tonybarry wrote:Pardon my cynicism, but it seems that genuine, high tech, physics savvy, engineering terrorists are a bit thin on the ground. We've had nukes for some time, yet no nuke has gone off (as yet) from a terrorist attack. The tech required to crank out a functioning polywell, along with the physics and chem required to refine the plutonium from a breeder associated with it ... sorry, my credibility indicator indicates it's very unlikely.
If you want real-life scenarios (think Glasgow, the London Underground, the Bali Bombing) good-ol fertiliser has done the job so far, and it's unlikely to change anytime soon. It's just too much trouble.
Tony, are you arguing that the technical details of a polywell will be able to be maintained as trade secrets? (I would certainly hope that they're not state secrets--you're not going to get any power applications out of that.) I don't see how that will work. If power plants are deployed, their technology is going to be pretty much out in the open. It will be more or less a regulatory imperative, I suspect. If that's true, it seems to me that building a functioning reactor is going to be within the capability of some bad guys. Now, maybe PUREX-style Pu extraction isn't, but I don't think there's a whole lot of exotic technology involved there.
Also, please note the goals of terrorists are different from those of state actors. States actually want to avoid detection, as it leaves them open to sanctions. Terrorists don't mind being detected as long as they can't be interdicted. That is a different--and somewhat easier--goal.
OK, now that I've finished playing devil's advocate (for now), please note that, while proliferation may or may not be a problem in the real world, it will certainly be perceived as a problem in the political and funding worlds. Proliferation, rightly or wrongly, is a big deal these days. Answering policymakers' objections to simple fusion technologies will be essential.
The arguments to answer those objections in the thread above fall into two categories:
1) Polywell proliferation issues are no worse than those with fission nukes. In order to make this argument, you have to prove that the supply chain for a polywell-based breeder and extraction technology is as detectable and interdictable as that of a fission nuke. I suspect that that's going to be hard to prove, at least up until the extraction process, which is identical to that of fission nuke.
2) Polywells can be enforced to be aneutronic. This is essentially a trade- or state-secrets argument. In other words, the tuning and adaptation necessary to convert a p-B11 design to a D-D or D-T design is so difficult that it can't be accomplished by mere mortals. This would be a wonderful argument if it can be proved. Given that, if polywell is actually going to work, it's likely that the first experiments will be with D-D or D-T, I'm skeptical.
Shoring up either or both of the above arguments (a task for which I'm incompetent) would seem to be prudent.