

        – Paul Ehrlich

        http://dieoff.org/page99.htm

      2. I confess that I could cheerfully wave good-bye to a large chunk of the human race. The question is: Who gets to do the culling.

        TBS, if current fertility rates and trends hold, the world population drops below 500 million by the year 3000. (Note that this would be the result of people’s free choice.)

        1. Then you don’t understand the incredible role that population has in enabling specialization which in turn enables the economic progress we’ve seen. Basically: a drop in population will mean a serious step backwards economically, reducing your standard of living back 100 years.

          No thanks.

  5. This would be awesome.

    Might need some Lock Mart stock. Between this and the endless wars, how could I miss?

    1. Well, firing up the first test could ignite the atmosphere.

      1. If they accidently drop it in the ocean, it will burn all the Hydrogen leaving behind nothing but piles of oxygen.

        Tooo much oxygen isn’t good for mother Gaia. Can’t you see we’re killing the planet?

        1. *** eats handful of organic blueberries for the anti-oxidants ***

    2. Stand in line for that stock, I’m already there… not a huge amount, but enough to say that at least this time I listened to the little voices in my head rather than doing what “rational people” told me.

      1. Hard to imagine this wouldn’t be spun out into a separate company as commercialization approaches.

        1. Yes, but normally during a spin off a present stock owner would still get stock in the new company or a payout equal to the value of the new companies shares. Often they give you a choice.

      2. Historically, the companies that first develop something usually haven’t been the ones that make the big bucks on it.

        I think the best example is Kodak, who developed some of the first digital cameras.

        1. Heh, I actually worked on the software those first Kodak digitals used.

          Kodak’s biggest problem at the time was that they were institutionally blinded to the reality of digital photography, that demand for physical prints would rapidly wither and die.

          Instead of focusing their efforts on better and cheaper cameras they focused it on producing a photo printer to dock with the camera so that you could “print” 4×6 or 8×11 copies of your pictures onto Kodak film paper.

  6. Paul R. Ehrlich? He of the global cooling fame? Was he describing himself as an idiot child?

    1. Ehrlich is fucking useless if he doesn’t notice that propsperous and comfortable populations generally have much lower birth rates. If you really are worried about overpopulation, you need to support material economic growth.

      1. “Ehrlich is fucking useless”

        fixed.

  7. So when confronted with the possibility of man actually achieving the centuries old dream of cheap endless power through fusion your first thought is “could this solve global warming”?

    Really Ron? Really? I hope Lockhead is onto something too. If they are, it will solve a hell of a lot more real and important problems than global warming.

    Sometimes I wonder about you Ron. I really do.

    1. Don’t be so harsh John. Regardless, of the other huge benefits, reducing CO2 and maybe more importantly all the other crap from coal production, is still a significant benefit.

      1. I don’t see reducing CO2 as any benefit. The other things associated with coal production are very much a benefit.

        It would also enable us to decentralize our power grid making it much more resilient.

        1. It cost a lot of money to produce that CO2. At the very least, if given a choice, I’d rather not be paying to add it to the atmosphere. Currently, Gaia is free riding. If she wants the extra CO2 in the atmosphere, she can fund it.

          1. Why do you hate plants Mr. Watts? 😉

            1. Maybe he likes volcanoes.

              1. And ash, lot’s of lovely ash, quietly falling like a dark gray snow over the country side.

        2. All else being equal, putting less stuff into the atmosphere whose effects we are unsure of seems desirable.
          And, as others mention, co2 generally comes with other actual pollutants with demonstrated negative effects.

      2. If fusion really does happen and gets us to really cheap energy, we will have a whole lot more heat to deal with. Don’t know the physics of it, but that could be a real problem down the road, I suppose.

        1. Things are getting a lot more efficient. I don’t know how the efficiency of the fusion reactors will compare to coal, but I imagine there will be a lot more waste heat.
          I suppose most energy produced will eventually become heat in any case, but I think we would have to use an awful lot of energy before the heat produced becomes at all significant compared to what we get from the sun.

        2. “The total amount of energy received at ground level from the sun … hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunlight

          Size of the Earth: 5.1?10^14 m2

          So 1,120 W/m2 * 5.1×10^14 m2 = 5.7×10^17 W

          Or roughly 570,000 TeraWatts.

          Total human world wide energy usage is around 15 TeraWatts.

          So, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.

          1. Damn, I forgot to divide by two. The sun only hits half the Earth at a time.

            So that should be around 285,000 TeraWatts of sun energy.

            PS I probably made some other mistakes, so feel free to correct me if you see any.

            1. Albedo. Some of the energy hitting the ground makes it back out into space.

              1. also, flux != surface area (the earth is a flat disk from the sun’s perspective)

    2. Right.

      This technology would be infinitely bigger than global warming.

      If it’s real, it doesn’t matter if the globe warms. Mitigation becomes trivial when you remove the power constraint. We’d all be so fucking wealthy that flood control, carbon sequestration, whatever you want to do becomes a minor expense.

      Longer term, this technology opens up the fucking galaxy to human exploration. Pop a ramscoop in front of one and ZIP hello Alpha Centauri.

      1. Or a whole bunch of these things.

        http://pgtruspace.wordpress.co…..-thruster/

    3. Seriously. I’m more concerned with how this could help millions of people in third world countries get access to the benefits of modern technology.

      I’m not accusing Ron of this, but it’s disgusting how utterly unconcerned they are with actual, living human beings that benefit from capitalism.

