Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking For A Schedule

The joke that is the ITER Fusion Project in France just got a lot funnier today.

The EC said it welcomed the decision by the parties to adopt a "phased approach to the completion of ITER construction as a working basis for development of the project baseline."

In particular the EC said it welcomed a proposal to finalize a realistic schedule for the project.

"This is key to ensure a sound management of the project, which in turn will warrant running ITER in the most cost-effective and efficient way," the EC said.
They would welcome a realistic proposal. What have they been accepting up 'til now? Smoke, mirrors, fairy dust, and regular visits to the best brothels of Paris?

Sound management? The tokamak ELM problem has been known for 20 years. For ITER a solution was proposed after the design was done. "Sound management?" Surely you are joking.

Even the lawyers in Congress are starting to notice. If the American contribution to ITER goes down the whole DOE Fusion edifice goes down because it is built around ITER. Most of the small scale experiments are in support of ITER. And a big chunk of dough (something like $160 million a year) gets sent to ITER as either cash or payment in kind (equipment). Something like 4 different nations are going to supply the superconducting wire for the magnets. That is nuts.

Now what would a rational fusion program look like? Start with twenty small projects at $2 million a year per. That is $40 million. Add a $5 million slush fund to that to give boosts to promising experiments. Add in 5 projects at $10 million a year each. Add in one project at $20 million and one project at $40 million. That leaves $5 million a year for investigating new ideas and managing the overall project. And there you have managed to spend $160 million a year on a Balanced program that actually has a chance to achieve an economical working fusion reactor in twenty years or less.

And that is the biggest strike against ITER. Even its proponents agree that a working fusion reactor based on its principles will not be economical. On top of that the ITER approach is not expected to give results for 100 years. As some one said to me in an e-mail recently, "when I was a kid it was only 30 years." It is madness to go on this way.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Neil said...

Who needs it? Big-science money looks tempting, but it comes with initiative-killing political strings. If you've really got something, better to tough it out on a shoestring. ITER is flypaper for the establishment pests.

Anonymous said...

Damn those Establishment Pests!

Hmmm...let's see:

ITER is a program looking for a realistic schedule.


Polywell is a schedule looking for a realistic project.

Bummer for you Polywellers: We just got $6M from ARPA-E for CIGS technology. How much did you get?