Fusion reactor at Devens

stellarfun

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To prove that, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, an MIT spinoff in Cambridge, is using a whopping $1.8 billion it raised in recent months from investors such as Bill Gates, Google, and a host of private equity firms to build a prototype of a specially designed fusion reactor on a former Superfund site in Devens. A host of excavators, backhoes, and other heavy machinery are clearing land there and laying concrete foundations on 47 acres of newly acquired land.
“We have come a long way,” said Bob Mumgaard, CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, who compared their advance to similar breakthroughs that made flight possible. “We’re a pretty conservative science bunch, but we’re pretty confident.”

With some $2 billion raised in recent years — more than any of the other fusion startups — his company is racing to prove that their prototype, called SPARC, will produce more energy than it consumes in 2025. If they succeed, the company plans to start building their first power plant several years afterward. Ultimately, he said, their goal is to help build 10,000 200-megawatt fusion power plants around the world, enough to replace nearly all fossil fuels.

Commonwealth Fusion, a startup led by MIT scientists that is working to build a nuclear fusion reactor that would imitate the way the sun generates energy. Commonwealth Fusion Systems earlier this year snapped up 47 acres of land at Devens.

Crews have begun work on a $500-million nuclear fusion research, office and facility for the MIT startup, which is backed by private investors, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

BW Kennedy, the contractor on the project, broke ground earlier this year on the first building, a 164,000-sq-ft office and manufacturing facility. Vivo Architecture and civil engineer Highpoint Engineering also are working on the project, according to High Profile.

The building, slated for completion in the fall of 2022, will provide offices for researchers and space for construction of the powerful magnets at the center of the experimental fusion reactor.

Plans are also moving forward on a second 147,000-sq-ft building, which will be where the fusion reactor is assembled and tested, according to MassDevelopment.

Work on that is not expected to be complete until 2025, with the potential for three more buildings down the line.

If that proves successful, Commonwealth and MIT will begin work on the world’s first commercial fusion reactor, with a pilot power plant potentially ready by the early 2030s or even the end of this decade.
https://www.enr.com/articles/53327-...t-heating-up-central-mass-construction-market

 

xec

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DZH22

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Some background for a newer member?
Scott used to write for the Globe and used the term "soaring" to describe literally every single proposed project in Boston. Even projects under 300' (ie the majority of what was built in that time period) were all considered "soaring" by this writer. It was a kind of forced propaganda used to appease NIMBY's during the dark times of (non)construction in Boston.

While I can't speak for all of my fellow forumers, I'm pretty sure that most of us hated his guts and he was kind of a punchline around here.

In regards to this fusion project, is it really wise to experiment with a new nuclear technology so close to a major city? Do we really want the first (XYZ-Type) Nuclear Reactor a stones throw from Boston?
 

Blackbird

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Scott used to write for the Globe and used the term "soaring" to describe literally every single proposed project in Boston. Even projects under 300' (ie the majority of what was built in that time period) were all considered "soaring" by this writer. It was a kind of forced propaganda used to appease NIMBY's during the dark times of (non)construction in Boston.

While I can't speak for all of my fellow forumers, I'm pretty sure that most of us hated his guts and he was kind of a punchline around here.
Thank you! Seems like he turned over a new leaf considering the enr article seems enthusiastic about the development in Devens rather than going for a passive aggressive, NIMBY-pandering shutdown.

In regards to this fusion project, is it really wise to experiment with a new nuclear technology so close to a major city? Do we really want the first (XYZ-Type) Nuclear Reactor a stones throw from Boston?
I don’t think Devens is unusually close to Boston for something like this. I have relatives that live near Lake Wylie outside of Charlotte, where there’s a nuclear plant that’s probably a little under 25mi from the city center as the crow flies.
 

bigpicture7

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This is great to see. Regarding location: first, there's small-scale nuclear research ongoing much closer to Boston than Devens. Second, a key point about fusion is that it is comparably much safer than fission by very nature of the physics that underly it. From wikipedia:
"Fusion reactors are not subject to catestrophic meltdown"​
"Fusion reactors operate with seconds or even microseconds worth of fuel at any moment. Without active refueling, the reactions immediately quench."​
[the amount of potentially dangerous non-nuclear materials/gases involved] "...are small enough that [they] would dilute to legally acceptable limits by the time they reach [a power station's] perimeter fence"​
"The likelihood of small industrial accidents, including the local release of radioactivity and injury to staff, are estimated to be minor compared to fission. They would include accidental releases of lithium or tritium or mishandling of radioactive reactor components."​
I'm sharing this because it is a common misconception that just because scalable fusion power has been much more challenging to achieve than fission, it is more dangerous than fission. That's false; it is a reaction that needs to be continually fed by fuel to continue, and where comparably not much fuel is present at a given time; thus it's physically not associated with meltdown-type disasters possible in fission.

So you can see that these safety differences are a huge part of why people are so excited about fusion.
 
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bigpicture7

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Shit, I've had fusion reactors in my Sim Cities for well over 20 years now. This is nothing special.
Haha. Well I'm an optimist, excited for when we can have them in cars/vehicles/other forms of transport.
 