      1. One of these trucks could power entire towns in the third world. Be deployed to immediately power hospitals and such after disasters. Billions of people without power now could have it because of this.

      2. If you ask Jamelle Bouie, you’d know that humans only benefit from capitalism when the government allows them to. That’s why we need a $10.10 minimum wage, which totally won’t reduce employment or encourage companies to shift from labor to capital.

    4. Christ, chill out. The only problem with global warming is all the hot air being spewed over it, and your narrow minded outlook isn’t helping.

      1. Yeah, being absolutely certain that it is not a problem is about as dumb as blindly believing that the worst predictions are certainties.

    5. Whatever you think about the science behind global warming theories, it might solve something. Even if just makes people shut up about it. Of course, they will find some other looming crisis to scare people with.

      1. True, The environmentalists are just anti-suburban, anti-car, and quite frankly anti-bourgeois.

  8. “Fusion Power Only Ten Years Away? Would It Solve the Problem of Man-Made Climate Change?”

    Well, if you assume Fusion that can produce 100MW that can be carried on a large truck, and if you assume the levelized production cost is comparable to the current cost of coal, then hell yes.

    It would steadily reduce the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere within a few decades. If the cost was cheap enough to compete with coal, then it would be much cheaper than current liquid fuels. So you’d see all ships and trains be upgraded to it as soon as economically allowable. If the power to weight ratio was high enough, you might even see large aircraft be upgraded to take advantage of it.

    On the other hand, there would still be environmental groups arguing that humans were using to much energy, regardless of the source. There are more than a few members of these groups that are essentially Luddites at heart.

    1. Global warming nonsense aside, the full cost of coal includes the environmental damage done mining it and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to transport it. Fusion wouldn’t require all of that. You just need the hydrogen to make the plasma, right?

      1. The deuterium (hydrogen) would require processing of sea water, but that’s not going to cause any environmental damage from a sane perspective.

        However, the tritium would actually involve industrial mining. That being said, it’s a byproduct of lithium mining, which we are already ramping up for battery production. So, the ‘net’ harm is trivial.

        But I’d lay a bet down, that if this went into wide scale production, that you’ll have various green groups that are currently lobbying for electric cars switch their propaganda 180, and start demanding an end to lithium mining.

        1. I am pretty sure you would win that bet. Greens love any technology so long as it doesn’t work that well.

        2. There are always the people who are terrified of any amount of radioactivity. Doesn’t tritium production from Li require some sort of nuclear reactor, or at least some strong neutron source? I’m no expert, so I may well be missing something.

          Lithium mining is needed for their precious electric cars, so that will be a bit of a conundrum.

          1. You can use the neutrons from the fusion reactor to breed tritium from Lithium. The amounts needed to keep the reaction going are not scary from a radioactivity (or a weapons proliferation) standpoint.

  9. I talked to a couple of guys I know who do high energy physics at the Mag Lab here. They aren’t saying its impossible, but it sounds like everyone else’s “plan” for commercial fusion power to them. Also, I forgot to ask them, but I was of the understanding that large amounts of pure tritium are pretty dangerous. Am I wrong about that?

    1. A large amount of gasoline is pretty dangerous. A large amount of ammonia is pretty dangerous. A large amount of flourine is dangerous. All of those are widely used by industry.

      1. Never mind. Wikipedia says the beta radiation electron isn’t carrying enough energy to penetrate the skin. Its just the same problem as any other refined hydrogen. So like, somewhere between ammonia and fluorine on my places-near-which-I-don’t-want-to-hear-“oh, fuck” scale.

        1. Isn’t the problem with tritium that it behaves pretty much like hydrogen chemically, and thus readily combines with hydrogen containing organic molecules (essentially all of them). In fact, wasn’t this one of the reasons Teflon and other polyfluorinated polymers were developed? So that deuterium and tritium couldn’t migrate from containers?

          Beta radiation coming at you from tritium atoms comprising part of your body’s internal organs wouldn’t be a lot of fun. It is kinda like bitching that Kate Upton’s got an ugly left pinky toe though.

  10. I don’t know about solving the problem of man-made climate change, but it would surely solve the more important problem of not-having-any-fusion-reactors.

    1. +1.21 JiggaWatts

      1. Fucking fusion, how does it work?

        1. Fucking fusion, how does it work?

          A proton and an electron hook up, put on some Marvin Gaye, et voila, a neutron is born.

  11. Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck

    To put that into perspective it takes about 5 kilowatts of capacity to supply a large home pulling a large load by running its air conditioning and such. That means that a single truck sized reactor could power 20,000 homes at peak load. That would be absolutely astounding if it were to happen.

    1. Ends regional utility monopolies. Small cities or large “neighborhoods” can have own power source.

      I wish it was small enough to be at HoA level. But close enough.

      Or a regional power company could increment up.

      1. It’s small enough to power a train or ship. And possibly even a large plane.

      2. It would be even better if it were small enough to b.e at the household level.

    2. Keep in mind they are talking about 100MWt (thermal). The efficiency ofthe process of converting heat to electricity is going to play a major part in the size of practical systems. If the heat can be utilized.at 1000 degF that is one thing. If only at 300 degF quite another.

      1. Good point. Still though, even 33% efficiency from heat to electricity is around 7,000 homes at maximum load. That is still a lot.

