CHINA / National

Nuke fusion reactor gives nation a headstart
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-02 06:05

A nuclear fusion device will be built in the country by the end of the year, which will help scientists try to come to grips with the new source of power before the rest of the world.

Minister Xu Guanhua [file photo]
The device will allow Chinese scientists involved in an international project to build a giant experimental fusion reactor in France to begin work before the latter is ready, Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua said recently.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, or EAST, will be the first of its kind in the world and is quite similar to but much smaller than the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is not expected to be fully operational for a decade.

EAST is based in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui Province.

"Over the next 10 years, while ITER is being built, we can conduct preliminary research on EAST to facilitate the operation and exploitation of ITER in the future," Xu told China Daily in an interview.

EAST will be one of the two major Tokamak devices in China the other traditional one is based in Sichuan Province.

Both facilities will contribute to ITER, the largest multinational scientific co-operation project China has ever taken part in, said the minister.

Last month, the government reached an agreement with the European Union, the United States, Russia, Japan, India and South Korea, to build the multi-billion-dollar reactor to address the world's energy crisis and global warming.

The reactor will emulate the fusion power of the Sun, harnessing the tremendous amounts of energy that are released when atoms fuse.

Inside the reactor, deuterium and tritium atoms will be forced together at a temperature of 100 million C, fuse and emit blasts of energy.

It will have fusion power of about 500 megawatts.

Chinese experts are involved in 12 of ITER's programmes including manufacturing superconductors, creating insulation to contain super-heated plasma, and providing high-powered pulse supply units.

"Our scientific and industrial prowess in these fields will improve by participating in these programmes, especially as they are totally new to the world," said Xu.

"We will also take advantage of the project to foster a number of experts in nuclear fusion for more self-reliant development."

As an equal member with the other six parties, several managers and researchers will be deputed to ITER; and the country will have access to all intellectual property rights of generated technologies.

Fusion power holds the key to solving projected energy shortages, with just 1 kilogram of fusion fuel capable of creating as much power as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel.

(China Daily 06/02/2006 page1)