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Physics/Fusion reactors in which you do not need to purify the fuel?


Hello sir, and thank you for agreeing to answer questions here.

I apologize if, for all I know. this question turns out to be based on flawed assumptions. It may  turn out that the author Joe Buff, who wrote the source material on which I am basing my question, has made some oversight so that my question is somehow flawed and pointless.

In his discussion of submarines powered by nuclear fusion instead of nuclear fission -- that is, submarine propulsion designs that might be achieved in the future -- Mr. Buff points out that "hydrogen is available in profusion by electrolysis of seawater, and that " ... this being the case, a fusion-powered submarine could literally gather its own fuel while it cruises in the deep. This much is basically easy to understand, and I have read it in textbooks elsewhere.

However, something that surprises me very much is when Mr. Buff goes on to assert "Some fusion reactor designs may not even require the separation of the deuterium and tritium 'heavy' isotopes." Have you heard anything about this? What exactly do you think he is trying to say? The idea is news to me. If I ask this famous, wealthy, influential man to clarify his essay, he will probably be too busy to answer. Or, Mr. Buff may well feel threatened, thinking that I am trying to steal his ideas and make money through stealing -- for that is what I would conclude if I were he.

In truth, my writing idea is quite different enough from his work so that I am not a thief, but Mr. Buff cannot be expected to know that. In my story, the submarine features not only fusion power, but fully closed ecology as well as cryonic accommodations for the crew. This entire asset only becomes operational if the automated systems receive clear indications of utterly catastrophic disaster. The asset leaves almost no "footprint" and can stand ready for decades or longer, consuming almost nothing. It is not loyal to a government but to a science fiction era NGO, and its operational purpose is to support the provision of aid to disaster victims, using many different approaches. It is part of a far, far larger plan, and the use of cryonics is inseparable throughout the whole transnational effort.

Thanks so much for your time and attention.

Well, in the case of a story like this, you probably want to focus on aneutronic fusion, probably hydrogen-boron fusion.  It leaves nothing radioactive behind, requires no isotope separation because boron 10 is not that big a contaminant and just makes more 11B anyhow, and the electricity can theoretically be extracted directly as electricity and not even require coolant.  If memory serves...quick search, yes... there's a fairly good wiki on it already.  Ignore anything you come up with about people attempting it, it's reasonable but slightly out of our technology's reach currently to get a plasma hot enough and well-enough confined.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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