      2. Heat exchangers is heat exchangers.

        1. Up to the point where you need really exotic materials to separate the streams, yes. But if the reactor body can only hold up to low temps or the heat exchange coefficient is low, the thermal process downstream will be far less efficient, making a 100 MWt reactor only a 10MWe generator. Nukes (fission) operate at much lower temps and pressures than fossil power plants and are correspondingly much less efficient. That may not.matter for fuel usage but the auxiliaries will be.much larger and the footprint overall swells quite a bit.

          1. Fair enough. I assumed we would be somewhere in the currently explored range for making steam from hot things. Also, I was under the impression that a 10% “efficiency” rating (I haven’t been a real engineer in too long. I think MW to MW can be termed efficiency) would be poor. But maybe that’s just for combustion driven generators and not nukes.

            1. Coal fired power plants typically are in the mid 30% range overall. Combined cycle gas turbines (with heat recovery) can actually go over 60% overall cycle efficiency. Fission nukes are limited because they only use saturated steam turbines and can’t use the much higher temps and pressures that supercritical or ultrasupercritical coal fired boilers can achieve. But even the USC boilers end up being limited by materials. Steam temps there are around 1080 degF vs 1005 degF for supercriticals, and with current alloys that is as high as it is economical and safe to go. The main steam pipes from the boiler to the turbine have to have over 6″ of wall thickness in large plants to hold up to the 3500-psig throttle pressures. The feed pumps typically operate at 4600 psig and 12000 gal/min.

  12. The problem of man-made climate change is fundamentally a religious issue. I’m not sure how fusion power would have a direct effect on it.

    1. Create a new god?

  13. Ive only seen one name connected with this project so far. Im wondering if any of my former colleagues are involved.

  14. Yo, Fuck Erlich even harder for dissing on fusion power. A technology that has the potential to remove so much conflict in the world and to uplift billions into better living standards, and all he saw were negatives.

    1. People were a negative to Paul Ehrlich. Anything that might result in more humans was automatically going to draw his ire.

    2. Your talking about a man who mad his living selling bullshit to people who hate humanity so it’s not really surprising he would shit on a technology that would benefit the species as a whole.

  15. If this is true, these guys will be just as important as Norman Borlaug.

    And probably just as underappreciated.

  16. Im surprised John isnt bitching about how this will lead to totalitarianism.

    With this and driverless cars, 2025 might look like the 1999 I was expecting.

    1. If it leads to the government being able to completely control your movements outside of where you walk, then yeah, its a problem. I am not seeing how it does that however.

      1. I can come up with a hypothetical for this just as bad. Suddenly you can *only* use this and the government controls access and amount of power usage.

        1. They already do that. So it is still not just as bad. And even if they started abusing it, I would rather figure out how to live off the grid than lose my ability to move.

          1. Drive off the grid.

            Both are bad, both are unlikely. Neither is the fault of the technology.

            1. You can’t drive off the grid. You would be killed.

              1. People drive off the grid all the time. Its called “off roading”.

  17. Who’d have thunk ingenuity and capitalism might solve our problems!

    1. “No respectable scientist would consider such an outlandish position”, – The Union of Concerned Scientists.

  18. Fusion Power Only Ten Years Away? Would It Solve the Problem of Man-Made Climate Change?

    I don’t think any cheap or otherwise ‘sustainable’ power generating technology is truly worthwhile if it isn’t viable on the market. And if something can’t be indemnified by private insurers then clearly the risk of catastrophic loss is high enough that no one is willing to wrap their fortunes up in the likelihood that nothing will go wrong.

    If I’m not mistaken Price-Anderson is still an active law, a law that basically provides government subsidized insurance (and subsequent moral hazards) in a similar way to artificial indemnity for homes in a flood plain, paid by tax payers. An innovative technology like this will have to be markedly safer than previous generations of reactors, before it should be considered a net gain for humanity. But when indemnity is artificially provided by ‘involuntary’ investors, then the incentive to use R&D resources on safety, is at least somewhat, if not severely diminished.

    1. And if something can’t be indemnified by private insurers then clearly the risk of catastrophic loss is high enough that no one is willing to wrap their fortunes up in the likelihood that nothing will go wrong.

      Form a corporation.

      Capitalize it to the level needed to deploy the technology.

      Deploy the technology.

      Catastrophic loss? Fuck you, we’re bankrupt. See ya.

      I don’t see a problem here.

      Whether you Luddites like it or not, liquidation and insolvency is part of the market. You may think that limited liability is purely a state-corporate phenomenon, but the history of finance says that’s not true.

      1. Let communities decide if they want one and want to assume whatever risk is involved in return for cheap reliable power.

        I think most communities outside of Berkley will happily sign on.

      2. Form a corporation.
        Capitalize it to the level needed to deploy the technology.
        Deploy the technology.
        Catastrophic loss? Fuck you, we’re bankrupt. See ya.
        I don’t see a problem here.

        If private insurers are too afraid of the potential loss from insuring such a risk, that tells you something about the risk. ‘The problem’ you don’t see is a very basic economic one, namely that businesses whose actions are uninsurable will attract less investment and will leave potential customers left holding the bag on the cancer treatment because the business is incapable of paying out on those losses.

        Whether you Luddites like it or not, liquidation and insolvency is part of the market.

        Since you’re the supposedly the expert and I’m supposedly the Luddite it’s surprising that you don’t know that government subsidized insurance is not part of the market.

        You may think that limited liability is purely a state-corporate phenomenon, but the history of finance says that’s not true.

