Back in January I got caught up in one of my crazy idea posts after reading about Boron fusion over at Classical Values and Power and Control.
I have been stewing on those for a while and doing some light research and what has really troubled me was the implications of this on Tokamak designs that I had never considered. I caught the beginning inclination of this in my post but have clarified it somewhat lately.
I am not saying they haven't been considered but I hadn't though of them. Some of this post is going to come off as anti nuke and anti fusion. Nothing could be further from the truth in all honesty nuclear power is our only realistic long term solution to the energy challenges we will have in the future and fission despite its advantages has some pretty significant drawbacks as well.
Fusion has always been served as the Holy Grail to solve these disadvantages and despite my background in Nuclear Physics and operation I never really questioned it. I have eagerly read about the development of toroidal field reactors and overlooked one key issue.
They have to use Neutron energy as the means to transfer energy from the fusion reaction to the power generation or transfer mechanism.
The impact of this is huge. In order to get any real power out of a fusion reaction in this manner the neutron flux would have to be insanely large. To put it in context in u235 fission reactions the neutrons produce on average less than 3 percent of the energy transfer. It results in a few degrees of heat in the primary coolant and further a few degrees in the shield tanks. While it does this it is also one of the primary problem creators for the entire reactor (of course one that by definition must be present).
It causes embrittlement and metallurgical changes in all of the reactor materials.
It is the mechanism of radioactive contamination creation.
It is the most difficult radiation to shield from with the most perplexing health impacts for people exposed.
It fundamentally alters the chemistry of the complex materials used to operate and control the reactor over time.
None of these issues go away in a Tokamak they way they identify the energy transfer mechanisms. As a matter of fact they would be about 20-30 times worse for the same thermal power output. I am not sure how anyone could ever make a viable case for a net energy producing Toroidal design and certainly not an economical one with that in mind. To go a step further it would create far more waste and more dangerous waste (admittedly only in the short term due to the lack of transuranic long lived waste) than existing fission designs.
So Dr. Bussard is quite right when he questions why we are spending the money on those approaches.
As far as the video and presentation, they make sense. I could see them adding injection fields that might use some of the toroidal design properties to help mitigate some of the electron leakage problems he mentioned in their existing designs but he has me sold.
If anyone wants to chime in and correct me feel free especially if I am missing something fundamental in the way Physicists are planning on getting power out of the Tokamaks.