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South Korean Scientists Smash Nuclear Fusion Record

South Korean Scientists Smash Nuclear Fusion Record thumbnail

Physicists in South Korea managed to keep high-performance plasma stable for 70 seconds this week. This gives the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor the record for the longest ever time sustaining such reaction.

kstar2[Image Source: Michael Maccagnan/Wikipedia]

This superheated plasma holds the key to unlocking nuclear fusion for virtually limitless and reliable energy. The Daejeon-based institute said they used a high-power neutral beam to contain the plasma.

“The world record for high-performance plasma for more than a minute demonstrated that the KSTAR is the forefront in steady-state plasma operation technology in a superconducting device,” National Fusion Research Institute said in a statement. “This is a huge step forward for realization of the fusion reactor.”


The KSTAR reactor is a tokamak reactor, one in which heated plasma blobs can reach up to 300 million degrees Celsius. Magnetic fields hold these blobs together, fusing hydrogen atoms to create helium atoms. That release of energy can be captured and converted to ‘unlimited’ power.

Three key variables – pressure, temperature and time – play a role in determining successfully measuring fusion reactions. Other reactors sustained longer times. For example, China’s EAST reactor held superheated plasma for 102 seconds. However, the KSTAR success involves higher pressures and temperatures. The high-performance plasma is a better fit for nuclear fusion operations. Thus, the ‘new record’ goes to it.

NFRI researchers also announced a new “operation mode” that can enable reactions to endure higher pressure at lower temperatures. Today’s reactors consume more energy than they produce. But each extension of sustaining these plasma reactions lead one step closer to duplicating the solar fusion process.

Most of the biggest news in nuclear fusion has come out of either German or French facilities. The internationally researched and French-based ITER Tokamak reactor recently finished insulating its qualification coil, a process that helps protect and sustain electrical currents run through the reactor. However, the KSTAR team doesn’t look to duplicate ITER’s successes.

“With the progress of the Iter project, the KSTAR research will focus on the mission essential for the fusion reactor beyond Iter,” the institute said. “They are new efficient mode of operation and a new divertor concept suitable for the Korean fusion demonstration reactor, the K-DEMO device, which will be the first runner in worldwide fusion energy development plan.”

Development of the KSTAR started in December 1995 and took 12 years to complete. Researchers conducted their first experiment in 2009. At that time, the KSTAR was the first in the world to feature a fully superconductive magnet system. Its mission is “to develop a steady-state-capable advanced superconducting tokamak” and “to establish the scientific and technological base for an attractive fusion reactor as a future energy source.”

The NFRI wants to continue to push boundaries and uphold that mission.

“We will exert efforts for KSTAR to continuously produce world-class results, and to promote international joint research among nuclear fusion researchers,” said NFRI president Keeman Kim.

Regardless of which reactor sustains nuclear fusion first, when it finally happens, the engineering and science communities will have created something that could potentially save humanity.

For more information about the NFRI and the KSTAR reactor, check out this website here. You can see a full breakdown and diagnostics of the main system, ancillary systems, and even get the project’s overall strategy.

21 Comments on "South Korean Scientists Smash Nuclear Fusion Record"

  1. Sissyfuss on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 1:35 pm 

    By golly, that means we’re only ten years away from electricity too cheap to meter.

  2. Lawfish1964 on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 1:46 pm 

    Nuclear fusion only ten years away. Always has been, always will be.

  3. onlooker on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 1:48 pm 

    At that rate call me in 7000 years or so when that would mean they could roughly keep the plasma stable for a year or so. Otherwise STFU

  4. Anonymous on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 2:59 pm 

    Its even worse than that onlooker. One thing that is seldom discussed by all these ‘science’ writers when they write about the ‘unlimited energy’ fusion will (one day)tm, bring, is, there is no known method for actually extracting energy from the plasma itself once its generated!

    Sure, there are ideas, theories and so on, of course. But none of these researchers can definitely say, once they can consistently generate a stable plasma, that a means exists for actually drawing usable power from the plasma exists. It doesn’t. And since the purpose of all this to generate heat to turn a steam turbine….

    You might think that minor technical detail has already been worked out and more or less tested, but…no, it hasn’t.

    Try to imagine installing say, a fireplace, that produced ZERO usable heat. But consumed plenty of fuel(wood), but again, no actual heat you could utilize in way shape or form. Who would install, or pay for such a device?

    A: No one.

  5. onlooker on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 3:18 pm 

    I also read that they would truly need to scale up to the size of a planet to be to unlock the Energy. Just fantasies in wishful minds

  6. penury on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 3:59 pm 

    Fantasies are rampant in Techno dreams of ever increasing riches and toys for the humans. The oncoming shock when most of this dies will be a sight to behold, sadly I do not think anyone would like to experience it.

