Hi there! I’m Aneeqa and I am a research scientist in nuclear fusion and during my career I have worked at one of the largest scientific projects in the world, ITER, a research lab in Germany and I am now a research fellow in nuclear fusion at the University of Manchester! I love anything related to potential materials or engineering for future fusion reactors! Fission v Fusion, nuclear’s role in conversion to a hydrogen economy, how nuclear power fits with our future energy mix, it is all important and all exciting! Joining me is Emre Yildirim, a PhD Student here at the university to give a different perspective into the world of fusion but also on life as a PhD student, how COVID has affected research and what it is like being a young researcher in the fusion community. Fusion is always seen as 50 years in the future, but could now be a turning point in this exciting area of research? AMA!

EDIT - Wow - thank you all for the questions. We're going to be heading back to our day job as researchers now. We'll try to pop back tomorrow to follow-up and answer some more questions.

Comments: 500 • Responses: 68  • Date: 

not_levar_burton250 karma

How close are we to having an actual, commercially usable, nuclear fusion reactor? And what are the remaining hurdles?

UniOfManchester300 karma

GREAT question!! So there are a lot of different paths that are being pursued to achieve fusion atm. I'll give a quick overview.

We have the ITER project- a consortium between EU, Russia, China, USA, India, Korea and Japan where they are trying to build the largest ever tokamak and prove that more thermal energy can be generated than is put in. ITER is scheduled to have its first plasma in 2025 and will operate in to the late 2030s where the science and technology will be tested. If this goes to plan the next step will be a demonstration power plant, DEMO which will involve more industry and then hopefully commercial fusion power.

However, there are some more near term projects, such as the UKAEA STEP programme which wants to build a prototype reactor. There are also projects such as the SPARC reactor in the USA and other private ventures such as General Fusion and Tokamak Energy that are working hard to develop their concepts. So in sort, there is a lot more industrial involvement than has been previously so hopefully this can speed things up!!

Big hurdles - Materials to cope with the harsh environment, Engineering challenges, plasma confinement, supply chains, sourcing the raw materials, developing regulation, TL:DR a lot of work still needed, optimistically commercial fusion second half of this century?! A

butter_b58 karma

Can Wendelstein 7x bring some new insights into the sustainability of plasma, than what we already know?

UniOfManchester59 karma

Definitely! W7X is a super important experiment!

UniOfManchester76 karma

The big one is the so-called Q factor, the ratio of energy input to fusion energy and we still haven't achieved that being >1. There is also a difficulty with the commercial side of it. The first electricity-producing reactor will be far sooner than a fleet of fusion reactors ready to roll out, and then it is a case of funding, the more money, the faster it gets done, does that increase once we demonstrate Q>1? Other issues are on the materials side and with the control of the plasma. There is still lots to do, but it is being done!

Personally, I think we will show it works and have it producing electricity by 2040 at the current rate. You never know, some companies, General Fusion, Tokamak energy and the like are saying we will see it sooner, so there is always hope!

not_levar_burton25 karma

Awesome, thanks.

Follow up question - do you all use supercomputers or anything like that to test various things before trying them out in the lab? If so, what types of programs and computers are you using?

UniOfManchester47 karma

There's a fair bit of computational use on the materials side becoming more prominent in materials science as a whole. I do a bit with a programme called LAMMPS to study atomistic behaviour, but people go from the quantum realm all the way up to finite element modelling for big engineering components!

Plasma confinement is starting to use a lot of ML/AI bits now, there's a paywall but New Scientist did an article on it recently:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632861-200-why-cracking-nuclear-fusion-will-depend-on-artificial-intelligence/

Computational work is super important and is used in all aspects so this is just a handful of examples! This work benefits from not having to physically do the experiment which jumps over a lot of hurdles in terms of time on equipment and making samples but you also have to make a bunch of assumptions or just focus on a really tiny region, ultimately we will only know if it works once it is done in real life!

E

mas123476 karma

Will fusion reactors ever be capable of powering space craft?

