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Construction of key fusion reactor facilities begins in Anhui

By Zhu Lixin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-14 17:31
The photo shows the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in Hefei, East China's Anhui province, which is dubbed as "artificial sun", Aug 16, 2018. [Photo/IC]

China aims at leading the world's research and development on fusion science, as major facilities for the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) broke ground for construction in Hefei city, capital of East China's Anhui province, on Friday morning.

The project, called the Comprehensive Research Facilities in Support of CFETR, will assist CFETR by providing extreme test conditions that allow research on the key components of fusion reactors, according to a press release by the Hefei Institute of Physical Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which leads the project.

The project, scheduled to finish in five years, is one of the country's major megascience facilities and has been listed in the country's 13th Five-year Plan for science and technology development.

It will provide strong support for cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary fields including energy, information, health and environment, and will become a user platform open to the world's fusion community, said Kuang Guangli, president of the Hefei institute, at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.

"This project is a critical step in the Chinese vision of that future, providing the technological basis for the construction of CFETR, which will bridge the gap between the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and a fusion power plant," said Tony Taylor, director of General Atomics, a nuclear physics institute based in San Diego, California, in the United States.

"I'm very excited about what is going to happen on this 0.4-square-kilometer plot of land in the upcoming five years. These facilities to be built here will provide the development of new technologies for CFETR and will enable a pathway for fusion energy worldwide," said Taylor.

In November 2017, more than 40 of the world's top scientists for fusion research gathered in Beijing and signed the Beijing Declaration to further promote international collaboration in the field.

On Thursday, more than 30 of the scientists gathered again in Hefei and founded the International Fusion Energy Cooperation Center, with Taylor being named the director.

The ultimate goal of CFETR is to build an "artificial sun" using fusion technology to help tackle the world's energy crisis.

Last month, the scientists in Hefei declared that the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) facility, a key one for fusion research, had for the first time achieved a plasma central electron temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius, marking a major breakthrough for the artificial sun.

The temperature is considered one of the most important conditions for nuclear fusion reactions.

The EAST has been designed and constructed by Chinese scientists, making China the first country in the world to build such equipment on its own.

Engineering design for CFETR began in December 2017, when a conference to mark the start of designing work was held in the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), based in Hefei and affiliated to the CAS.

CFETR consists of three steps. The reactor will see the start of construction before 2021. Construction will be finished and large-scale experiments will begin before 2035. Success in experiments will be achieved while construction of a commercial-use reactor will start before 2050, according to previous press release by USTC.

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