        Liability limited through state legislation and state-granted charters is absolutely a state phenomenon. Limiting liability through risk pooling, like with actual insurance, is absolutely a free market phenomenon.

        1. Liability limited through state legislation and state-granted charters is absolutely a state phenomenon.

          Anyone with any familiarity with the history of finance (and I mean the deep history, from antiquity on) knows that limited liability is incredibly trivial to recreate using financial instruments other than state-granted charters.

          State-granted charter corporations largely came into existence to grant monopoly. Limited liability was an afterthought. Limited liability, when it was first extended to common corporations, was intended to make economic activity more transparent and honest – since the mechanisms that were historically used to insulate passive investors from liability typically obscured who the “real” owners of a firm were.

          As long as I have a system that honors contracts, I can duplicate limited liability.

          1. Preach it, brother!

            And one more thing to throw in the mix:

            Limited liability only protects passive investors. That is, people who aren’t actively engaged in whatever causes the harm.

            If you aren’t causing the harm, why should you be liable? If you want to say that providing capital is sufficient to expose you to unlimited liability, then I’ll need to hear why providing capital in the form of equity does so, but providing capital in the form of loans does not.

            If you’re willing to go that last step and say that, yes, banks should be liable whenever one of their customers causes harm, then I suggest you ponder what sort of economy you can build without any form of financial investment at all.

            1. Limited liability only protects passive investors. That is, people who aren’t actively engaged in whatever causes the harm.

              No statutorily limited liability protects the officers of the company from civil actions against them personally, not just passive investors. There was a time when bank officer’s own assets could be forfeit if the bank went into insolvency, thus he had a strong incentive to wisely invest his customer’s funds and not simply loot the accounts to engage in risky behavior. If it’s so essential that bankers not be held liable for how they invest people’s money, they should be able to limit their liability through contracts with their account holders instead of centrally planned legislative dictates.

              If you aren’t causing the harm, why should you be liable?

              As an investor you should only be held liable up to the amount of money you invested, i.e. when the company goes under you only lose your investment, not your house too. But that stipulation ought to be a matter of contract law with no overriding statutory considerations.

              In a free market as an investor, it would be your prerogative to seek out investments that come with contracts that limit your liability as much as the party, in whom you are investing, would be willing to accept. Indeed I would be skeptical of potential investments wherein as a passive investor, I would be held to account for the actions of company officers.

      3. Fluffy, that was remarkably uninformed. You should actually read up on what Price-Anderson really is.

        “The Act establishes a no fault insurance-type system in which the first approximately $12.6 billion (as of 2011) is industry-funded as described in the Act. Any claims above the $12.6 billion would be covered by a Congressional mandate to retroactively increase nuclear utility liability or would be covered by the federal government. ”

        A nuclear company (or it’s insurance company) has to cover the first $375 million itself.

        Then the nuclear power industry has to chip in and collectively cover the next $26 billion ($125 million per company owned reactor).

        After the $26 billion limit is hit, then the Federal government steps in. But the Price Anderson act then allows the government to assess additional fees to recover tax payer money.

        Wiki Link too long for Reason’s forum

        The Price Anderson act largely gets a bad rep from Green groups that are looking for any way to attack the Nuclear industry.

        1. A nuclear company (or it’s insurance company) has to cover the first $375 million itself.

          That’s called a “subsidy”.

          But the Price Anderson act then allows the government to assess additional fees to recover tax payer money.

          Yeah and GM paid back all that TARP money.

          The Price Anderson act largely gets a bad rep from Green groups that are looking for any way to attack the Nuclear industry.

          It should get a bad rep from people who value the regulatory prerogative of the market.

          1. Sorry for the “subsidy” sarcastic bit, JWatts. Your name is similarly blue and short. Thought it was Fluffy using evidence that didn’t exactly prove his point.

        2. In an actual free market, you couldn’t compel the power generator to carry insurance in the first place.

          In such a circumstance, the enterprise would merely make itself judgment-proof, along the lines I described above, if the activity was sufficiently profitable to justify the de facto self-insuring of making a capital investment without insurance.

          You can’t point to a subsidy being handed out to cover part of the costs of a compelled activity and then say, “See, if the market was free no one would do this.” No, if the market was free the activity would not require the subsidy.

          1. In an actual free market, you couldn’t compel the power generator to carry insurance in the first place.

            Compulsion is not why insurance exists. The demand for mitigating risk is. In a truly free market an uninsured business would scarcely exist due to the fact that such a state of affairs would strongly disincentivize suppliers, labor and customers to do business with them.

            In such a circumstance, the enterprise would merely make itself judgment-proof, along the lines I described above, if the activity was sufficiently profitable to justify the de facto self-insuring of making a capital investment without insurance.

            Getting artificially created immunity from the government is not a product of the free market.

            You can’t point to a subsidy being handed out to cover part of the costs of a compelled activity and then say, “See, if the market was free no one would do this.” No, if the market was free the activity would not require the subsidy.

            No I point to a subsidy and say “See this artificially induces risk-taking and externalizes the true cost of such activities”.

            If the activity were viable, it wouldn’t need subsidy to stand. That subsidy reduces the incentive to mitigate the risks that are preventing private insurers from wanting to write it.

            1. due to the fact that such a state of affairs would strongly disincentivize suppliers, labor and customers to do business with them.

              So I’m sure you can point to a case full of files you’ve got where you checked the insurance status of everyone you’ve ever bought something from or sold something to?