UniOfManchester85 karma

So there is actually quite a bit of research being carried out on this at the moment! See the links below: https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2012_Phase_II_fusion_driven_rocket/ https://www.iter.org/newsline/-/3303 Exciting stuff!

floralcurtains5767 karma

I've seen loads on Twitter recently about the nuclear community getting annoyed that the renewable research community always post themselves as enemies rather than a joint solution to climate change. How collaborative have you found the different research communities when coming together to talk realities about business, policy support and ultimate goals of phasing out fossil fuels?

UniOfManchester56 karma

We definitely need to all work together to tackle the climate crisis! There is more crossover between all the different industries and the more we collaborate the better! Nuclear fusion has resulted in the development of so many new technologies and materials that would be beneficial across other industries and vice versa. It's getting better, but we totally need to work together more in developing technology and policies and solving the climate crisis!

UniOfManchester49 karma

Also I think fission and fusion can work closer together. For example we can get the tritium needed for fusion reactors from CANDU fission reactors!

goneyear9263 karma

Hi Aneeqa, how would you explain nuclear fusion to primary school kids?

UniOfManchester127 karma

In a nutshell that we are trying to create the sun on earth!

mcathen44 karma

If every nation in the world threw all of its efforts into a fusion-powered society, how long would it take? What would the world look like during and after the transition - would there be cultural differences (besides obviously being forced to get over nuclear anxiety)?

UniOfManchester39 karma

oooh interesting question! There is always a joke that fusion is 50 years away, but if we had the whole world working together on it things would definitely speed up! However, there would need to be a huge amount of coordination and direction in the work! This would not just be the technical side of things but also supply chain and regulations which would vary from country to country (just as they do with other industries) If we can get fusion working then this would be a benefit for all countries involved, and I don't think anyone would say no to having a clean reliable source of energy. So hopefully after fusion comes on the map we would have phased out fossil fuels, and have a grid with a mixture of fusion, fission and renewables and be on our way to a cleaner planet!

FluffyDoomPatrol35 karma

I feel embarrassed putting in a sci-fi question after all the clever physics ones, but here goes. What’s the worst case failure scenario for a fusion reactor? A few years ago I was writing a sci-fi story and at some point the reactor had to go boom, but when I was researching it all of the reactors were designed to safely shut down, which is great for safety but a boring third act.

UniOfManchester49 karma

Hi! So am sad to say that is the worst case scenario, fusion reactors inherently just turn off if there are any issues in the plasma!

MeanGreenCaterpillar30 karma

What made you fall in love with this sort of stuff and what are your hopes for the future of nuclear energy?

UniOfManchester53 karma

The honest answer is that I fell into the area! I was a mechanical engineer by training but I did some nuclear modules at university and they really inspired me! I love the idea of producing clean sustainable energy sources and the science is really exciting! I hope that nuclear fission in the short term and fusion in the longer term will contribute to providing sustainable energy sources across the world!

UniOfManchester28 karma

Emre here - just to add to Aneeqa's bit. I first learnt about fusion after seeing a BBC documentary when I was about 12, I have found a link for it here:

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3rg7x0

and after flirting with a bunch of different ideas, I felt like I wanted to do something that could benefit the world in terms of the environmental crisis we are facing and something that was interesting and unique. Out of all of the renewables, this one combined the benefit to humanity with some pretty cool sci-fi esque aspects!

Hope for the future - a greater acceptance of its importance to achieve net-zero, but that is a lot on our side in terms of communication. A greater sharing of the technology with countries that will be affected by our failures to tackle climate change, monopolisation of technology by the same old countries kind of sucks, science should be a collaboration with everyone.

RightRespect28 karma

What are the common misconceptions in your line of work that might paint a bad picture of nuclear energy?

UniOfManchester60 karma

So there is a common misconception that nuclear is really dangerous, but its an extremely highly regulated industry which means that safety is spoken about so much it makes it seem much scarier than it is and a lot of other industries are just as if not more dangerous

vedrit27 karma

What is the most inaccurate myth about nuclear fusion you've heard?

