ITER-2 Machine is being built – will it work?

Fusion waste disposal is an issue that may limit ITER’s success

The long awaited fusion test bed, ITER, is under construction.  The facility buildings are well on the way towards completion and machine assembly should begin in the last months of 2018.      We discussed the ITER machine structure and various fusion concepts in our  ITER-1 post – we will not repeat them here.

Iter Timeline

Comment 1  ITER Timeline

But note– ITER is not an acronym anymore. It is okay to write it ITER or Iter or iter

Comment 1 is the currently expected schedule for ITER operations. The official timeline is reasonable – The 2025 and 2035 targets allow for a reasonable break-in with this new machine.

Assumptions behind the personal estimates – No operating issues arise during start up trials.

(1) Operation schedules base on impatience – Pushing boundaries without checking. In the 1980s, the fusion flagship, TFTR, powered up its TF coils too high and too soon; one of their big coils broke … issues.

(2) Hoping without testing. ITER is a major jump in capabilities. What if long-lived, fusion-hot plasma is operates somewhat differently from short-pulse hot plasma?

Bad events are issues

Comment 2   issues

This post is based on an issue that might violate assumption (2)plasma operates as anticipated.  (See Comment 2)

Our question – Do the techniques chosen to remove waste heat (power) and particles form a basic issue that is a background worry to the physics staff? Maybe.

The technique to remove the waste heat and particles that flow from the fusion region relies on an array of divertors, that is, on the material surfaces that the plasma strikes first.

Will divertor operation become an functional issue? This is what we discuss.

ITER has a potentially serious divertor issue

ITER field and plasma

Fig 1 ITER cross section, with field lines

Waste heat  The intense heat from the fusion core will conduct out to its edge (the separatrix) and will cross into the unconfined field volume called the scrape-off-layer (SOL).

In Fig 1, the separatrix is the green field line with the sharp × point, it separates the confined plasma from the unconfined. The SOL is the dark (brown) much cooler plasma outside the separatrix.  See ITER-1 for a more complete description of the tokamak.

Most of the heat flows along the separatrix and out through its × point but some will enter the SOL to cause wall erosion.

Wall atoms can/will •diffuse into the plasma, •absorb energy, •radiate “like mad,”  •cool the plasma, and •quench the fusion.

Waste ash  What is left over from a fusion reaction is a neutron which has four fifths (80%) of the energy, The other one fifth (20%) of fusion energy is very high energy helium nucleus (called an alpha particle, usually written α). Continue reading

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ITER-1 – The international fusion test facility

ITER will begin fusion tests within a decade. We discuss this huge machine.

The long awaited fusion test bed, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is under construction in Cadarache, France.  ITER is an hour (70 km) North of Marseilles (South-Eastern France, not far from the Mediterranean).  The facility construction is on-going in France and the machine components are being assembled all around the world.

The ITER team has ambitious goals.  This is to be the first magnetic fusion machine to hold a stable plasma for 10 minutes. (They plan to extend operations to 1000 seconds, abut 16 minutes.)  The fuel will be deuterium (D) and tritium (T); D is a stable type of hydrogen (H), twice as heavy as H. Fusion techniques are discussed toward the end of Stirring The Pot.

Fusion terms

Comment 1 Fusion terms

It will reach fusion temperatures (about 150 M° C … 300 M° F) and ignite.  Their goal is to use their ignited plasma to generate 500 MW of output power with a device efficiency of Q = Poutput/Pinput = 10.  See Comment 1.

This exceeds the previous record set (1997) at the JET tokamak:
JET: Poutput = 16 MW, Q =0.67 .

This is hotter than any welding torch in any shop anywhere.  Hotter than the center of the sun.  Good thing, too, since the sun has to last tens of billions of years. If the sun had ITER temperatues, it would last only a small fraction of that.

In this post, we describe the ITER tokamak.

In our next ITER post we will use this discussion to describe a potential design feature that may limit the success of the program, though not until  they have tried to reach their goals of fusion temperature; efficiency, Q; and burn times (15-20 years from now).

ITER logoITER – Overview

ITER, the pronunciation   Most people in the business say eat-er.   You are allowed to say it anyway you want, just be consistent.

ITER, the acronym  The program started up in 1988 as the  International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.  It was an English abbreviation and the central words were thermonuclear and experimental.  Although pretty good, the word nuclear had to go.