              Right?

              It’s really pretty simple math. If the rate of return on capital is greater than the discounted risk of proceeding without insurance, people will proceed with the activity without insurance, if no insurance is available.

              People buy stock long without covering that purchase with a put ALL THE TIME. Your argument is like saying that if puts didn’t exist no one would ever go long a stock.

              1. So I’m sure you can point to a case full of files you’ve got where you checked the insurance status of everyone you’ve ever bought something from or sold something to?

                When I hire a contractor to dig up my yard and construct x, y, or z to the tune of thousands of dollars, I have every incentive and experience to verify that the contractor is bonded and insured. Lest his actions cause me dire losses.

                Every time you buy a banana at the grocery store, you can rest assured every step along the supply chain, liability exposure has been mitigated by mutual pressure of firms doing business with each other to carry insurance. As a producer, the grocer doesn’t want to absorb the risk of food poisoning as a result of the supplier and the supplier doesn’t want to absorb the risk of the grower negligently contaminating the food and being held financially liable for selling his contaminated food.

                The end result being that consumers are protected by risk-averse underwriting guidelines and when a problem does occur, that consumer can be adequately compensated by the insurer’s financial reserves.

              2. It’s really pretty simple math.

                You would be a singularly awful actuary.

                If the rate of return on capital is greater than the discounted risk of proceeding without insurance, people will proceed with the activity without insurance, if no insurance is available.

                The fact that insurance isn’t available for certain technologies and business practices’ doesn’t make anyone better off, it raises everyone’s costs because ostensibly now they need to save for a potentially costly liability settlement. The ‘simple math’ reveals that the the risk associated with a nuclear meltdown, is higher than 100 lifetimes of profit that the company could earn selling the power, which is a very real strike against the feasibility and the desirability of the technology.

                People buy stock long without covering that purchase with a put ALL THE TIME.

                People also start business without buying “business failure insurance” because events fully within your control are uninsurable. People buying stocks are risking their own money. People selling nuclear power run the risk of destroying basically all wealth of other people within X miles of their facility. There is a real difference.

                Your argument is like saying you don’t understand squat about the importance of insurance as a self-regulating mechanism of markets nor the retarding effect of subsidies on the development of safer nuclear technology.

                1. People also start business without buying “business failure insurance” because events fully within your control are uninsurable. People buying stocks are risking their own money. People selling nuclear power run the risk of destroying basically all wealth of other people within X miles of their facility. There is a real difference.

                  Yup. And in a free market, fuck you tough shit they can do that.

                  Don’t like it?

                  Move.

                  Look, this started because you claimed that no one would undertake this activity in a free market.

                  My position is that they would.

                  So now we get through a tedious number of posts and you finally admit that YEAH, you mean a “free market” where you REQUIRE people to buy a type of insurance you think they won’t get.

                  That’s not a free market, douche.

                  1. Yup. And in a free market, fuck you tough shit they can do that.
                    Don’t like it?
                    Move.

                    Yes and in a free market people can murder each other too, yet as a matter of law that’s most decidedly unlawful. In a free market, the people who cause that kind of devastation and have no provision for compensation would be stripped of every sheckle they earn for the rest of their existence if not just spending their life in debtor’s jail.

                    Look, this started because you claimed that no one would undertake this activity in a free market.

                    No I said subsidies create moral hazards that make nuclear less safe. Not that you bothered to read.

                    My position is that they would.

                    And you’ve not demonstrated that with your flawed reasoning of “simple math” and ad Hominem.

                    So now we get through a tedious number of posts and you finally admit that YEAH, you mean a “free market” where you REQUIRE people to buy a type of insurance you think they won’t get.

                    Where on earth did you get that strawman? The free market exerts pressure on producers to be insured by way self-interest and/or mutual benficiality. That’s pretty much indisputable unless you have no clue what a free market is.

                  2. Thanks for the thoroughly pointless discussion, Fluffer. I hope you’ll be able to get the taste of the state’s cock out of your mouth.

      4. Corporate veil pierced in an instant. Good idea!

    2. What are the catastrophic risks here? This is not a plutonium fission reactor.

      1. There is still radiation involved. But yeah, radiation release != catastrophic.

      2. What are the catastrophic risks here? This is not a plutonium fission reactor.

        I’m not sure how great the catastrophic risks are here. Unfortunately there are no unsubsidized actuaries or underwriters in existence who specialize in nuclear reactors. In normal market conditions we’d be able to look at the willingness and price of insurers to insure the reactor, in order gauge that risk from a layman’s point of view.

        1. You only need insurance companies if you have a cause of action. There is nothing to say there has to be a cause of action. Society can collectively decide to assume the risk of an accident and absorb the costs themselves. Then there is no need for insurance.

          And your analogy to flood insurance is flawed. We know for certainty that a flood plain will flood some day. Build a house on one and there is a 100% chance it will someday be destroyed in a flood if it stands there long enough. Thus flood insurance for flood plains is prohibitively expensive. Here, the risks whatever they are are no where near that level of certainty and thus are easier to bare. At most the problem is that the risks, while small, cannot be calculated with sufficient certainty to price insurance. That, however, is an information problem in the market not necessarily a problem with the technology. Sometimes the information necessary for the market to properly function isn’t available. That is one of the few times that government action in the form of liability relief is appropriate.

          1. I disagree with only the last sentence.

            If the market cant price the risk, its can be handled vis self insurance either by the corporation or the victims of the catastrophy.

