Fusion will provide society with a virtually unlimited supply of Clean & Green . . . and Very Safe! energy. Consequently, it will have many environmentally positive side effects.
First and foremost is the fact that no CO2 will be emitted not even from its carbon neutral fuels for even though hydrocarbons are used as the energy carrier, there is no net release of carbon for the Carbon in these fuels was removed from the atmosphere prior to incorporating it in the fuel. A second positive environmental interaction is that no mining will be needed in order to sustain the operation. Yes, we will dig tunnels to house the accelerator and the reaction chambers and our surface facilities will be significant in size, but for the amount of energy produced our surface impact will be negligible when compared to alternative means of getting the same amount of energy. Moreover, HIF fusion facilities will have long lives thus the material consumed per unit of energy output is small. Finally, there is no need to harm the environment with high level nuclear waste for essentially none is generated when the HIF facilities are used as designed.
Even our waste heat can have beneficial interactions under some conditions. Fresh water can be produced by distillation, and low temperature heat can keep green houses warm so year round crops can be grown near population centers thus minimizing the amount of fuel used in the growing and shipping of food crops.
Fusion is indeed your Clean & Green . . . and Very Safe! source of energy.
Heat is the product of the fusion reaction and is captured via heat exchangers to drive other heat consuming processes. But at each step some heat is lost to the environment. Fusion is no different than any other energy source in this regard. The local environment must be able to accept, without undue degradation, the waste heat from the energy generation facility. But a fusion power complex will dissipate more heat than most current power generating facilities, even though it is more efficient, simply because it produces so much heat. The FPC system can achieve very high energy-conversion efficiency (thermal efficiency), because the FPC system captures the fusion energy, including that carried by the neutrons as well as by the charged particles, in working fluid at very high temperatures. At such temperatures, the lithium is ionized and able to drive processes called “direct conversion”. If future development is successful, such direct conversion processes will be able to achieve conversion efficiencies of 90%, or even higher, and substantially reduce the plant’s thermal footprint.
Our initial systems will not use direct conversion, however. Thus, for immediate fusion power production, the FPC chamber will produce working fluid temperatures much higher than fission plants or other proposed fusion plants. These temperatures enable efficient hydrogen production from water by thermo-chemical processes, as well as high efficiency energy conversion to electricity. Subsequent heat extraction processes are less efficient and more of the heat reaching them will need to be accommodated by the local environment.
Ideally the total amount of waste heat will only be about 10% of the total heat generated. But this is still a large amount of heat – comparable to the thermal discharge from three fission reactors at the same site. The environment can best accommodate this heat load if the discharged waste heat is partitioned between a body of water and into the atmosphere via cooling towers. The determination of which of these processes is used is very site dependent and cannot be addressed adequately in the abstract. Thermal discharge will be one of the most important site-specific issues to be addressed during site selection and detailed design.Thousands of cubic yards of excavated rock will be brought to the surface during construction. At most, the impact to local environments will be comparable to the building of a two-lane road or a large freeway intersection. Substantial amounts of the excavated materials will also be valuable for construction of berms, dikes, other site features, and could be used to construct attractive landscape contours around the chambers.
The environment presents a hazard to the facility in three ways: severe storms may disrupt power distribution, earthquakes may disrupt accelerator operation by damage or misalignment, earthquakes could damage the power chambers and lithium piping system, and flooding could conceivably shut down operation of equipment in the underground tunnels. Although no machine is unbreakable, the HIF technologies are very rugged and our design approach assures safety to workers and the public under the harshest conditions. Examination of the FPC system will show it to be extraordinarily equipped to withstand nature's most severe blows and provide an energy source that promises reliability even in the face of the unpredictable challenges of climate change.
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