UniOfManchester55 karma

That it can be used to prevent a piece of shrapnel piercing your heart a la Tony Stark in Iron Man!

vedrit24 karma

Wait, that's what people think is going on there? I always understood it to be an electromagnet was stopping the metal for Tony, and that the mini-reactor was just overkill for power supply

UniOfManchester27 karma

ahh yes! but trying to make one that small that has a net power output isn't happening!! all about that fusion triple product!

https://www.iter.org/newsline/261/1527

zdro121618 karma

Hello! Thank you for doing this. I’m a math teacher looking for practical ways for students to see how math relates to science in the world. Do you have any ideas for lessons that can work with any high school group that relate to nuclear fusion?

UniOfManchester29 karma

Hi there! So fusenet have a lot of resources linked to fusion! It's worth getting in touch with them. The Fusion CDT and the Dalton Nuclear Institute all have great material too for schools too! Links are below :) https://fusenet.eu/contact Hope that helps! https://fusion-cdt.ac.uk/contact/ https://www.dalton.manchester.ac.uk/connect/schools-colleges-public/

Major7th_Games16 karma

Amazing! Fusion is super cool. How much do you think a fusion reactor can be shrunk down in the future, and what could possibly be the next step after fusion? Is it really the "holy grail" of the future? Thanks and keep up the awesome work!

UniOfManchester25 karma

Thanks for your love of fusion! Sooo, there has been a lot of progress recently in developing high temperature super conducting magnets which could drastically reduce the size of a fusion reactor (current supercooled superconductors are not so small!)! The SPARC project and Tokamak Energy are two groups who are keen to exploit these high temperature superconductors-very cool stuff! So I don't think any one source of energy is the 'holy grail' we need to work together across a range of industries and have a varied and dynamic energy base which would include fusion, fission, renewables etc... Once we crack fusion for energy, it would be awesome to look at secondary applications- e.g. desalination, the hydrogen economy!

Fermorian11 karma

The magnetic containment for ITER uses Nb3Sn and NbTi, which when I was studying superconductors in university were the hot materials (along with YBCO and BSCCO).

My question is: are there other SC materials being looked at for future projects to help with containment or are Nb-based pretty much as good as it gets for now on the scale of manufacturability and cost?

UniOfManchester19 karma

Nope, I strongly believe ReBCO will be the way forward! The science of ITER is a little bit stuck in the 90s so I think it will be the ones you were studying!

It is a pain not to use NbTi because it is soooo easy to manufacture, but the ReBCO ones give the opportunity for either higher fields or to not use liquid helium (which has to be cooled down a LOT) and that adds either to the stability or the ratio of energy in to energy out!

Vita_MC1211 karma

I suppose one thing I'd like to ask, hopefully fittingly, is what is your opinion on nuclear energy as a way of powering countries? What could be done with the waste, are there any uses for it?

I have heard that nuclear is nowhere near as dangerous as people claim it to be, despite Chernobyl and the like. I heard that Chernobyl was merely a badly designed reactor and that obviously Fukishima was due to the tsunami - though, I thought it was a little odd to put a nuclear power plant right next to the ocean!

UniOfManchester29 karma

I think in order to meet carbon emissions targets nuclear fission is an important part of the mix of resources we need to use in the near term. Some waste products can be reprocessed to be used as fuels. Fusion is on its way and hopefully will play a part in the longer term. Nuclear fusion has the advantage that the reaction can't run away, i.e the whole reaction just stops if there are any issues!

Yrouel8610 karma

One thing that has always puzzled me about fusion is how to get energy out of it. I mean I understand that fusing atoms releases a lot of energy but how is this energy collected and turned in something useful -IE electricity-?

My confusion comes from the fact that the plasma needs to be contained and absolutely kept from touching the vessel so how do you get the energy out?

UniOfManchester12 karma

Great question! So currently this is the big issue with fusion we don't generate more thermal energy out than we put in! But we are working on this and ITER hopes to prove that this is possible. And although the plasma shouldn't touch the walls the walls will still have heat and neutron bombardment! Once this is achieved, electricity generation would work in the same way as a power plant today. Energy produced through the fusion of atoms would be absorbed as heat in the walls of the tokamak and just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant would use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.

DigiMagic8 karma

I've read about miniature reactors called fusors, that use electrical fields to direct hydrogen ions. The main issue seems to be that weak electrical fields cause only a small number of fusion reactions, and stronger ones indirectly melt the metal electrodes (while still not making a lot of reactions). Do these kinds of reactors have any hope of achieving sustainable reactions some day? Why aren't they combined with magnetic fields; and why aren't metal electrodes replaced with electric arcs/plasma that can't be damaged by heat?

UniOfManchester18 karma

So fusors have an upper limit on the particle density they can achieve in the plasma and is not proven to be a viable power source. However, they can be used in other applications such as being a neutron source.

baulrog767 karma

What are the odds of another Chernobyl incident in todays world?

UniOfManchester30 karma

well, safety has come a long way since then, and it has always been a core principle guiding the design of nuclear reactors. Nuclear power is one of the safest ways of generating energy but when it goes wrong, it goes real wrong!! So many lessons have been learnt and there were lots of issues with Chernobyl that would just not present itself in today's nuclear sector - just the safety culture for one.

A lot of stuff has been made of the HBO doc - but I think the key takeaways are not the science (it wasn't very good) but what the show did well was show how the culture was the biggest factor. For the record, still loved the show.

E

UniOfManchester17 karma

So the horrible combination of conditions that resulted in Chernobyl are unlikely to occur in the same way in todays world. Nuclear regulations and modern reactor designs very advanced and we safely operate many nuclear reactors across the world. A

Citizen_of_Danksburg5 karma

I am a PhD student in statistics and have an undergrad and masters in pure math. I’ve heard there’s loads of uses of this stuff in fusion research but I have no idea. I’ve heard the topology of the fusion reactor is important or something like that? Is that referring to literally the topological space or just the general structure and shape of the reactor? Additionally, are there any uses for deep learning in fusion research or high performance computing? Those are sort of my research interests and I’m just curious if they can be applied to this area :) Nuclear fusion has always fascinated me. I wish more people took it seriously and funded it over these last 50-60 years.

UniOfManchester6 karma

Yep - topology is probably referring to the shape of the magnetic field lines as this helps with confinement! Check out stellerators and their helical shape, it is not just for show!

Loads of use for deep learning, very important for disruption predictions!

There was a new scientist article on it:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632861-200-why-cracking-nuclear-fusion-will-depend-on-artificial-intelligence/

(I know there is a difference between ML and AI but it kinda stands!)

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6587/aac7fe/meta

Check out the people on here and there references, maybe some cool people to chat to!!

And to your last point, I know!! There was an article explaining how there is a threshold limit to how much money we would need to spend a year and below it would literally never happen! (we were funding just below this value at the time!) There is more going in now so there is hope!

TsnAle5 karma

Hi Aneeqa and Emre, thank you for doing this AMA. :)

My question is, is there any way to create a cycle of fusion and fission reactions to generate energy from the fusion of "A" atoms to "B" and then reducing the "B" atoms back to "A" atoms generating energy again? Now that I typed this it seems like that would violate entropy. Would such a cycle be possible? What would be the limitations if such a cycle existed? Is this achievable practically?

UniOfManchester4 karma

Oh wow, ummmmmmm, so this has brought up a really interesting reason for why we do fission and fusion of the materials that we do!