            1. You can only self insure if the government decides you don’t have a cause of action. Otherwise, the company is on the hook. If the market can’t price the risk, the government decides whether you get the product either by deciding you can’t by doing nothing or deciding you can by amending the liability laws to eliminate the need for insurance.

              1. ???

                Your first sentence makes no sense. Companies self insure liabilties all the time by just not buying insurance and paying the incidences out of pocket.

                If its too large, you declare bankruptcy and let the “victims” take care of the expense themselves.

              2. or deciding you can by amending the liability laws to eliminate the need for insurance.

                That is the moral hazard. If the government had a law that said a certain class of people or business had criminal and civil immunity for their actions, you would as a logical consequence see those people and businesses taking risks and liberties with other people’s lives and fortunes that they would not otherwise take.

              3. The need for insurance isn’t eliminated, merely the practical necessity from the producer’s point of view. Which is not a good thing.

          2. Society can collectively decide to assume the risk of an accident and absorb the costs themselves. Then there is no need for insurance.

            That’s perfectly acceptable and it actually is a type of insurance. Mutual aid societies, fraternal association insurance and mutual insurance companies are basically differently structured insurance pools.

            And your analogy to flood insurance is flawed.

            I know it’s flawed, I can’t think of a better analog than flood insurance which most people are familiar with. The substantive difference is, flood insurance is insurance that over a long enough timeline will almost inevitably result in total loss, that sort of thing is what makes private flood insurance nearly impossible in certain areas.

            With nuclear reactors it’s not about the near certainty of loss, it’s that even partial losses would be unbearably expensive and a total loss would basically obliterate company’s financial reserves as well as any re-insurer’s reserves and so on. The similarity in both cases is that the profit motive is neutered in deciding whether to insure these risks but is artificially induced by government whose involuntary investors have little opportunity to balk at the proposal.

            1. Sometimes the information necessary for the market to properly function isn’t available. That is one of the few times that government action in the form of liability relief is appropriate.

              If the market doesn’t have it, I assure you that the Top Men don’t either.

              1. Of course they don’t. No one does. That is the entire point. The market decision is “it won’t happen since it can’t be insured”. The question is do you let that stand or do you decide to chance it and chance the liability laws.

                There is no right answer. The bottom line is that the lack of information is going to cause the market to prevent you from having a potentially very valuable product. Sometimes it might be a good idea for the government to step in and fix that by shifting the risk to everyone and away from the producer of the product.

                1. The question is do you let that stand or do you decide to chance it and chance the liability laws.

                  And any liability laws that don’t read “you shall be liable” will induce artificially high risk taking.

                  There is no right answer. The bottom line is that the lack of information is going to cause the market to prevent you from having a potentially very valuable product.

                  What’s the lack of information here? If unsubsized insurers are unwilling to write the policy, it’s because of information they do have, namely that nuclear reactor related losses are typically tremendous when they do happen.

                  1. The lack of information is the likelihood of the risks and the potential damage and costs associated with then.

                    Until we have many reactors and data on these items over some significant time period, and research on how to translate prior risks on all different types of reactors coming online with different technologies, the price of insurance from the market is basically infinite.

                    Not that I necessarily agree with the rest of John’s point, haven’t given it that much thought, but will read up.

                    But I can see why the risks in this case cannot even be identified well enough for anyone to be able to be willing to sell insurance against those possible, yet unknown risks.

    3. Especially when court cases are often determined by simple majorities on a preponderance of the evidence by juries where the plaintiff has found a jurisdiction that’s especially amenable to screwing the corporations every chance they get…

      If you don’t want to do business with a company that isn’t sufficiently capitalized to cover whatever you’re planning on suing them for, then you shouldn’t do business with that company. You’re responsible for the choices you make. You’re responsible for the risks you willingly choose to take.

      1. You’re responsible for the choices you make. You’re responsible for the risks you willingly choose to take.

        Unless you have legislative shield. A thing which necessarily induces risk-taking that would not otherwise occur.

        1. You’re saying that we shouldn’t use new technology to solve our problems until the government gets rational legislation passed?

          You’ve got the cart before the horse.

          New legislation comes after new technology makes the old laws absurd. Why would a libertarian want entrepreneurs to wait for the government to get smart before they started solving people’s problems?

          For somebody that calls himself “Free Society”, you got some funny ideas.

          1. You’re saying that we shouldn’t use new technology to solve our problems until the government gets rational legislation passed?

            No. I said moral hazards are not a good thing.

            New legislation comes after new technology makes the old laws absurd. Why would a libertarian want entrepreneurs to wait for the government to get smart before they started solving people’s problems?For somebody that calls himself “Free Society”, you got some funny ideas.

            Again all I said was essentially “moral harzards are bad”. Though I know no matter how I respond to anything you post, even tacit agreement will generate some sort strawman response from you. That’s your shtick, it’s what you do. Grow up.

            1. I don’t get what this observation about hazards is supposed to mean. If you’re not insisting that we wait for the legislation to improve before we implement a new technology, then what are you saying we should do?

              In the meantime, you’re doing a net benefit analysis for all of society, which seems to ignore everything Adam Smith taught us about what happens when individuals are free to pursue their own best interests…

              What exactly are you saying about what should be done here? Anything? And are you or are you not suggesting that people shouldn’t be free to implement technologies so long as the government is underwriting the risks?

