Too early for Polywell?

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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ltgbrown
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Too early for Polywell?

Postby ltgbrown » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:52 pm

Hi everyone,

I posted a question some 6 or 7 years ago and recently (as in today) I finished taking a class that links back to the question.

In this discussion viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2577&p=47722#p47722 I asked a somewhat (and perhaps unnecessarily so) complicated question of whether it was too early for mankind to achieve/discover/invent/create/whatever cheap clean ubiquitous energy, like Polywell burning PB11. At the time, I was thinking that Polywell might be such a disruptive technology that it might ameloriate the worst effects of climate change and therefore allow humanity to avoid answering the difficult questions about its relationship with the environment that feeling the full effects of climate change would force. That in the end, humanity would be able to avoid having to change its relationship with nature and therefore be able to continue pursuing truisms like continual economic growth (and therefore resource consumption) and inherent goodness of economies of scale (bigger is better). [Of note, I don't think these are bad, just that perhaps we had the wrong relationship with nature upon which these truisms have been pursued to date. I am not sure of this yet though as I am still exploring this line of thought which is why I am making this post.]

So, given it is some years later and we have now had how many of the hottest months ever in row and years in row, are we now at the point that even if a disruptive technology like Polywell "burning" PB11 or energy storage equivalent to gasoline (or darn close) comes around, is it still too early? Will it prevent humanity from being forced to truly address its relationship with the environment or will the affluent nations/peoples of the world simply buy the new technology and 'move to higher ground'? Or, no matter what, will humanity have to rethink its relationship with nature and in the process rethink the costs of affluence? Of privilege? (i.e. that unit of energy you use to fly wherever suddenly becomes one heck of a lot more expensive, along with food shipped from wherever and the jeans you want to buy made on the other side of the planet) Will the situation become so severe now, regardless of technological innovation, that all people, regardless of wealth (or very darn near regardless), will be so impacted that they must relook their relationship with nature through what they consume?

(I feel I must make the following disclaimer: I believe climate change is real and that it is anthropogenic. Should you disagree with this assumption, I don't challenge your right to do so. I would ask that you not challenge my right to pose these questions based on this assumption. I would ask that you argue the questions, not the assumption. There are numerous other venues upon which to argue the validity of the assumption and this posting is not intended to devolve into that argument. Should you think that discussing this question based on this assumption is a waste of time because you disagree with the assumption, then don't waste your time arguing the assumption.)

Depending on the response, I might have a follow up that goes off planet. Then again, I might go just go there anyway with enough Belgium beer!

R
Glenn
Trying to understand how serious is the situation we are in
Famous last words, "Hey, watch this!"

paperburn1
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby paperburn1 » Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:39 am

Problem is money, this do this little thought experiment. There are 7000 coal plants in the world. If a Polywell costs 300,000,000 then replacing them all would cost 2,100,000,000,000 dollars. And that doesn't include logistics is set up in manufacturing and the actual manufacturing cost of the facilities. Now let's pretend all that problems don't exist and we miraculously have a factory putting out a new Polywell fusion plant plugs instantly into a coal plant and were putting out one a week. It would take about 137 years to replace all the coal plants. If somehow we could ramp up the production of One-A-Day and you're still talking over 19 years. And this figure doesn't even count for the growth in electric demand and when the Third World country start demanding electricity the demand will be even the higher. That my friend is why any scheme to replace coal is going to take a long time. and if I remember correctly there are three times as many gas powered plants in the world. those need to go as well.
I am not a nuclear physicist, but play one on the internet.

ladajo
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby ladajo » Tue Sep 27, 2016 12:31 pm

I agree, when (or if) the transition takes place, it will be incremental (based on economics, ie. the easiest and least profitable go away first) and take a while.

Regardless of warming being anthropogenic or not, we need to strive to be good shepherds of our home. That is pure 'common sense'.
One way or another, we will see a change in energy management for humanity. It may be a slow and ubiquitous shift such as wind, solar, and/or ocean. Or it may be (relatively) fast such as industrial coal, oil, gas, or nuclear. Personally, I believe it will be somewhere in the middle, and the most likely 'fast' change source will be nuclear, or a nuclear derivative. The econnomics are still not there for large scale wind and solar. For example, around here, I keep seeing more isolated solar (individual structures), while wind towers are being pulled down one by one as they fail, and cost of repair is assessed as not worth it.

I maintain hope in Polywell, and nothing I have seen has indicated I should give up. It remains the best bet as far I as I tell.
The development of atomic power, though it could confer unimaginable blessings on mankind, is something that is dreaded by the owners of coal mines and oil wells. (Hazlitt)
What I want to do is to look up C. . . . I call him the Forgotten Man. (Sumner)

kurt9
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby kurt9 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:36 pm

If global warming is real, we need breakthroughs such as polywell even more urgently than if it is not. In any case, the sooner we get it, the better off we are. Piddle power (solar, wind, etc.) simply cannot generate the terawatts of power that modern civilization requires. Nuclear, in whatever form, is the ONLY solution.