It is all to do with binding energy so if you fission uranium, you get an energy release due to the mass defect comparing the reactants to products as the binding energy per nucleon is larger for the products than reactants. The reverse would mean you need that same energy to make up for the mass increase you are getting when turning them back to uranium and a neutron. So by doing this you wouldn't actually get any energy out!!

check out the graph in this:

https://phys.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/University_Physics/Book%3A_University_Physics_(OpenStax)/Map%3A_University_Physics_III_-_Optics_and_Modern_Physics_(OpenStax)/10%3A__Nuclear_Physics/10.03%3A_Nuclear_Binding_Energy/Map%3AUniversity_Physics_III-Optics_and_Modern_Physics(OpenStax)/10%3A__Nuclear_Physics/10.03%3A_Nuclear_Binding_Energy)

PolymathEquation5 karma

Given your profession, what are the concerns for your personal safety? Are you allowed to travel abroad? If so, do you do so under guard?

I realize it may seem farfetched to some, but nuclear scientists have been abducted in the past.

Additionally, are you concerned about weaponization of your research, should you personally succeed?

UniOfManchester6 karma

Like any technology/science there is a potential for people to use for good or bad. We as humans have the responsibility to do the right thing

1DumbQuestion5 karma

What are your thoughts about the Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor? Is this a useful concept that could be built and scaled to provide a smaller, more rapidly deployable solution than the traditional nuclear power plants we build today or is the design not conducive to power production so much as for aircraft propulsion?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_Compact_Fusion_Reactor

UniOfManchester5 karma

Ummmm hard to say, it is good that there are lots of different attempts but I still believe the tokamak is the best bet! There are attempts to do a similar thing in terms of size and scaling with tokamak designs.

We are watching closely though and a lot of our work is transferable across different designs!

E

Zombierabbitz3 karma

ELI5 How do fusion reactors work?

UniOfManchester11 karma

So there are quite a few different types of fusion reactors that are being investigated! They typically fall into two main groups, Magnetic Confinement and Inertial Confinement. The magnetic ones use magnets to confine a plasma (an ionised gas) and the inertial confinement ones use lasers! The tokamak is the most popular type of reactor at the moment which looks like a donut shaped device! If fusion is developed as a viable commercial energy source then the energy produced through the fusion of atoms would be absorbed as heat in the walls of the tokamak and just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant would use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.

UniOfManchester9 karma

also I have just learnt ELI5 means explain like i'm 5, so in that case a fusion reactor is like making a mini sun on earth!

FullmetalBlue133 karma

A fellow Plasma Physicist! Yaaay! I'm about to join you for my Master Thesis in Munich. Do you think that in the field there still are hopes for a carreer in research, despite the whole messy situation?

UniOfManchester4 karma

Oh amazing and YES DEFINITELY!!

Check out the funding for STEP in the UK:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-take-a-big-step-to-fusion-electricity

Attitudes are changing in governments everywhere and there is loads more private investment, check out Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE, General Fusion, First Light, Tokamak Energy, this list goes on!!

E

FullmetalBlue131 karma

Cool! Thanks a bunch. I'm a bit worried about restrinctions and lack of funds due to the pandemic, so I'm glad to hear that also UK is investing in the field. I worked on Spider (Padua) so I hope to continue collaborating with ITER in the future :)

UniOfManchester2 karma

I was meant to be in Padua for a conference this year!! I was gutted!

There is still an investment but remember, the first thing you do after your masters is not your final destination! It is all a journey so even if research in your desired field or in research at all isn't immediate, there is nothing stopping you from coming back!

E

DonJuanXXX3 karma

Do most people involved in your field have undergraduate degrees in Nuclear Engineering or they are likely to come from other fields? If so, which ones? Also, I looked at a couple of courses on Nuclear Engineering and most of the classes involved only fission. Is that an anomaly or are fusion courses unorthodox for that level? Also, is there a lot of security concerns with regards to sensitive information that limits involvement of foreign nations in projects like yours?

UniOfManchester6 karma

So we have a huge amount of different people in our field! From engineers, physicists, chemists, materials scientists, communicators, language graduates. We need them all - the problems fusion have are wide and complex! So typically there is very little taught on fusion at UG, but this is starting to change as fusion becomes more widespread!

UniOfManchester4 karma

Also huge international involvement in fusion- lots of different countries involved and we would like to see even more- its a technology everyone needs!

Dutch_Midget3 karma

Does fusion produce radioactive nuclear waste the same way fission does?

UniOfManchester8 karma

So the good thing about fusion is that we aim to use materials that don't result in long lived radioactive waste as is the case in fission!

RobertoPaulson3 karma

I’m sure I’m far too late here, but its something I’ve been curious about for a while.

Given the long timeline of design and construction of the ITER, and recent developments in fusion research, is it likely that the ITER will be obsolete before its even completed? I’d love to hear your opinion on this. Thank you!

UniOfManchester9 karma

Great question! So the work being done at ITER is definitely still important regardless of other progress being made around the world. Without ITER we would not have the huge development in technology and supply chains worldwide that we need for fusion to be viable internationally and has given many people a lot of important knowledge and skills!

SirLoftyCunt3 karma

I heard some countries are slowly moving away from fission because it's too expensive most notable France, one of the biggest proponents of nuclear fission. So I'm curious what you think of the economical viability of nuclear fusion and how long it will take before it can compete with other renewable sources of energy like solar and wind?

UniOfManchester3 karma

Great question that currently needs a lot of research! It is really important that we carry out life cycle analysis studies on reactor designs as soon as possible so that we can ensure fusion is economically viable!

fyredge2 karma

How relevant do you think is a postgraduate degree in nuclear physics towards nuclear fusion? I am aware that most physics research in fusion is in plasma physics.

Also, how viable are other methods of confinement relative to tokomaks? (I.e. inertial, stellarators)

UniOfManchester2 karma

It's still relevant! And the skills you have can definitely be transferred! I was a mechanical engineer and look where I ended up!

So inertial I don't know much about, but stellerators although complex to make are super awesome!

abunchofsquirrels2 karma

To what extent do you believe (or know based on your experience) the fossil-fuel industry has obstructed the research, development, and proliferation of nuclear power? Either through political lobbying, direct-to-public information (and disinformation), or other means?

UniOfManchester3 karma

An interesting article here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/03/28/the-dirty-secret-of-renewables-advocates-is-that-they-protect-fossil-fuel-interests-not-the-climate/?sh=5999e2171b07

there is still so much funding in oil and gas and finding new fossil fuels that it has been shown we MUST leave in the ground that even as a passive system of taking funding from nuclear and other renewables it affects it for sure!

There is a change in funding from outside sources but I haven't seen a company that currently is in oil that is also funding a large-scale fusion project.

honestly, there are issues, of course, there are but this is how we get to net-zero fastest and we are running out of time!!! Not to be extreme but is true! Especially when wind and solar will be hard-pressed to solve problems with fossil fuels in such industries as shipping!

Oil is big, real big and I think that them not having a hand in stuff would be naive to think, I am not sure what I can say on here and information is hard to find. I feel like I sound like a conspiracy theorist so i will stop now!!

E

MadamMeouff2 karma

Isn't nuclear and fusion an oxymoron? Nuclear means fission which is the total opposite of fusion, or at least as far as I'm aware.

UniOfManchester3 karma

So nuclear just means anything related to the nucleus of an atom so can be applied to fission or fusion!

MadamMeouff2 karma

Aaaaahhh I see, sorry for the really dumb question ^^;

UniOfManchester4 karma

there are no dumb questions!

ManMayMay2 karma

What's going on with that 1.2 billion Trump approved for nuclear power? I vaguely heard about it and nobody seems to explain it well, is it for a plant or research???

SwiftFool2 karma

Do you think this will also drive an increase in heavy water nuclear plants to act as a tritium source for fusion or are heavy water plants basically dead?

UniOfManchester3 karma

I would love for there to be more CANDU reactors or other heavy water plants, two benefits, firstly we are reducing carbon emissions and secondly also a source of tritium for getting future power plants going. There is also scope for fusion plants to generate tritium in the future too (ITER will be testing this!)