DZH22

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I'm sharing this because it is a common misconception that just because scalable fusion power has been much more challenging to achieve than fission, it is more dangerous than fission. That's false; it is a reaction that needs to be continually fed by fuel to continue, and where comparably not much fuel is present at a given time; thus it's physically not associated with meltdown-type disasters possible in fission.
Thanks for the info. My issue in being leery is regards to being the first to try a new technology on a large scale. Sometimes there are unforeseen problems that need to be dealt with, and I'd rather they be dealt with further away from (our) major population center!
 

Blackbird

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Thanks for the info. My issue in being leery is regards to being the first to try a new technology on a large scale. Sometimes there are unforeseen problems that need to be dealt with, and I'd rather they be dealt with further away from (our) major population center!
If it works, wouldn’t it be better to have closer to the area with the highest energy demand?

A question I have, will this need to be on a large body of water in order to produce steam like a fission reactor would? If so, what water source are they using in Devens?
 

JumboBuc

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If you think Devens is too close to Boston for this, you'll be shocked to see what's going on at MIT! (Including all the research that set the stage for the Devens facility).

And the Devens facility isn't planned to be a functional power plant; it's a smaller demonstration case to show that the underlying tech can be scaled up to power plant size.
 

DZH22

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And the Devens facility isn't planned to be a functional power plant; it's a smaller demonstration case to show that the underlying tech can be scaled up to power plant size.
This is quoted from the article: "If that proves successful, Commonwealth and MIT will begin work on the world’s first commercial fusion reactor, with a pilot power plant potentially ready by the early 2030s or even the end of this decade."

Does this mean that the first commercial reactor would be in a place other than Devens?
 

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The irony here - one thread complaining about people not accepting more height and supertall developments in their neighborhood, the other pearl clutching about arguably vital next-gen power generation with a proven safety record and clear explanation to its safe R&D, occurring over 30 miles outside Boston - is sort of funny.

I totally get hesitancy about safety, but Nuclear has already been f***d to non-start-ability because of over-regulation, despite being proven safe.
And for reference, the exclusion zone diameter of both Chernobyl and Fukushima is less than half the distance of Boston-Devens (if the tendency is to compare those kind of disasters to a fusion one, that has never happened before).
 

393b40

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The irony here - one thread complaining about people not accepting more height and supertall developments in their neighborhood, the other pearl clutching about arguably vital next-gen power generation with a proven safety record and clear explanation to its safe R&D, occurring over 30 miles outside Boston - is sort of funny.
Nobody is really pearl-clutching in this thread that I can see. There's some legitimate question of whether its wise to put such a thing near a major city because most of us have no fucking clue what nuclear fusion entails. Curiosity does not imply resistance even if the questions might seem uncomfortable.
 

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I think people are also forgetting that the pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth is only about 37 miles from downtown, 25 miles from Brockton, and 4.5 miles from Plymouth itself
 

Bananarama

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Nobody is really pearl-clutching in this thread that I can see. There's some legitimate question of whether its wise to put such a thing near a major city because most of us have no fucking clue what nuclear fusion entails. Curiosity does not imply resistance even if the questions might seem uncomfortable.
I believe the answer to those understandable questions is answered in research and understanding of the tech itself. Least of all literally googling "nuclear fusion safety."
And trust in the scientists/professionals doing the work itself.
 
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stellarfun

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^^^This fusion reactor is right in the center of Cambridge!!

An excellent overview of the fusion technology being developed by Commonwealth Energy and MIT.
... the magnets will operate at 20 kelvin, roughly minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit,.... At this temperature the superconducting wires lose all resistance to the flow of electrons. This enables the magnets to compress the plasma to superhot temperatures and pressure, creating the conditions to make fusion energy inside the tokama.

On the other side of the wall of the vacuum vessel, we’re operating the plasma at about 100 million degrees Celsius, so it’s going to be largest thermal gradient in the world in just a matter of inches,
On why these reactors are safe.
The conditions to make fusion in a tokamak are so difficult to create and sustain, which makes the devices inherently safe, says Mumgaard. They can't melt down.

"If you think about it, stars are out in space, they don’t touch anything," he says. "And that’s what you have to basically build in a fusion machine. And the minute it touches something, it doesn’t melt through like lava. It extinguishes like a flame."
On the economy achieved by using superconducting magnets
...the new high temperature superconducting magnet, like those that will be used in Commonwealth Fusion’s SPARC device, will consume just 20 watts,1/10,000,000th the amount of energy as the copper wire magnets
And which is why Commonwealth's long-term goal is to build 10,0000 fusion machines each generating 200 megawatts of power. And locate these close to cities, which would help reduce the inefficiency of using long-distance transmission lines to distribute electricity. (The fusion machine itself would fit on a basketball court.)

https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/12/02/massachusetts-fusion-power
 

xec

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Scott used to write for the Globe and used the term "soaring" to describe literally every single proposed project in Boston. Even projects under 300' (ie the majority of what was built in that time period) were all considered "soaring" by this writer. It was a kind of forced propaganda used to appease NIMBY's during the dark times of (non)construction in Boston.

While I can't speak for all of my fellow forumers, I'm pretty sure that most of us hated his guts and he was kind of a punchline around here.
Yup. I think quite a few aB members would have loved to mount him on a trebuchet and send him soaring to parts unknown.
 

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