Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ITER Budget Cut

Science Magazine reports that the Federal Science budget has cut ITER funds to zero.
The bill set the budget at DOE's Office of Science at $4.055 billion--$342 million short of the requested amount--and the shortfall comes mainly out of two programs: fusion sciences and high-energy physics. Congress realized some savings by allotting nothing for U.S. participation in the international fusion reactor experiment, ITER, which is set to begin construction next year in Cadarache, France (ScienceNOW, 21 November 2006). Although appropriators expressly forbid DOE to shuffle money from other programs to satisfy its planned $149 million contribution in 2008, Marburger predicts that the prohibition will not stand. "I can't see DOE not living up to its obligations," he says. "The department will have to use its money to stay in the project, so [the language] really just amounts to another earmark."
I have heard rumors that Congress is interested in the Bussard Fusion Reactor. If it works out (Bussard Fusion Reactor Funded) ITER (a tokamak design) would be a waste. Or as Plasma Physicist Dr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good."

We will know the answer in 3 to 6 months. At that point in time if Bussard IEC Fusion Reactors look like a dead end the budget for ITER can always be restored. Or the money could be put into other IEC devices. The advantage of IEC is that the budgets required for confirming experiments are small and the time frame for proof or disproof is short. Years, not decades or centuries.


Andrew said...

Its completely insane to cut the funds of ITER. May I remind you that ITER is the only concrete fusion experiment that will breakeven?
Polywell is not very well studied and hardly any scientific literature exists so far ( thanks to the fact that he couldn't publish anything for the last 10 years). From what we know it could be very well be a dead end, contrary to the Tokamacks that did make good progress in the least 20 years!

Finally Unless you publish in peer review journals your results, how can you expect to raise awereness and funding? You can't expect scientists to search google video to get news of scientific progress!

M. Simon said...

Finally Unless you publish in peer review journals your results, how can you expect to raise awereness and funding? You can't expect scientists to search google video to get news of scientific progress!

Peer review is not all it is cracked up to be.

You beat it the same way Dr. Bussard beat it. Publicity and politics.

The idea that information is useless without peer review is nuts. In fact peer review is a system that was designed to exclude competing ideas. It does a pretty good job. i.e. the system is corrupt. Peer review is fine for extending what we know. It is useless in areas (like plasma physics) where ignorance is very high.

In fact - the ITER guys have no idea if their machine will produce net power. They admit that they don't have the tools to work out the physics.

Even if they can make ITER work - they have no clue about how to make it cost effective. In addition - they propose to burn up earth's Lithium supply for energy. A supply that would be more useful in batteries.

Even if we arrive at net power it is a dead end. Not just because of the fuel problem, but also due to economics.

We need low cost reactors that can burn D-D. Or pB11. We need tens of thousands of years of fuel. Not hundreds.

In any case Dr. B. published enough so that his experiments could be replicated. That is the real test and that test is going on as we speak. Publicity and politics.

Andrew said...

No I am sorry that's not how it works, not science at least. (are you even a scientist or engineer?)

Peereview is the basic scientific quality control. Don't forget it was the military that created this mess by prohibiting the publications. Even if you don't like scientific journals you can be sure there are scientists that would gladly pursue other means of fusion if they only knew how!

The ITER scientists (no affiliation) claim that they are confident that the reactor will create self sustaining fusion power 8-10 times over.
Ofcourse ITER will never be the ultimate solution (He3,D-D,p-B or whatever). Better magnetic confinement reactors or other kind of technologies will develop but without research on plasma physics you can't expect miracles!

M. Simon said...


I am not only an engineer, I am a nuclear trained aerospace engineer.

Are you aware of the absolutely horrible state of climate science? The math is lousy, the data screwed, the code unpublished, data often unavailable and it is totally peer reviewed.

I can tell you climate science in its current state would never pass an FAA review.

I am respectful of engineering reviews. Peer review not so much. In engineering they actually pay people to rip up EVERY design. I don't see that much in peer reviewed science.

M. Simon said...


I favor more research - on a smaller scale.

With the ITER vs Bussard budget we ought to be able to support 100 fusion experiments vs 1.

Andrew said...

Ok now I know what are you talking about, good luck if you ever goin to get out anything out of it! Don't expect 500m to come start raining when they will ask you why you didn't spend money to more hardware diagnostics so that you know what's happening ...

And you start talking about climate change too, yikes that stinks!

M. Simon said...

The project is already funded by the US government. Funding was a worry last June. With $200 million committed if research results warrant funding problems are resolved. We are now on to bigger and better things than worrying about funding.

As to climate change - the people working on it are rather insular if you judge by the IPCC. There are no solar scientists on that panel. No mathematicians.

None of the simulations explains the stall in global temperatures for the previous 10 years nor the precipitous drop in global temperatures this past year. CO2 is still rising. Global temperatures are not. It is quite possible that there is something wrong with the theory.