  19. Would It Solve the Problem of Man-Made Climate Change?

    Ron’s just trolling us. There’s no way someone as smart and reasonable as Ron Bailey really believes that nonsense.

    1. I was talking with someone last night who didn’t seem to want to believe Ebola was a threat–no matter what the empirical data said–because they didn’t like the likely solutions the government might employ.

      I’m not as interested in whether in whether AGW is legit–I’m more interested that whatever solutions are employed are capitalist.

      …but I’m certainly not going to pretend that something couldn’t possibly be a problem–just because the solutions so many people are advocating are socialist.

      I mean, if new empirical data became available tomorrow showing that AGW really is a big problem, would you reject it because it doesn’t mesh with your preconceived…um…beliefs about AGW?

      That would be incredibly ignorant, wouldn’t it.

  20. Get this tech down to IC engine size and it would be an absolute revolution. Keep it large and.it has the potential to be abused by states unless sufficient energy storage tech keeps up.

    1. It doesn’t have potential to be abused by states if it is small?

      1. I didn’t say that. Keep it large and capital intensive and it is easier for states to use.it as leverage for central control. Small has lots of possibilities too (like enhanced watermarking capability for.one).

        1. I thought I was missing your point somehow.

  21. SmilinJoe was asking about the containment problem, last night. This sounds like some sort of advanced magnetic containment. What are the ramifications of its loss? This seems to be the limfac to commercialization IMHO.

    1. As I understand it LoC is not a major problem because if the.containment field fails the reaction fizzles. It might result in a moderate explosion due to expanding gases but it shouldn’t be a radiation problem. Maybe he knows more.about the radioactivity in a fusing plasma but I was under the impression it.is negligible or at least very fast-decaying,

      1. I have limited knowledge also, but what I’ve read would indicate that there’s no massively irradiated infrastructure and the fuel itself isn’t very radioactive. Tritium was used in watches for decades.

        “Fusion reactors – They will use abundant sources of fuel, they will not leak radiation above normal background levels and they will produce less radioactive waste than current fission reactors.”

        http://science.howstuffworks.c…..eactor.htm

        1. It’s still used in watches and gun sights and various other self illuminating things. When inside a coated glass tube, no radiation escapes. Radium is the one they stopped using. And even there the only significant danger was to the people applying the radium paint.

  22. “Would It Solve the Problem of Man-Made Climate Change?”

    Is ‘man made climate change’ that thing people talk about where they point out that temperatures are rising at insignificant amounts over enormous periods of time….? to no real measurable effect?

    In the time span its taken for Global Climate to change a degree or so, communism killed itself and we invented the internet.

    Remind me why i should ever listen to people whine about the weather?

    1. Explain to me why pointing out that capitalism might be the solution to our problems is a bad thing again?

      Has it really gotten so bad that you can’t even talk about global warming anymore? …we can’t even use it to advocate for capitalism?!

      1. My point was that talking about the life-improving aspects of capitalism shouldn’t even require talking about ‘global warming’ at all

        Because global warming hasnt done fuck all in the span of the last lifetime, and i sincerely doubt any effect of note will be measured until after i am dead.

        by all means = let us cheerlead innovation as loudly as possible. It need not require having to constantly pander to environmentalist delusions… unless of course the topic is ‘fracking’

        1. Suffice it to say, I think you’re overplaying your hand. Just because the alarmists are playing the boy who cried wolf, is no reason to play the villagers, who ignore the wolf when he finally shows up.

          I’m not convinced we’re on a catastrophic course, but I’m not convinced there isn’t anything to worry about either.

          1. “I think you’re overplaying your hand.”

            No: I don’t even have a fucking hand. You want there to be two sides to the story and there aren’t.

            My point is effectively that of the Copenhagen Consensus: that if you do any kind of rational analytical comparison about what problems are actually significant to human life at the current moment – AGW is not even close to the top. Its barely a subset to #6

      2. Explain to me why pointing out that capitalism might be the solution to our problems is a bad thing again?

        Explain to me why “global warming” as a problem that needs a solution, capitalist or otherwise.

        Its the brainless elevation of a non-problem to THE FIRST YOU SHOULD THINK OF ALL THE TIME that grinds my gears.

        1. “Its the brainless elevation of a non-problem to THE FIRST YOU SHOULD THINK OF”

          Precisely.

          Its all that George Lakoff “framing” bullshit.

          AGW is as its very root the presumption that we need to “restrain” human activity*… for some presumed long-term benefit that no one will ever see.

          (as though it were possible, and as though the obvious effects of said restraining weren’t awful in every conceivable way, and only promising to get worse)

          I thought after the Copenhagen Consensus there might be some rational re-prioritization of AGW somewhere farther down the list of things to consider ‘problems’. Not so much.

          1. I thought after the Copenhagen Consensus there might be some rational re-prioritization of AGW somewhere farther down the list of things to consider ‘problems’.

            You would think, but the statists took that other time honored route used by their historical heroes and attacked the outcome and it’s founders, participants, etc, as some vast right wing conspiracy.

        2. Global warming (if it exists) is a problem for the same reason anything else is a problem–because people care about it.

          The Apple iPhone is a capitalist solution to communication problems that people cared about. Solving problems that people care about is what capitalism is all about.