Torus shape

Sketch A   Torus – donut shape

  • The T stands for thermonuclear and could have been changeable to tokamak; its shape is a torus – Sketch A. (Looks like a bagel, a donut, or a car tire).
  • The E is the important part.  This machine is truly an experiment to test out ideas, not a prototype for a mass produced product like a car. But… after 120 years of building automobiles, companies that release a new model require thousands of prototype parts and vehicles for destructive testing. Thousands(?) – not going to happen.  Definitely not a prototype.

ITER, the history  It started in 1988 as a joint venture of 4 countries. The U.S. pulled out maybe a decade ago, then rejoined; nearly withdrew during the Obama days; our DOE just lost significant funding – want to make a bet on our presence 4 years from now? BREXIT may remove the last English speaking country.  The countries currently on its guiding council are shown in the logo.

Soon, there might be no English speaking countries left, so disconnect the name from a living language. Voilá – ITER is no longer an acronym!  It is okay to write it “Iter,” or “iter.”

ITER is the chosen name because it is dead Latin for The Way.

ITER, the tokamak  ITER’s goal is to generate 500 MW of fusion power; support a fusion burn that lasts for 10 minutes (they will try for 1000 seconds, about 16 min); and produce 10 times more power than used by the facility (Q=10). The machine to ultimately perform these is shown in Fig 1.  The left side shows its interior lined with its protective first-wall blanket.  The right side depicts the blanket being installed.

ITER cutaway diagram

Fig 1  ITER cutaway, man lower left

ITER key features

Fig 2 Thin slice through ITER, showing the key features

Click any figure, to see a full sized image. The colors are for identification; unless someone uses a paintbrush, the actual ITER will be metal toned, from dull to shiny gray.

Unless otherwise stated the source of the figures originate with  We have modified and colorized most, but the basic drawings for the  images are from ITER organization.

Fig 2 is a thin slice out of Fig 1. Continue reading

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If I explain, they will accept. Uh, umm

Today’s has a link to one of Katharine Hayhoe’s latest videos.

Facts don’t convince.  This video (Fig 1) is a very solid description on why you cannot come up to someone, just explain the technical facts about something, then expect them to change their ideas – change their acceptances, their beliefs, their feelings of happiness or anger.

Hayhoe - facts don't convince

Fig 1  Opening screen, to a very grown-up presentation

This is very true, and the person becomes less amenable to facts, the more technical training they have.   She uses global warming as her topic, but it is true throughout all experience.  Her reasons are _ well, watch it for yourself.

Global weirding series

Fig 2  Global Weirding start screen

Katharine is one sharp person, who has been the topic two of LastTechAge posts – she is an evangelical Christian and an important Climate Scientist . (I think I have her correct order-of-importance, though I have never met her, nor had any kind of communication.)

Oh, brother, do I agree with her discussion!  Our last two Global Warming posts were not to change anyone’s attitude; but to explain to those who want to accept the inevitable that it is okay to say that climate change destruction is new, horrible and is our doings.

postscript —————
I refer to her here as “Katharine” because normal Americans are uncomfortable with Dr. WhatsTheName.  Same kind of reason I sign off as Charles, although I actually go by either Charlie or Dr. Armentrout.  (More people than imagined by my younger self have an uncomfortable, even hostile response to my preferred personal name!)

Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2017 Aug 9
This is listed under Natural Resources in the >Global Warming thread
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Climate shift denialists 2 – Religious

Trump and his religious followers deny climate change.  Why?

On June 1, Pres. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris Agreement On Climate Change.  This is a major action that will haunt our grandchildren’s grandchildren. It also has the support of many leaders, religious as well as political, in this country.

Our discussion began in Climate Shift Denialists 1, which discussed climate change denialists in business and politics. Religious denialists are possibly more important.

Climate shift is real  (D) Religious denialists

Third Rail definition

Fig 3   Meaning of “third rail”

A “third rail” issue in discussions is the discussion of religion … here, this would be the why and how of religious support in politics. (See Fig 3; Figs 1 and 2 are in our postscript)

Most of the religious people to whom I have spoken and who also deny that climate change is an issue, describe themselves as evangelical Christians. They have 2 categories for denial.

First Denial: the religious leaders and TV personalities they respect say that it is a misunderstanding at best and a horrid lie at worst.

Second Denial: they say that even if it starts to happen, God will take care of it, will protect the righteous.  The world will survive and the blessed will be left to enjoy its beauty. Continue reading

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Climate shift denialists 1 – Business and politics

Trump and other denialists reject climate change.  Why?

On June 1, Pres. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris Agreement On Climate Change and pushed climate change into one of the major stories of the year. This has opened many more questions than can be covered in any single post.

