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‘Artificial sun’: China’s quest for clean, limitless energy

‘Artificial sun’: China’s quest for clean, limitless energy thumbnail

HEFEI: A ground-breaking fusion reactor built by Chinese scientists is underscoring Beijing’s determination to be at the core of clean energy technology, as it eyes a fully-functioning plant by 2050.

Sometimes called an “artificial sun” for the sheer heat and power it produces, the doughnut-shaped Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) that juts out on a spit of land into a lake in eastern Anhui province, has notched up a succession of firsts.

Most recently in November, it became the first facility in the world to generate 100 million degrees Celsius (212 million Fahrenheit) — six times as hot as the sun’s core.

Such mind-boggling temperatures are crucial to achieving sustainable nuclear fusion reactions, which promise an inexhaustible energy source.

EAST’s main reactor stands within a concrete structure, with pipes and cables spread outward like spokes that connect to a jumble of censors and other equipment encircling the core. A red Chinese flag stands on top of the reactor.

“We are hoping to expand international cooperation through this device (EAST) and make Chinese contributions to mankind’s future use of nuclear fusion,” said Song Yuntao, a top official involved in the project, on a recent tour of the facility.

China is also aiming to build a separate fusion reactor that could begin generating commercially viable fusion power by mid-century, he added.

Some six billion yuan ($890 million) has been promised for the ambitious project.

China artificial sun fusion reactor

EAST is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which seeks to prove the feasibility of fusion power.

Funded and run by the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, the multi-billion-dollar project’s centrepiece will be a giant cylindrical fusion device, called a tokamak.

Now under construction in Provence in southern France, it will incorporate parts developed at the EAST and other sites, and draw on their research findings.

Unlimited power, mega budgets

Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun.

It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy — the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.

Unlike fission, fusion emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material.

But sustaining the high temperatures and other unstable conditions necessary is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive — the total cost of ITER is estimated at 20 billion euros ($22.5 billion).

Wu Songtao, a top Chinese engineer with ITER, conceded that China’s technical capabilities on fusion still lag behind more developed countries, and that US and Japanese tokamaks have achieved more valuable overall results.

But the Anhui test reactor underlines China’s fast-improving scientific advancement and its commitment to achieve yet more.

China’s capabilities “have developed rapidly in the past 20 years, especially after catching the ITER express train,” Wu said.

In an interview with state-run Xinhua news agency in 2017, ITER’s Director-General Bernard Bigot lauded China’s government as “highly motivated” on fusion.

“Fusion is not something that one country can accomplish alone,” Song said.

“As with ITER, people all over the world need to work together on this.”


10 Comments on "‘Artificial sun’: China’s quest for clean, limitless energy"

  1. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 12:44 pm 

    So funny the great fusion scam.
    See the obsession with attaining the
    high temperature, and declare that the
    high temperature will be reached.

    But it’s a scam. What we must know,
    is power density. The power density of
    fusion, at the core of the sun, is
    7 Watts per cubic meter.
    Also hats significantly lower energy
    density, than the compost pile in
    your backyard.

    This is found at this link,
    under the section,
    “Energy Conversion”.

    The man made reactors will attain
    a higher energy density, but it will
    still be much too low to have a
    reasonable electric power station.

    Compare to energy-density of a
    coal-fired power plant, which at
    the burner chamber is probably
    3,000,000 Watts per cubic meter,
    spectacularly better than controlled

    This is why fusion research is a 100%
    scam, so that greedy rich government
    researchers can live in nice neighborhoods,
    drive a new Volvo to work, have a
    kitchen stuffed with Breville appliances,
    and bounce kids and grandkids on
    their knee at Christmas.

    They all belong in an
    unemployment line because
    fusion scams don’t Make America
    Great Again.

  2. Cloggie on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 12:58 pm 

    Wonderful that artificial sun, but we have a real sun that at least works NOW:

    This is a perfect solution for Africa: building and maintaining these giant solar arrays, financed with Eurasian money and providing income to local workers, who produce hydrogen or some derivative for Eurasian markets.


  3. Robert Inget on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 2:23 pm 

    I have to agree with Cloggie, like it or not.

    China may get ‘limitless energy’ someday.
    Rat now, the UK is, for reasons of its own is Banning Fracking.
    I’m guessing Brits caught on faster than Argentines or Americans. Fracking causes gas.

    Mind you, the UK still mines coal.

  4. Chrome Mags on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 2:44 pm 

    I wonder what the sticker shock will be like for utility customers when they get their first bill in X year for fusion energy. $35,892. dollars for the month of July, due in part to higher tier charges (resulting from decades of fusion R&D). Rates not intended to rise any higher than 10% additional in each subsequent year, and not to exceed $56,000. in monthly charges until such time higher fees are assessed as necessary to recoup cost overuns. Also, note that solar and wind energy sources are no longer needed.

  5. Anonymouse on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 7:47 pm 

    There are those 3 words that simply do not belong together in the same sentence, again.

    Nuclear Fusion – Limitless – Clean.

    But, to their limited credit, fake sci-tech writers have made great strides in the last 50 years and quietly dropped ‘too cheap to meter’ from their list of Fusions purported benefits. They never talk about what a KW\h of fusion electricity could potentially cost end-users. I wonder why that is?

    Maybe for the same reason they keep claiming fusion will be ‘clean’ and ‘limitless’, and ‘safe’?

  6. makati1 on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 8:06 pm 

    “The claim that nuclear electricity would be “too cheap to meter” is not apocryphal: That’s what Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, told the National Association of Science Writers in New York in September of that year.”

    Similar lies for fusion.

  7. powered-by-unsold-expired-supermarket-foods-AKA-fmr-paultard on Sun, 28th Apr 2019 9:33 pm 

    thank you to supertards for working on this difficult problem to save humanity. electricity through fusion will be too cheap to meter.

  8. Cloggie on Mon, 29th Apr 2019 1:07 am 

    I have to agree with Cloggie, like it or not.

    It is basically the (German) idea behind Desertec:


    Africa energetically integrated into Europe.

    The plan was abandoned… because it came too early. Better let the Arabs start using their oil wealth to initiate giant scale solar arrays.

  9. Gaia on Tue, 30th Apr 2019 1:11 pm 

    China is already technologically advanced. It could share its nuclear fusion technology with the rest of the world.

  10. Trami on Wed, 1st May 2019 4:37 pm 

    The same thing is happening that has happened with all overseas Chinese projects in recent years. Brilliant scheme. While closing old plants, China’s leaders have limited the building of new ones. The government has promoted wind and solar energy — it has produced so many solar panels that it has reduced prices for them worldwide. But the Chinese engineers, metalworkers and laborers who built coal-fired power plants must be kept employed, so they are going abroad, building energy projects for developing nations, largely as part of China’s One Belt One Road initiativeChina’s One Belt One Road initiative</a.Then the developing Nations will remain indebted to China. This has already happened with African Railways and with the port in Sri Lanka.

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