  7. Cloggie on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 4:11 pm 

    One has to admit that 70 seconds are impressive.

    Latest on German Wendelstein reactor:

    Tests confirm that Germany’s massive nuclear fusion machine really works

    Significant progress achieved.

  8. Plantagenet on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 4:58 pm 

    The future is going to be grand. Fusion reactors will soon be powering your house, your car, factories, our spaceships heading to our Mars colonies, the floating cities that the rich will build in the sky, and even our wristwatches—-

    Its going to be like fusion cuisine only better!


  9. curlyq3 on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 7:32 pm 

    I would guess that the plasma containment flingistine must get very hot. The cooling flingistat jacket assembly would remove this thermal energy to be utilized for steam turbine generated electricity. Keeping the plasma stable enough to maintain nuclear fusion is the major obstackle in this here de-vice. If Amos ,Andy, and the Kingfish cant make it work the first time, some more money aught to get it workin sooner or later … I know that’s right!


  10. DMyers on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 9:34 pm 

    “…to establish the scientific and technological base for an attractive fusion reactor as a future energy source.” [Quoting from the article, which was quoting from KSTAR’s statement of its “mission”}

    “ attractive fusion reactor” they say. Hmmm That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    I know people who have run for a political office until they finally won. Fusion generated energy is a very similar phenomenon. Keeps tweaking and coming back, and one day it will suddenly and finally work. I don’t pray for it, but I think about it every night before I go to sleep.

    Sure, it’s going to take some more money, Curly. That’ why this thing is going to come through. Money is not a finite resource. They create it routinely down at the Fed.

  11. anarky321 on Wed, 21st Dec 2016 11:00 pm 

    in the strategy game Outpost 2 the fusion reactor is called Tokamak….coincidence?

  12. Cloggie on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 3:10 am 

    Like DMyers I am not sure if I would want to see fusion work, but helas, the universe is not about

    With nuclear fusion it is like fusion with girls: it is no until it is yes.

    Somehow it works in the Sun and everywhere else in the universe, so why not on Earth?

    Fusion working means infinite energy. It means that One World would materialize after all. Flying from London to Sydney in one hour, interrupting shopping in Paris to have a cappuccino and lunch on Times Square, no problem sir.

    Please don’t let it happen.

  13. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 4:45 am 

    They didn’t produce much energy. If they did have some energy production, in 70 seconds it would have melted the steel tank.

  14. Cloggie on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 4:47 am 

    Napoleon didn’t kick ass either when he was 1 year old and was basically occupied filling diapers.

  15. Hubert on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 7:50 am 

    They are actually making progress. I have no clue what this breakthrough will mean.


  16. Apneaman on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 8:56 am 

    clogO, none of that shit would happen if there was almost free energy. What would happen is the insatiable reward seeking humans would strip mine the rest of the planet in a few years and even microbes would be lucky to survive. It’s what man do.

    Earth enters sixth extinction phase with many species – including our own – labelled ‘the walking dead’

    New map reveals shattering effect of roads on nature

    Rampant road building has split the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments, most of which are too tiny to support significant wildlife, study shows

  17. Jef on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 9:39 am 

    “…the engineering and science communities will have created something that could potentially save humanity.”

    Well at least they acknowledge that we are all totally SCROMED unless they pull a rarebit out of their hats.

  18. mx on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 9:54 am 

    You can thank the OIL PROTECTION team in Congress: Republicans. Look at the bozo they’re putting in to “lead” the energy department.

    Future Jobs? Now to go to KOREA.
    Repubs = Own Worst Enemy.

  19. Kenz300 on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 10:23 am 

    Nuclear is too costly and too dangerous.

    World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind – Bloomberg

    Solar cheaper than natural gas and coal. Climate Change will be the defining issue of our lives.

    Wind And Solar Now Cheapest Unsubsidized Electricity Sources In The U.S. – First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) | Seeking Alpha

  20. Jerome Purtzer on Thu, 22nd Dec 2016 11:08 am 

    Are any of you familiar with PENV a Nevada company that uses industrial induction to heat steam and turn turbines. They bought and renovated an old coal fire plant and are buying a mothballed TVA nuclear plant to convert. Supposedly their induction machine uses 8MW of input and the turbines output 108MW. If this process works it would make fusion redundant. The old coal plant is supposed to come on line in the next 2 months so I guess we’ll see.

  21. Hubert on Fri, 23rd Dec 2016 12:31 pm 

    We have to get back to the Moon to start mining Helium-3. Not much choice at this point.

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