AW: AW: [ RadSafe ] Fast neutron reactors vs. economic fusion reactor

Rainer.Facius at Rainer.Facius at
Sat Dec 6 09:50:10 CST 2008



the December issue of Physik Journal (of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft) carries an article "Fusionsforschung im Fokus" which commences:


"In 30 bis 35 Jahren soll ein erster Reaktorprototyp die kommerzielle Nutzung der Fusionsenergie einleiten. Bis dieses langfristige und ehrgeizige Ziel der Fusionsforschung mit dem Demonstrationsreaktor DEMO erreicht ist, sind jedoch noch zahlreiche Hürden zu nehmen."  


In my transcription: "In 30 to 35 years a first reactor prototype shall usher in the commercial use of fusion energy. However, numerous obstacles have yet to be mastered before this ambitious long-term objective of fusion research will be attained by such a demonstration model DEMO." 


This is essentially the very same stereotype announcement of the future (some 30 to 50 years) satisfaction of our energy demands by fusion energy which I remember reading as a school boy since the early 1950s in popular science books. 


After expounding some of the practical and financial problems the current or currently planned experimental facilities face, the article quotes one of the leading German experimenters, Zohm: "[The transition from the present or presently planned facilities to the DEMO fusion reactor is hard to imagine.] For this to happen, theory would have to have matured sufficiently before such a colossal extrapolation could be accomplished."


My interpretation is: Not even in theory it is settled if or how the goal of fusion research is achievable. 


Experience appears to corroborate this uncertainty. 


Kind regards, Rainer


Dr. Rainer Facius
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Linder Hoehe
51147 Koeln
Voice: +49 2203 601 3147 or 3150
FAX:   +49 2203 61970 


Von: chris.hofmeyr at [mailto:chris.hofmeyr at]
Gesendet: Mi 03.12.2008 17:36
An: Facius, Rainer
Cc: radsafe at
Betreff: Re: AW: [ RadSafe ] Fast neutron reactors

Rainer and others,
I agree that research on fast neutron reactors and also the Th cycle have
been criminally neglected since the Carter presidency.  Huge sums have
been spent on fusion research, although people in the field know full well
that early generations of such a concept, if they are at all realised,
will at best be copious (fast) neutron sources to be used for breeding -
you guessed it - Pu from e.g. DU, to be used in more conventional fission
reactors.  So much for the promise of 'clean' ans 'safe' fusion energy.
The availability of uranium at a reasonable cost is rather limited, so the
future of fission energy in the medium to longer term is dependent on
breeder technology to unlock the presently unused vast potential in
nuclear fuel.  We really need resources for the best brains to be able to
focus on an economic breeder programme with sufficient security
(preferably inherent) to prevent pilfering of fissile material that can be
used for nefarious purposes.  This is a tall order, but surely much more
achievable than an economic fusion reactor.

Chris Hofmeyr

chofmeyr at

Rainer Facius wrote:

> Jaro,
> it is agreed that many loose ends need to be fixed before the promises
> which fast neutron reactors hold can be reaped. But imagine how many of
> these problems might have been solved already in the last 25 years or so,
> which saw a total stalemate in the advancement of nuclear power
> technologies - or even regression as e.g. in case of the THTR-300 reactor
> in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany. And imagine the state of technology if the money
> allocated to the fusion reactor had been available instead for such more
> realistic R&D.
> Best regards, Rainer
> ________________________________

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