  23. I’ll be in my sky palace, hump’n my sexbot.
    http://amazingpics.net/content/Creative Pics/SkyPalace.jpg

    1. I just had a vision of thousands and thousands of private space elevators, all leading up to orbital homes.

      1. Give me muh spaec elevator! What a fucking elegant idea, and so little actual work has been done on it.

        1. We can’t produce the necessary materials sufficiently cheaply in the quantities we need. Fusion could help with that, incidentally.

          1. True. But matsci will eventually catch up. Hopefully soon.

            1. I think we have materials that could do it, we just can’t mass produce them. Not yet, anyway.

              1. I thought that pretty much the only thing that could even come close were carbon nanotubes? I think we’ll eventually get there, though.

  24. I’m only 40 years old and given the number of fusion breakthroughs that we’ve had in my lifetime, we should have had commercial fusion reactors all over the world by now, so count me skeptical when it comes to any claims regarding fusion breakthroughs.

    1. Everyone is skeptical. But we can dream.

    2. Sure. But eventually will crack that nut. Unless we blow to pieces before then. [Shakes fist at mocking fusion reactor in the sky.]

  25. I would love it if this were even slightly plausible, but I have my doubts. Remember, this is the largest defense contractor in the world and the one that everyone here totally demolishes over the F-35 (with some justification, but it’s overblown).

    1. I find your lack of faith disturbing…

      (gestures with hand)

      Damn @#()*@$ force, still not working.

      Still we ARE a step closer to the Death Star. So its something.

      1. It may be a slight bias on my part, but I feel they are increasingly trying to distract from the fact that their main line of business is only increasing in foreign markets, and that will only be for a short time.

        Good job to them for at least attempting to break into dual-use and commercial LOBs, something they’ve gotten away from for a long time, but I think they might be too late.

        They seem to be relying on lots of “LOOK OVER HERE” big announcements to cover up some of their bread-and-butter’s crappifying fundamentals.

  26. The Greens will fund some reason to be against it, because their true agenda isn’t to “solve” global warming, but to force humans to “change their lifestyle” to some sort of post-industrial organic agrarian communism.

    1. Oh, they’ve already voiced their opinon on this sort of thing.

      “Giving society cheap, abundant energy … would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
      — Paul Ehrlich, “An Ecologist’s Perspective on Nuclear Power”, May/June 1978 issue of Federation of American Scientists Public Issue Report

  27. In other ‘fusion’ news:

    A couple years ago an Italian inventor, Andrea Rossi, came out with a LENR device that produces a net energy output. He was laughed off as a quack and a scam, with most criticisms basically saying, that his device has no possible nuclear reactions, and any extra heat is a result of some unaccounted chemical burning. Rossi was very light on the technical details as he was still going through patent application processes.

    Fast forward to last week. Third party testing indicates that the device did run for 32 days on 1g of fuel and produce 1.5MWH over that time. Testing of fuel before and after indicated that alot of the oringal Nickle was transumuted into Copper. Indicating that there is some nuclear fusion happening after all. And furthermore there is no current chemical burning reactions that would be able to sustain that much power output from just 1g of fuel.

    It seems like Rossi is onto something after all, and maybe ahead of Lockheed at that. The device is know as the Ecat. And the third party testing paper is available online.

    http://bit.ly/1ubkOAH

    http://bit.ly/1bmTHQ3

    Interesting times.

    1. It’d be great if it were true, but Rossi is still acting like a scammer. It’s not hard to fool scientists if you keep a lot of control over how your invention is tested and examined.

      Also, if these work as claimed, why does he not just build them for himself and sell the power?

      1. Yes, alot of questions to be answered still.

        He does sell them actually, how well they work is a different question.

        The third party report is 52 pages long, fairly detailed. The conclusion they make is, we have no idea how or why, but the device is producing excess heat that cant be explained away by ‘chemical burning’.

        1. Thing is, does it matter HOW he did it? If it can produce massive amounts of power at economic costs or better, we have great victory, chemical reaction or no!

          1. The key development with this device is that given approx 700W of input power (used to head the reaction chamber) it produces significantly more than 700W of output heat over and over long period of time.

            So the early criticisms were something like; he used lasers to produce the extra heat, or the ground wire carries the extra power.

            The criticisms now are a) Rossi performed a slight of hand when he took out the spent fuel for analysis and gave them ‘fake’ ash. Or b) the whole third party test team in in on the scam.

            So at this point I think it does matter how he did it. Otherwise it will just continue to be dismissed.

    2. Just to correct my self.

      Tests indicate that the fuel was transformed from Ni58 to Ni62. Not Copper like I originally said. Still a nuclear reaction though.

  28. Interesting timing given that Terra Energy or whatever unveiled their Integral Molten Salt Reactor on YouTube and that looked pretty exciting. So, what would you lay your bets on-fusion or the ISMR? What will this form of fusion produce? Helium? That would solve any Helium shortage.

  29. Tritium and Deuterium? Do they need to build mines on Praxis for that stuff?

  30. Has Paul Ehrlich ever been right about anything?

    1. Morally, or factually?

      No, and no.

  31. “[C]limate change problems”? Yes, the coming major glaciation–we’re at the end of the inter-glaciation warm period–will require more energy to heat homes and keep people from freezing to death because of the stupidity and lying of the global warming alarmist which is causing the closure of coal-fired energy plants. I could go on, but why? None are so blind as those who refuse to do the research and check the facts.

  32. Their pitch may be enough to snag a big juicy Gov’t grant : )

  33. Fission waste reduction is making big strides every day. I should know, I’m forced to proof read the actinide papers.

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