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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bloomberg Article on NIF

Bloomberg Article on NIF http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-03/fusion-scientists-see-progress-as-obama-shows-no-ardor-correct-.html Excerpts: Moses, 63, wants to raise $1.5 billion, partially from utilities and suppliers, to get commercial fusion technology ready. In a possible prototype, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PCG) and others agreed in December to pay the Livermore lab $150 million to use its supercomputers for improving California’s electricity grid. Wealthy individuals may contribute, and some have expressed interest, Moses says, declining to name them. Detractors say cost estimates are meaningless because they involve technologies not yet invented. “Moses is destroying his credibility,” says Burton Richter, a retired Stanford University physics professor. The Energy Department itself has trimmed expectations: “Experience shows we didn’t have as good an understanding of the physics as we thought,” says David Crandall, who retired in March as the department’s senior fusion adviser. Congress is getting tougher, too. The NNSA has spent about $6 billion to build and run the NIF. Lawmakers were planning to press the NIF in May for measurable goals for reaching ignition, people familiar with the situation say. Obama wants to cut the NIF budget to $329 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 from the prior $409 million. The NIF may close the gap by charging outside researchers to run basic science experiments, such as how elements like iron behave under extreme pressure. Moses is allocating time slots with the facility and its laser into 2022. For now, the ITER is the U.S. government’s preferred path to civilian electricity compared with other fusion choices, says Chris Deeney, the NNSA’s assistant deputy administrator. Deeney’s thinking puts Moses’s work at odds with the prevailing U.S. sentiment. A smaller version of an ITER-style machine, in Culham, England, produced 16 megawatts of power after consuming 24 megawatts to get the reaction started.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

1.5 Billion. A number pulled out of his arse. It might as well be 1.5 trillion. They can't even get alpha heating or ignition. When NNSA people are talking about how it would require technology not yet invented, they are pretty much acknowledging that the lab is trying to pull a con if they are talking about financing a startup.

So it looks like the con artists are at it again, with the exagerrations and oversell.

Anonymous said...

PG&E put 150m into the lab to use the computers? That's 150m that PG&E and it's customers and other stakeholders will never see again. If I were PG&E, I would sue the lab to get that money back. They are not going to get 150m worth of value out of the lab. Tomas probably made up some lies too when he was peddling lab capabilities. If so, PG&E would have a strong case for getting that money back.

Anonymous said...

Forcing the cost of using the user facility onto the user is essentially a death sentence for the facility. The shots are too expensive. If they aren't subsidized, no academic can afford them, especially when they have cheaper alternatives. They have to institutionalize the subsidy, forcing non-NIF programs to pay higher overhead and taxes to pay for the shots for these outside users from France, China, Russia, etc. That's NNSA tax-payer funds subsidizing science for academics of foreign nations.

Anonymous said...

Tomas and his entourage were in charge of peddling lab computation for whatever green energy blah blah blah. How they got PG&E to part with 150m, that is a mystery. We all know they aren't getting anywhere near 150m in value from the transaction.

Anonymous said...

With ITER, risk and reward are shared by contributing party nations that each act as checks and balances against each other. That is why it is a better investment regardless of what you think about feasibility. Compared to NIF, ITER is the better investment. LLNL is the North Korea of national labs. Kleptocratic, no transparency, belligerent to outsiders (NNSA sponsors).

Anonymous said...

Tomas, Tomas, Tomas, Tomas, Tomas. Parney, Parney, Parney, Parney, Parney. Jeez, this is all about hero worship. Doesn't it feel a little bit creepy to be in the emotional thrall of these guys?

Anonymous said...

Not creepy at all. Like kicking the corpse of ceaucescu right when Romania opened up and began to break away from the Soviet Union. Kick kick spit kick spit kick kick the corpse. We love beating dead horses too.

Anonymous said...

"Edward Moses, the principal associate director for the NIF and Photon Science Directorate, wants to harness that energy for practical uses. He says Livermore could join with private companies to build an electricity-producing fusion power plant eight to 12 years after the NIF achieves ignition."

