China succeeds in test of thermonuclear fusion reactor
Updated: 2006-09-28 17:47

HEFEI -- Chinese scientists on Thursday successfully conducted their first test of an experimental thermonuclear fusion reactor, which replicates the energy generating process of the sun.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion reactor, nicknamed "artificial sun", was tested at the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Hefei, capital city of east China's Anhui Province.

During the experiment, deuterium and tritium atoms were forced together at a temperature of 100 million Celsius.

"At that temperature, the super heated plasma, which is neither a gas, a liquid nor a solid, should begin to give off its own energy," scientists explained.

The first tests lasted nearly three seconds, and generated an electrical current of 200 kiloamperes, Wan Yuanxi, general manager of EAST, told Xinhua.

The experiments were continuing, he said.

The device is planned to eventually create a plasma lasting 1,000 consecutive seconds, the longest a fusion reactor has ever run.

Li Jiangang, director of the Institute of Plasma Physics, said the results of the test met the expectations of scientists and signifed a great breakthrough in the research of thermonuclear fusion.

"That means we lead all our competitors by at least a decade," said Li. "The breakthrough will make it possible for mankind to harness a safe, clean and endless source of energy."

The data of the test will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Austria.

EAST is an upgrade of China's first-generation Tokamak device and the first of its kind in operation in the world, said Chinese scientists.

Unlike traditional nuclear fission reactors, which split atoms to create energy and produce dangerous radioactive waste, EAST uses nuclear fusion to compress atoms at extremely high temperatures to generate energy that would produce very little pollution.

Scientists theorize that a fully functional fusion reactor would provide cheaper, safer, cleaner and endless energy and reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels.