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Robert A. Heinlein and Jerry Pournelle were arguing for this decades ago…

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Craig Oxbrow said on February 1st, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Well, it’s a start…

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Oh, GOD, it’s like that episode of Mighty Max!

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Good news told in a boring way.

Should be front page stuff.

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I disbelieve the illusion.

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“Front page news” would be a working fusion reactor.

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Is it just me, or does the inner part of the cutaway look kind of like the Green Lantern power battery?

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The waste isn’t really fuel for the fusion, as fusion fuel is always light elements like hydrogen isotopes (deuterium and tritium) while nuclear waste is composed of heavy transuranics (elements heavier than uranium due to neutron absorbtion, plutonium is one of these) and fission fragments. The transuranics are most of what necessitates really long term (thousands of years) geological disposal. This scheme would use fusion as a source of fast neutrons to split the transuranics into faster decaying isotopes that wouldn’t need to be isolated for as long (generally a few hundred years, which is certainly possible in terms of engineering). When the transuranics are split they give off energy, so you are using nuclear waste as fuel. Splitting transuranics efficiently requires high energy neutrons (often called fast neutrons), instead of the slow (or thermal) neutrons that are the bulk of the neutrons in a light water reactor. Other schemes for using fast neutrons to split transuranics have been proposed and built (like the integral fast reactor, which was cancelled by the Clinton administration). These reactors usually used liquid metal as a moderator instead of water, which leads to a harder (faster) neutron spectrum allowing for the effective burning of transuranics.

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