I'm baffled as to why so much money and resources are being spent on this LIFE fantasy. Even a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that there are big problems with this concept. An energy release of around 50 MJ per capsule implosion works out to about one dollar's worth of electricity. So for the idea to make any financial sense each capsule assembly - including its hohlraum - has to cost significantly less than a dollar. Apparently, they're saying that they can produce these precision capsule-hohlraum assemblies for 25 cents each. Of course, that cost limit also has to take into any other associated per-unit costs such as filling costs and quality control inspections of each capsule. Who do they think that they're kidding when they say 25 cents per capsule assembly? Hasn't anyone called BS on Moses for this?

Anonymous said...

"Obama wants to cut the NIF budget to $329 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 from the prior $409 million. The NIF may close the gap by charging outside researchers to run basic science experiments, such as how elements like iron behave under extreme pressure."

How much money does NIF think that it can squeeze out from university researchers who are being funded by things like NSF grants? The problem I've always had in collaborating with outside researchers is that the Lab's cost structure and overhead rates are completely out of whack with that at universities. Those poor university researchers aren't the people to look at in order to close an $80 million gap. Or am I missing something here?

Anonymous said...

Charging users for the shot is a death sentence for NIF. No academic would be able to afford it. Displacing the cost to other funding sources is only a shell game that other agencies will not take lying down. It all comes down to the value of each shot versus the cost. 85% of potential NIF users are below the value threshold. That is they would opt for other platforms if they had to foot the entire cost. Since lab employees are getting their names on the papers in collaborating with academia, the lab needs to foot the cost by cutting more programs. That us the only way I can see it work. Get rid of any basic research not directly supporting NIF. LLNL needs to eat the full cost of the shots.

Anonymous said...

LLNL needs to eat the full cost of the shots.

May 11, 2013 at 1:12 PM

What the poster really means is that the US Nuclear Weapons Program needs to eat the full cost of the shots. Basic science at both LLNL and LANL have been sucking at the teat of the Nuclear Weapons Program for decades. All of the facilities like NIF and LANSCE were built by ripping off legitimate weapons work. In the future, with herd-nose austerity, I'm afraid those days of funding subsidized by NNSA are over. I that case, the basic science at will be unable to compete with cheaper (much, much cheaper)research at the universities. Science at LLNL and LANL outside of Weapons work will dry up and blow away. Which will be a good thing -- letting the labs get back to their roots -- Nuclear Weapons!

Anonymous said...

"Science at LLNL and LANL outside of Weapons work will dry up and blow away. Which will be a good thing -- letting the labs get back to their roots -- Nuclear Weapons!"

Yes, a case can certainly be made for shrinking the Lab so that it has a narrow focus on just maintaining nuclear weapons rather than the "broad-front" science- based approach of the past. In fact whether by conscious planning or not, we have already drifted pretty far that way just due to all of the budget cutting as well as the increased oversight by NNSA.

I guess a big question, though, is who is going to want to come to work at LLNL? In the old days, scientists were in the happy position of doing programmatic work while at the same time being able to enjoy considerable visibility outside the due to their high-quality "academic" non-programmatic work and papers. That was a selling point when recruiting bright new young talent to the Lab. It's certainly not as easy to recruit people to come to the Lab as in the past. Many of the best and brightest see greener pastures elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The fact that LLNL is "all-in" and doubled down on NIF is an indicator of things to come and what options are available for the lab. It is LESS diversified and any research or capability development with WFO funding potential will not have institutional support from an all-NIF all-the-time institution. It's clear why Sandia is able to keep its head above water (knock in wood) while LANL and LLNL are taking on water. Employees today are paying for the sins of the past at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

All of the facilities like NIF and LANSCE were built by ripping off legitimate weapons work.

May 11, 2013 at 3:19 PM

If you are referring to the proton accelerator that makes LANSCE possible, it was built with DOE (actually AEC and ERDA) science funding in the early 1970's.

Anonymous said...

"Edward Moses, the principal associate director for the NIF and Photon Science Directorate, wants to harness that energy for practical uses. He says Livermore could join with private companies to build an electricity-producing fusion power plant eight to 12 years after the NIF achieves ignition. Mike Dunne, head of the NIF’s future plant designs, says a commercial-scale, 925-megawatt model could be built for about $4 billion. He estimates fusion-generated electricity would cost roughly the same as coal and nuclear power -- about $108 per megawatt-hour. That’s about $24 more than natural gas and $44 less than photovoltaic solar cells."