There is no such thing as "too much" energy or economic growth any more than one can be "too" rich or "too" good looking.

ltgbrown
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby ltgbrown » Wed Nov 09, 2016 7:52 pm

Well, I was never suggesting the idea of too much energy. What I was suggesting was the idea of getting too much energy too cheaply! We are just beginning to learn that there are non-monetary costs to energy. My question is if we find a source of energy that almost eliminates the non-monetary costs and provides a reduction in the monetary costs (that I think many of us here argue is what Polywell will do), are we losing an opportunity to change our relationship with mother Earth? Is the loss of that opportunity going to result a negative relationship with nature, with mother Earth, that we will never fully address? Will that "negative" relationship have negative effects on us?

As for being "too rich", I would suggest that it is possible when one does not build the tools within themselves to properly handle the responsibility that comes with having the power that is inherent with having huge sums of money at one's disposal. Think of the phrase "spoiled rich kid". Think of the "rigged system". I believe there is definitely a thing such as too much money. Too much money equals too much power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

As for being too beautiful, well, I do like a beautiful sunset and wonder if it is possible to be more beautiful.
Famous last words, "Hey, watch this!"

Roger
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby Roger » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:07 am

paperburn1 wrote: Now let's pretend all that problems don't exist and we miraculously have a factory putting out a new Polywell fusion plant plugs instantly into a coal plant and were putting out one a week. It would take about 137 years to replace all the coal plants.


1) Coal plants average 500mw, I imagine a P-b11 plant could easily be in the 2 gig range, making 137 into 34.25 years.

2) It didn't take a 137 years to build those coal plants and their thermal plants.

3) If there is money to be made, markets can do amazing things.
I like the p-B11 resonance peak at 50 KV acceleration. In2 years we'll know.

krenshala
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby krenshala » Wed Nov 16, 2016 5:14 pm

The first coal power plant was built in 1882. That is 134 years of building coal power plants, though I agree with you that it wouldn't take that long to build them all again if we needed to.

kurt9
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby kurt9 » Sun Dec 04, 2016 4:44 pm

My question is if we find a source of energy that almost eliminates the non-monetary costs and provides a reduction in the monetary costs (that I think many of us here argue is what Polywell will do), are we losing an opportunity to change our relationship with mother Earth? Is the loss of that opportunity going to result a negative relationship with nature, with mother Earth, that we will never fully address? Will that "negative" relationship have negative effects on us?


I don't buy into this at all. I'm not interested in changing my relationship with mother Earth. Nor am I willing to give up economic freedom and opportunity to do so. Never in a million friggin years! I want infinite opportunity and capability and I don't give a rat's ass how I come about it, other than it must be through productive enterprise rather than this bubble-driven crony capitalist crap (which I despise).

In any case, huge amounts of cheap energy will help to open up the solar system (and eventually the galaxy) to human settlement on a massive scale (O'neill style) which would certainly be "good for the Earth" (greenie types can stay on Earth while enterprising types like me migrant out into space). The additional benefit of large scale space colonization is that all the different political and ethnic factions of humanity can all go their own ways. If you want to change our relationship with the Earth, this is the proper and only way to do it.

The sooner we have the means to effect massive space colonization the better it is for all of us (and the Earth). This is truly a positive-sum solution to all problems. I do not believe in zero-sum approaches. I believe only in positive-sum approaches.

D Tibbets
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby D Tibbets » Tue Dec 06, 2016 1:24 am

Replacing coal fired power plants with P-11B burning Polywells, or FRC or DPF, etc. (or D-D burning also) consists of two paths. First, as proposed by Bussard, and I presume others, you only replace the coal incinerator with a compact fusion thermal power generator. This is taped into the existing steam plumbing and turbines of the existing coal plant. This allows for xconsiderable cost svaings both in terms of time and money. The investment in the very expensive coal plant is not discarded entirely. And, as the steam infrastructure of the plant is the largest cost by far, this protects much of the initial investment. The rate of replacement is driven by decisions, the actual conversion is a small cost in time and money, relative to building a new reactor from the ground up. Obviously, the capacity of the plant would be limited by the in place steam and turbine apparatus.

The second approach is building an entirely new plant. This is more time consuming and more expensive- both to build and to depreciate any coal plant it replaces. The ability to burn P- 11B and to utilize direct conversion changes the costs, perhaps tremendously as no steam plant would be required. There would still need to be some cooling.