Qwsdxcbjking2 karma

  1. What would be the biggest positives and negatives of widespread nuclear fusion as an energy source?

  2. If you were not originally from England, what do you think of the Manchester accent lol?

UniOfManchester2 karma

  1. Positives are that it would be a clean energy source that could be used for secondary applications as well! Negatives, if it works, honestly not so many!
  2. Born in the London borough of Barking I can honestly say I prefer the Mancunian accent!

melee_n_chill2 karma

Hello, recent nuclear engineer graduate from berkeley here. Do you have any recommendations on interesting fields to pursue in the world of nuclear? I just got my bachelor's and dont know in what direction I wanna head in for my masters. Would really appreciate your advice.

UniOfManchester3 karma

Very good question!

First things first, everyone in fusion is super open to collaboration and for a chat so never fear emailing a random person you find. Just look at groups at different univerisites and see if you like what they are doing! I know in the US the MIT Nuclear Engineering group is great and Prof. Mike Short is a really nice guy!

I know there are CDTs here in the UK such as mine:

https://fusion-cdt.ac.uk/

and others like:

https://www.nuclear-energy-cdt.manchester.ac.uk/about/next-generation-nuclear/

Sometimes you can go straight for a PhD if you are interested but for a masters maybe check out the fusion one at York:

https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-taught/courses/msc-fusion-energy/

or this one at Bristol:

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/2021/sci/msc-nuclear-science-and-engineering/

I have friends who did them and loved them!!

The big takeaway is never worry about emailing people! We all love a chat and will be happy to help!

420_simplord1 karma

How economically efficient is generating nuclear energy now? And how much efforts will be needed for nuclear energy to be cost effective to every nation in the world?

UniOfManchester1 karma

Good question, so they are definitely getting more and more efficient. We need to have more worldwide collaboration for sure to further drive down costs!

domino71 karma

Do you think Muon induced fusion is a viable route to go down, or is it more of a novelty that doesn't make practical sense for actual energy production?

UniOfManchester2 karma

I think unfortunately its the latter for commercial viability!

Silver_Frostbite1 karma

Can we have nuclear fusion in our pockets one day?

UniOfManchester1 karma

Maybe as a next generation hand warmer!?

E

Psylocke_X-231 karma

As a high schooler interested in nuclear engineering, but particularly nuclear fusion development, is there any advice you can give me in terms if what I should be doing to prepare myself for such a career?

UniOfManchester2 karma

Keep up the enthusiasm! Depending on what aspects you are interested in you can look at physics, materials, engineering, communications! Check out the websites of fusion companies and follow their communications online!

Shadowfox10921 karma

So not a question about science but we have super similar names just a letter off. Do you have as much trouble as I do getting people to pronounce your name correctly?

Also what sparked your interest in this field?

UniOfManchester2 karma

Yes all the time and the spelling! It was a fluke but I loved the idea of doing something practical that will contribute to a better planet!

emotionrat1 karma

I’m a current materials science student studying nuclear materials. What is the best way to get involved in the fusion discussion and the nuclear research industry post-graduation?

UniOfManchester2 karma

This is a great place to start! Look for opportunities for MScs and PhDs in the field (I think Emre addressed these in a post above and he will add a link below!) There are plenty of companies hiring too such as General Fusion, UKAEA, ITER, Tokamak Energy!

Ellllioot1 karma

Speculating quite far into the future. Has there been much research into the potential political and social apparatus to 'roll out' Fusion Infrastructure globally at the scale required? It seems there could be lots of hurdles here.

UniOfManchester1 karma

This is starting, but definitely very important and needs more research!

Yhijl1 karma

When I was growing up, fusion was maybe possible for large-scale energy generation. Is it now known to be achievable, and just a matter of time? Or still not a definite?

UniOfManchester2 karma

So there has definitely been huge progress in the field, but still a lot of work needs to be done and we definitely need to achieve Q>1!!

UniOfManchester1 karma

We obviosuly believe it is, but we will get the proof this decade! Watch closely the JET DT campaign and some of the private investment!

elubow1 karma

How, if at all, does Thorium play into your work?