A working, reliable, ready-for-service fusion power plant 8 to 12 years after ignition? Fusion-generated electricity at 10.8 cents per kilowatt-hour? Are these serious estimates or are they just pulling numbers out of their a$$es? I have a hard time believing that they're in any position to make any reliable estimates on the time needed to overcome technical hurdles or the costs of running a laser fusion power plant until they at least understand what is required to achieve just one successful ignition.

Anonymous said...

Those numbers are right out of dunnes' ass. They can't even get close to ignition. Can someone say "show stopper?" I would have more respect for the guy if he is willing to throw in a substantial portion of his over bloated salary into that money pit. But we all know it, and so does he, that its all a slick sales pitch con.

Anonymous said...

"Those numbers are right out of dunnes' ass. They can't even get close to ignition. Can someone say "show stopper?""

The problem I have with all of this LIFE stuff is even IF they had achieved ignition by now, exploiting NIF technology to build a working, reliable, ready-for-service fusion power plant is quite another matter. When I first heard about LIFE I thought that they might have some clever designs up their sleeves, but basically all LIFE is just NIF scaled up to popping 10 to 20 capsule+hohlraum assemblies per second. Now the standard capsule+hohlraum assembly might be fine for single-shot, high value expensive experiments. But to expect that they can mass produce capsule+hohlraum assemblies with micron (submicron?) tolerances for about 25 cents each is insane. I looked up the cost of plain 2-3 mm ceramic (alumina) ball bearings for a cost comparison. If you order a lot of 100, they cost about $2 each. Obviously, a filled capsule+hohlraum assembly is a lot more complicated than a solid 2mm alumina ball bearing. Yeah, the plan is to make millions so there will be some cost reductions due to efficiencies of scale, but still I think that 25 cents per capsule assembly is a fantasy. And don't forget that filling, inspection, and other miscellaneous per capsule costs also need to be included in that 25 cents per capsule cost limit.

Anonymous said...

Gold for the Hohlraums are expensive. They are going to have to recover the vaporized gold from the chamber after firing a million of those? How much capital has to be locked up on the value of that gold? There is the recovery and cost of locked-in capital for all that gold. It looks like a losing proposition.

Anonymous said...

Actually, their latest idea is to use lead (Pb) instead of gold for the hohlraums. They recently published a paper on this. I believe that they stated in their paper that the cost of the gold in an individual hohlraum was around $2.50 , which would destroy any hope of LIFE making any sense because only about a dollar's worth of electricity is generated with a single shot. Going to Pb reduces the hohlraum material cost to a fraction of a cent. I'm sure that that makes the people at LIFE happy, but the big problem of reducing per-capsule manufacturing costs to 25 cents for the capsule-hohlraum assembly remains. For LIFE, that cost will have to include hohlraum modifications such as sealing the entrances to the hohlraum with graphene sheets in order to keep hot gases from the previous ignition shot out of the capsule-hohlraum assembly as the assembly is being injected into the target chamber. Remember, the idea is to rapidly shoot off these capsules every 50 to 100 msec, so dealing with residual heat and turbulence from the previous shot while setting up the new assembly is going to be a big problem. I think that dealing with all that is going to require a lot more than sealing each capsule with graphene sheets. 25 cents per capsule-hohlraum assembly is not a realistic estimate.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so let's say that they can build a nuclear power plant that is cost effective using these new technologies. For how long will this plant run, and what will the true cost of decommission be? What will be involved in dealing with the waste products? Let's factor those costs into the predicted cost of electricity generated. It is not realistic to externalize these costs, as has always been done--for nuclear, for fossil fuels, you name it.

Anonymous said...

LLNL's NIF is the red faced screaming baby sitting all alone, while the rest of the world pursues other technologies. They are still up and running because nobody bothered to check their work laden with lies and confirmation bias. The US taxpayer is the one who gets screwed.

Anonymous said...

May 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM


So how are you guys going to do ten shots a second when you can't ever do one shot a days that works? LIFE is DEAD before it even got started and no one should consider funding any phase of this until every shot NIF does is successful. FUSION

Amee said...

This is cool!

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