Little one cops big one, Tokamak news

Posted: November 13, 2011 by tchannon in Energy, Nuclear power


A press pre-release of an important development has been picked by the The Register. A small UCLA team at San Diego intend to announce they have made an important discovery about plasma stability in tokoma reactor vessels.

Press release, PDF


This is a vital missing piece of the jigsaw for power generating light element fusion power, no problem is creating a plasma but controlling or sustaining it is fabulously difficult and if it touches the containment vessel it is disaterous.

Some history. I have a special interest maybe first kindled the first place I worked, next building to the stored damaged Zeta, Britain’s first fusion reactor, now I think in the science museum (no link, website broken).

I live in what has been termed nuclear valley, where various historic and current sites reside.

Later on JET (Joint European Torus) was built at Culham where major work was carried out over many years. This went as far as a positive energy yield, presumably as a party trick, but the pure research reactor had no energy extraction mechanism so more than a tiny time and something expensive would melt.

The project fizzled out, the usual bad politics and arguments over money, further delaying world critical science.

A few years ago a new project stated in France where the objective is more to do with material research as a precursor to the first small power reactor.

Plasma instability is the primary problem, it struggles and squirms and kicks back, does not want to be kept in a useful place where the energy density can become useful.

Definitely fingers crossed this detail of plasma behaviour proves significant.

In my opinion fusion could have been starting to work today but the horizon stays sometime away without an imperative such as war. There are of course many problems, not least that the structure becomes radioactive, hence materials are critical: both mechanical degradation and keeping any half-life of materials short.

Been talk of various power takeoff methods (including originally crazy ideas about controlled H-bombs). The only sane method at least initially is the usual boiling water, steam plant because it is well understood and widely available. (lot of disgusting history where perhaps this is not the place to write about it)

JET/EFDA web site

Renamed Culham project CCFE

Aside on place and history: Note how most government establishments were either airfields or naval bases. During WWII there were hundreds, I supect into thousands. Many of these old sites can still be found via aerial mapping, some returned to farmland, often industrial estates, a few to light aircraft use.

Google browser map here airfield was triangular although the prevailing wind tends to south west.

  1. adolfogiurfa says:

    Trouble is that the apparatus is connected to the mains….just to begin with

  2. tchannon says:

    I hate to think about the electricity bill for these experimental machines. Ever realised CERN and so on is located in a hydro (Swiss) and nuclear (France) power region?

    JET was done on rail fed coal via the Didcot power station (now on piped gas).

    Think I am kidding? Culham quote >1GW, 550MW and use 2x 400MW of additional local mechanical storage, time honoured nuclear physics method.

  3. Joe Lalonde says:

    tchannon says:

    Funny how the guys at CERN have not realized yet that what they collide do NOT rotate like planets or suns.
    Wonder if that makes a difference?

  4. Eilert says:

    Have you seen this project:

    Dense Plama Focus Fusion:

    These guys use the instability in the plasma to focus the plasma in a very dense plasmoid were fusion will happen.

    The project is already well on the way to actually fuse ‘Boron 11’ with a Hidrogen proton into Helium and release a huge amount of energy. This is achieved without dangerous release of radio active radition. It also has the advantage that electrons can directly be captured and turned into electricity, without the need of an intermidiate generator.
    They actually achieved higher fusion rates then that billion dollar monster ‘Itar’ with an extremly low budget (under 1million)

  5. tchannon says:

    Eilert, no. I noticed a transmission line, often lots of interesting things get done in engineering. Dealing in impedance and time is involved in various fields. (horn loudspeaker is actually an impedance transformer, high at one end, free air the other, better able to transfer energy from heavy to light). Perhaps in this case it is more like a waveguide.

    Their drawing is all very well but you won’t be merely connecting some wires.

    When I had a look to see what others are doing this PDF confirms what I guessed and also adds a lot of further information

    Click to access scholz.pdf

    If I was involved in the field (would be shocking), as an EE I’d be doing a great deal of modelling in various forms to figure out the conditions and what can be done to enhance the effect (others have been doing this). I am quite sure that most of it is boring therefore understandable. The question is how far can you go before genuinely unknowns appears.

  6. Brian H says:

    The deadly combination of plasma instability, huge neutron flux (which is both the carrier of the “tapped” energy and the destroyer of containment equipment), and the patch-on thermal steam cycle makes ITER etc. a hopeless scientific and engineering and financial black hole.

    The project has none of those problems. And if successful this winter in using proton-boron fusion to reach “scientific break-even”, there’s an excellent chance that licenses to build its wee 5MW generators will be issued world-wide in under 5 yrs. The costs of build-out and generation would be under 10% of the best US alternatives. Renewables will be instant economic roadkill — who would spend 30-50X more than they need to?

    Meanwhile, ITER & friends continue to eat the world’s fusion research funding.

    LPP, btw, is 100% privately funded, with amounts that wouldn’t pay for the coffee service for the Big Projects.

  7. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Back in the late 1950s I studied fusion and determined that plasma fusion was a contradiction and not likely to ever be successful. At the time the experts in the fusion field felt that they would have commercial reactors within 30 years. After 50 years and hundreds of billions in money they feel that with real effort they will have success within 50 years. What a scam! Even GOD does not use plasma fusion to power the universe. Hydrogen bombs do not use plasma fusion.

    Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, LENR is the way GOD works. Hydrogen conversion to neutron and back to hydrogen, the way of all creation and liberation of energy. LENR works now! Real, practical devices are coming into use now. Experts in fusion claim it can’t be! What a bunch of old drips.

    see this site for real science on the subject:

    The real proof is in actual devices that work. Time is long past due to get with real science and stop this contradiction. pg

  8. Roy Weiler says:

    Thank you for the post. Quite interesting.

    Roy Weiler

  9. tchannon says:

    Journal of Nuclear Science is an invention of A Rossi.

    Rossi has a history of defective claims leading to very serious trouble, he is overfamiliar with courtrooms. This is part of the reason why Rossi is treated with great caution.

    He has history of making claims which violate known reality and then failing to put up, is
    proven to be bad.

    Until he puts up actual science and there is independent reproduction and verification it is no more than claims. In this case he has been caught because he is claiming a nuclear process without the signature of a nuclear process and that signature leaks outside of a closed box. If he was merely claiming fusion and the signature was present there would be a wholly different reaction by third parties.

    My guess based on what I have deduced is fiddling around with chemical reactions and there is no nuclear reaction, which fits with the lack of a radiation signature.

    I REQUEST THE SUBJECT OF COLD FUSION IS AVOIDED unless there are definite developments, etc. There is also this thread

    Eilert mentions hot fusion, which does have a basis in known physics.
    Anyone wanting see some of the operational details of the process can try this, includes actual images (PDF is hard on the eyes)

    Click to access scholz.pdf

  10. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Tim; it appears to me that you have not wasted your time to read the information on the site. PITY pg

  11. Roger Andrews says:


    I’m afraid I can’t easily avoid cold fusion because I was there when it was it was “discovered” by Stanley Pons at the University of Utah in 1989. (Well, not exactly there, but my office was only a stone’s throw away from Pons’ lab. Didn’t hear any loud bangs of shouts of triumph, though.)