UniOfManchester3 karma

So unfortunately I don't work with thorium in the field of fusion I am focused on material and engineering issues. I love tungsten!

wynlyndd1 karma

Hello! Knowing that you work on ITER do you have an opinion on the chances of SPARC being viable?

UniOfManchester1 karma

The work being done at SPARC is awesome and I'm excited to see what happens next!

sanman1 karma

Hi, which do you feel is the most promising method for nuclear fusion, and why?

UniOfManchester1 karma

Great question! So the tokamak has definitely had the most time and attention and is what is being pursued in huge projects such as ITER and STEP so in that sense it has the most people working on it. But that doesn't mean we can't discount other ideas - General Fusion have an amazing looking concept! https://generalfusion.com/ Stellerators are also super cool!

philloran1 karma

1) How will we keep the cost of power fair in a world powered by fusion reactors?

2) Do tokamaks have a theoretical maximum power capacity on earth?

3) Do you have a 3d printed model of ITER on your desk?

UniOfManchester1 karma

  1. this is really important, I don't want this to be another technology dictated by the same people but unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that apart from that we should share the science for the good of humanity!!
  2. No, it will be dictated by how easy it is to manufacture the components, get it hot, and keep it confined!
  3. No but I wish! Have you seen this link here:

https://www.iter.org/newsline/-/3477

E

StephMujan1 karma

I know fusion is naturally occurring, but how realistic is it for artificial fusion to stabilize? It sounds like an impossible fantasy for money laundering according to some reports.

UniOfManchester3 karma

So we have a lot of fusion reactors on earth that have been used to showcase fusion can work! It's definitely a challenge to get to a commercial stage, but I have faith we will get there!

Max_Goldenson1 karma

Can you explain to me the benefits of using Thorium verse Uranium? We are learning about their uses in reactors in school and it’s the one thing I am having trouble understanding! (Thanks for doing this btw! Your line of research is super fascinating!)

UniOfManchester2 karma

Okay so this is the world nuclear article:

https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/thorium.aspx

Totally appreciate it might not be super clear. Thorium doesn't fission (split apart) itself, but when you hit it with a neutron, and the neutron gets absorbed, the nucleus wants to lose that energy and in doing so it turns into uranium! Pretty cool!

It also produces different kinds of waste, and less of it while also is super hard to turn it all into weapons, so is a lot safer! BUT it is kinda tough to do, you have to be very efficient with your chain reaction and things get expensive when making the fuels. India is pretty keen on it though!!

Hope that helps!

E

Max_Goldenson3 karma

Thank you so much! I have a test coming up so you are a life saver!

UniOfManchester2 karma

ahhaa good luck!!!

Marcos__941 karma

Two of the biggest criticisms of nuclear are the length of time it takes to complete a fission reactor (Hinckley Point C, Flammanville, and others) and the costs of these projects, especially ignored/forgotten costs associated with decommissioning. How does the industry address these issues to build confidence in project timelines, project costs, and competitive cost of energy for the future?

UniOfManchester2 karma

So decommissioning is now a really important part of how we think about the life-cycle of reactors but yes, this hasn't always been the case!

I am not how we can address these better if you know there is a large pay packet waiting for you in a large nuclear organization somewhere!

E

Latwe1 karma

Do you view fusion power as a viable short- to mid-term solution for climate change?

UniOfManchester1 karma

So given that there is still a lot of development required in tech and policy for fusion, I would see it as a more mid-long term option. Although the technology being developed on the way definitely has short term applications across industries!

Elgatee1 karma

Is there any form of treatment that can be used on nuclear waste to lower their half life? Considering we don't talk often about, I wonder if it's because it's not worth it, or if it's impossible (or most likely not yet possible)

UniOfManchester4 karma

Certain nuclear waste products can be reprocessed. Once certain fuels are used in a reactor, they can be treated and put into another reactor as fuel. This reduces the amount of waste generated, there is also research into ways to convert the remaining waste to something with a lower half life.