Lord of the Abyss wrote:
If fusion is not cost-competitive with wind turbines, you're wrong, fusion will not be used (except perhaps in a handful of specialist applications); wind turbines will.
You're presuming that wind turbines can actually meet demand, which seems unlikely. If they can't do the job then yes, fusion or fission will be used even if it's more expensive.
At the moment, nuclear power makes 14% of the world's electricity. It "meets demand," it just doesn't meet all
Wind turbines were an arbitrarily chosen example, but there are a shitload of others- the entire suite of renewables, mostly. All of them require nothing but 20th century technology to work, although they are of course made more efficient by 21st century technology. All you really need
is steel, concrete, and silicon.
In contrast, fusion is still an area of active research (don't get me wrong, I know people who know people who work at ITER), and one thing that's very clear is that it will require a massively advanced understanding of complex science and engineering to build fusion power plants. Because of this, it's too soon to say with confidence that fusion will replace existing sources- wind turbines, solar cells, tidal, and geothermal being the obvious ones.
If fusion power is drastically more expensive per kilowatt than these things, as seems not-implausible, then no fusion power will not
be driving our civilization in the future, let us be realistic about that. Instead, renewables will be doing most of the heavy lifting, simply because they can do it on a more feasible budget.
That's the next great challenge of fusion research after getting self-sustaining reactions going (which is, I'd say, actually not that far away). They must design something cost-effective, and I doubt we'll see it before 2050 or so even if it's possible at all.
Ditto. Also, there are a lot of governments that have many, many other choices they'd rather take for keeping the lights from going out- energy conservation measures (buy dimmer lights). Or tidal/geothermal/wind/solar/whatever power which has very real advantages like not rendering thousands of square kilometers uninhabitable if something goes badly wrong.
Atomic energy is all very well, but let's not make a fetish out of it.
I didn't say that alternatives won't be used. However, will they be enough to satisfy demands? Will they be reliable
Solar, tidal, and geothermal power are all very reliable as long as the laws of physics keep working. Wind is reliable in certain areas. Moreover, mass-scale power storage is, again, already understood technology
, a challenge demanding civil engineering construction on a large scale but not major new inventions. This affects whether governments can decide to implement it when necessary, as does the fact that unlike nuclear, none of these technologies suffer industrial accidents that render large areas uninhabitable.
All hysteria aside, that is a huge
issue with the use of nuclear power, especially in physically small and population-dense countries.
Not to mention that using less power still means you're using power. Can they pony up enough green power (and get more people to conserve more power) to stop brownouts and intermiittent outages? If they can't, they will need to use some sort of fuel, and there are only so many dead dinosaurs in the ground.
At this rate, people are going to be forced to conserve by rising energy costs, nuclear may or may not figure extremely prominently in 21st century energy supplies, and fusion is almost certainly not going to supplant fission in our lifetimes even though there are a number of reasons to want it to. Fission might conceivably supplant parts
of the existing power infrastructure, but not dominate it, not if there are alternatives that can produce at equivalent cost per kilowatt-hour.
Darth Tanner wrote:
If wind costs $5 per mwh and fusion $6mwh it has no effect if A can only be build in certain locations and generates very low levels per site while B produces in more locations and produces vast amounts of energy. The demand must be met so fusion will be built regardless of wind because there simply is not enough of it.
What if, as seems more likely to me for the foreseeable future, wind is 5$/MWh and fusion is 50$/MWh?
Fusion is going to be fucking expensive
for a long time, even after the boys at ITER and other such facilities can come up with a viable design for something we can sanely call a "fusion reactor."