A higher power generating power plant my be possible with a Polywell, but the general size of a thermal driven steam power plant is driven by a compromise between costs and utilization. Power companies like the several hundred MW plants for several reasons- cost, availability and smoothing of supply as plants are down for maintenance, and transmission line efficiency. It generally costs about 10% of the electricity via transmission line losses currently. Having mega power plants in California to provide power for New Your does not make sense, as power line losses would be much greater. Superconducting and/ or higher voltage lines would mitigate this somewhat. This distribution and availability issue is an argument against low Beta Tokamaks. They may be a scientific success, but the economies of scale and the innate huge size and capacity of these plants is actually a detriment to the power companies and ultimately the consumes who pay the bills.

Dan Tibbets
To error is human... and I'm very human.

kurt9
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby kurt9 » Sun Dec 11, 2016 5:49 pm

The Chinese are starting to replace coal burning plants with pebble-bed fission reactors. They are also investing a lot of money and time in developing molten salt reactors, very high temperature reactors and the like. The reason isn't so much of this global warming charade (which I think is a hoax) but because they have serious atmospheric pollution from coal plants (you know, like REAL pollution we used to have in the early 70's and before?).

A fusion process like polywell would be even better. But advanced fission is still better than coal.

I've been to various Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) as well as Taiwan. The pollution in these places really is bad, sufficiently bad enough that there are likely "pollution deaths" from it. I found that Southern Taiwan (Tainan and Kaohsiung) in 2000-2001 was actually worse than Beijing or Shanghai. Most of it was from those two-stroke motor scooters that everyone drove around on at the time. These have been largely replaced by electrics since then and the pollution has improved.

When the sun is a big hazy orange ball in the sky, you know you've got a serious pollution problem.

ltgbrown
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby ltgbrown » Sat Dec 31, 2016 10:14 pm

I have been slow to respond because I have been a little busy and a little surprised.

First, I guess I should have stated more clearly from the beginning that an opening assumption to this discussion is that the planet is warming and that we humans are responsible for it. If you don't agree with that, then you might as well stop reading and move on to some other discussion.

Second, I was thinking on much longer timelines than the next 50 or 100 years. I was thinking about whether we could with our current approach to our planet, be successful in moving beyond it (admittedly, this is more an evolution of my thinking based on the comments here, so I wasn't clear in my in own mind about this when I started this thread).

If we can't "grow up" on this planet without destroying it (and possibly us), what will keep us from destroying the next planet? And the next? Destroying it with "real pollution"! If we take Kurt9's approach, "I want infinite opportunity and capability and I don't give a rat's ass how I come about it", then how many species of animals and plants are we going to kill (and us in the process)? On this planet and the next? And the next? I suppose the bigger question is does that matter? I think I know Kurt9's answer.

Also, I would argue that even if we develop "cheap clean" energy now, it will not support the time required for Kurt9's suggestion that "cheap energy will help to open up the solar system (and eventually the galaxy) to human settlement on a massive scale". Think about what it will take to get 10 million people (human settlement on a massive scale(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_migration)) off the planet. 100,000 a year for one hundred years. WOW. Talk about a need for cheap energy (and a new form of propulsion!) Even so, how would a group of people live anywhere other than on Earth without support from Earth within the next 100 years. Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on this planet for the foreseeable future. Changing our relationship with it will not only ensure our continued existence, but also our ability to move beyond this planet in a manner that doesn't see humanity catalogued as a virus (see "The Matrix").

Deep thoughts with the help of scotch.
Famous last words, "Hey, watch this!"

hanelyp
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby hanelyp » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:09 am

ltgbrown wrote:First, I guess I should have stated more clearly from the beginning that an opening assumption to this discussion is that the planet is warming and that we humans are responsible for it. If you don't agree with that, then you might as well stop reading and move on to some other discussion.

So if we don't agree with a politically advanced position that's been demonstrated to not hold up to scientific examination we're not worth listening to? Thanks for letting us know you're a Carbon Climatist religious fanatic.
The daylight is uncomfortably bright for eyes so long in the dark.

ltgbrown
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Re: Too early for Polywell?

Postby ltgbrown » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:42 pm

Hanelyp, you mistake my supposition about the discussion being based on an assumption. If you want to argue the assumption, there are plenty of other threads to do so. What I am saying is the thread is based on the assumption climate change is happening, that the global average temperature is increasing, and that it is caused by humans. To not accept that assumption is to make the purpose of the discussion moot. It has nothing to do with my position and it is not about you being worth listening to. If you are unwilling to accept the assumption for the purposes of the discussion, then move on and certainly don't insult me.

I did not insult you for your position, please do me the same courtesy.
Famous last words, "Hey, watch this!"


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