We consider only that small facet of the climate change argument about why many business and political leaders deny it is happening. This is the first of two discussions on why leaders deny that Earth’s climate is changing at an unnatural rate. In Climate shift denialists 2, we will discuss why some religious leaders might become denialists.

Climate shift is real  (A) Prologue

Human-caused climate change is happening right now, and we will start with that.  It is a “feature” of chaos shift events that effects, once done, can never be reversed.  The sea level is rising now. Example: islands, coastal towns, bays and bayous are being swallowed by the ocean  and scoured with its currents and tides. Even if the level drops in a century or so, these features will never be same again. Weather is becoming fiercer; all who die because of extended day temperatures of 120° to 140° F (50°-60° C) will be lost forever.  Although real and currently happening, it is strongly disputed (in the US). We start with the fact of its existence  Definitions …

  • Weather – what happens every day. It is like a snapshot across the your street. Today your image shows part of a bakery, a white panel truck and a blue SUV. Tomorrow you see a different part of the bakery, a florist shop, bicyclists, and a pickup.
  • Climate – the long average of the weather. It is like adding together a series of snaps of your street scene. If you average a large number of pictures, the incidental traffic, no matter how large, will be removed and all the shops become apparent.
The Climate Escalator

Fig 1 Climate Escalator. World average temperature rose 0.18 C (0.324 F) every decade since 1970

Skeptical Science features the world temperature graph by Dana Nuccitelli. Fig 1 is from the author’s YouTube presentation. Click the image for a readable version.

World weather is the jagged green line.
World climate is the straight red line.

Temperature changes are just one of the indicators of our shifting climate. Others such as desertification and rising sea coasts may have more impact on us (as a species).

Check the Skeptical Science website for the 10 top alt facts used by denialists.

Katharine Hayhoe

Fig 2  Katharine Hayhoe, Environmental Scientist

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe (Fig 2) of Texas Tech University is one of the many scientists who talk about the climate-shift problem. Watch as she discusses various climate facts, false and true to a group of interested people.

It is climate that is shifting, the weather will just grow more violent as the change continues.  So…

Q: Why do Americans doubt climate change?
A: Their leaders and TV talking heads tell them to.

Q: Why do people in authority deny what is happening?
A: Motives of  business execs and politicians are easy.  Religious leaders?
     The second post will be my very personal answer to Christians in denial.

Climate shift is real  (B) Why are business leaders climate denialists?

Business resistance is totally understandable – Check the relation between stock prices and executive compensation.

This an issue is about how people work. The people who run large businesses are among the highest compensated in the world, many fought their way up to extreme wealth, many were born to it.  If stock goes down in the short term, terrible things happen, so corporate planning strategies usually have a 3-6 month timeline.

Continue reading

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Donald Trump is Man-child – Maybe

Is Donald Trump a child in a man’s body?  … or something more disturbing.

This question has been discussed a lot.  How would you interpret all the public aspects of Donald Trump (fig 1)?

Trump in 6 facits

Fig 1  6 faces of President Trump

Trump is a Man-Child

In recent weeks, this interpretation has been discussed a lot. Here are a couple examples:

David Brooks

Fig 2  David Brooks, OpEd columnist, New York Times

Columnist David Brooks (fig 2) wrote When The World is Led By A Child (2017 May 15) and lists 3 issues that challenge Donald Trump, but which most people solve by the end of puberty.  This is an informative read.

  • Control and focus of attention.  Trump’s attention span is controlled by his short-term impulsive shifts.  His churning thoughts can jumble together threads of thought into any statement.  “Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom.” My comment – He appears unable to actually study anything.
  • Sense of Self  Most adults achieve some understanding of themselves. “But Trump … need[s] perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he …[tells]… fabulist tales about himself”  My comment –people who doubt their own adequacy need  continuous reinforcement.  These are symptoms of deep feelings of inferiority.
  • Theory of Mind  Most people develop a bit of empathy or some at least some understanding of how others respond to events.  It appears Donald Trump never generated a model of how the rest of us think.

Continue reading

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President Trump, Triumph of Chaos

Against all reasonable odds, Donald Trump rose from a discounted Republican candidate to take the President’s oath of office. “How did this happen?”  How is because Trump is the product of self-focused personal ambition and pushed himself forward at exactly the right time. The real puzzlement is why did it happen against all expectations and so quickly, too?

Maybe Trump’s election is no big deal. After all, the sky has not yet fallen – conditions have not actually changed all that much. Nice idea – but… You cannot immediately identify what happened to our stability, nor even that a stability change occurred.  You can see the event clearly, but only after the passage of time.  The issue – we live in a chaotic world where present reality emerges when the tangle of uncountable things that could happen condenses into those that actually do.

Donald Trump - President

Fig 1  Swearing in 2017 Jan 20

The 20th century lifestyle ended in 2016 Nov 08, not 2000 Jan 01.  But the new 21st Century paradigm may well have begun 2017 Jan 20. (Fig 1).

Trump happened because we were ripe for chaotic social change.

We are experiencing a societal chaos-shift

First, a techno-break to discuss what we mean by chaotic orbits, and shifts in our social life patterns.  Next section –  the Donald Trump phenomena. You may skip to there, if you wish.

Think of our social structure as a basically stable system with gentle shifts among its interconnected parts.  For example, our states of inequality and economic opportunity were essentially stable in American (US) society from WW-II until a bit after 1981.

One key feature of chaotic stability is the ‘pendulum swing’ effect.  You can see it in the voting records.  Voters first want  (slightly) conservative leaders, then (slightly) liberal leaders; then again, then again.  You could think of this as the occasional but almost regular oscillation about an average center. With more than one kind of political influence thread, you get a quasi-stable orbit (rather than an oscillation) about a conceptual center for our political stability.

Visualize Chaotic Orbits   Suppose there were only 3 activity threads that influence the state of society. Each of these would be independent of the others except for cause-and-effect interactions between the results from each thread.

We visualize this as the concept graph in Fig 2.  Each of the three influence threads is an axis direction (vector).

Orbits about fixed point Attractor

Fig 2  NOW moves in a chaotic orbit about (+), the fixed point attractor.

The blue swirling line is the path of the net effect due the ‘pendulum’ swings  in each thread.  This path through the concept graph is like a jet airplane’s contrail.  Our current location (NOW) is the round yellow endpoint.

Notice the fixed point ( + ) as the apparent center of the motion.

Choose 3 conceptually independent influence threads that show pendulum swinging:

  • Influence 1 – Anxiety   (over living conditions)
  • Influence 2 – Ethnicity   (for inclusion in social acceptance; includes biases in race, religion – even wealth)
  • Influence 3 – Inequality   (economic gain or loss of earnings potential compared to other segments of society – other kinds of inequality exist, too)

These are LastTechAge names for markers recently identified by Yascha Mounk and Roberto Foa as The Signs of Deconsolidation of democracy in world politics. Foa and Mounk’s ideas have been discussed by, for example, Amanda Taub (New York Times), and Jonathan Rauch (Atlantic Monthly).

Although  Anxiety, Ethnicity and Inequality seem to be useful to trace Donald Trump’s rise, there are certainly many thousands of such threads that influence the direction of social change.  For simple visualization, the choice of any three does not matter.

In a world of 7 billion people, there may be thousands of millions of mutually interacting, independently swinging threads affecting social stability.

If there is a forcing function at work on some of the the influences (dimensions), the “fixed point” ( + ) will move. Small pushing forces usually cause small drifts in a system’s fixed point, and Fig 1 does display a slight drift in its center as the NOW point moves in its orbit.

A Chaos-Shift can happen if the push is strong enough   If the pushing influences are too large, the direction of the motion of NOW (through concept space) may abruptly shift the “fixed-point” attractor ( + ) to an unpredictable location. Fig 3 shows a such a chaos-shift with our diagram.  An observer must wait at least one full orbit to estimate the position the new ‘fixed’ attractor point.

Chaos shift to new attractor

Fig 3  A strong push of the influences causes shift to new indeterminate attractor

An unpredictable jump in the orbit’s fixed point is much more likely than a minor shift in its position if the active NOW value has drifted too far from its attractor, or if the forcing function is too large or too abrupt. But chaotic systems are not predictable (not causal) so a chaos-shift might just happen.

Chaotic orbit effects happen for almost every system you can image, not just politics. For any system, plot each influence as in Fig 1; the system average will show some type of chaotic orbit.  See James Gleick’s 1987 bestselling popular discussion Chaos; or Melanie Mitchell’s 2009 Complexity, A Guided Tour – one of the best popularized discussions of chaos and complexity theory.

Donald Trump’s election is a chaos-shiftand is still in process

President Trump 2017

Fig 4  President Trump 2017

Today, we still have people saying the Trump presidency (Fig 4) is not a disaster in progress. We do not see any parts of the sky falling, so government will end up as it always does. After all “the best predictors of the future are the past trends.”

Well, not in our chaotic world where myriad probabilities converge to form reality. But the current state must orbit its quasi-fixed point at least once before its details can be identified. Continue reading

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