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China to generate fusion power from reactor by 2040

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China aims to complete and start generating power from an experimental nuclear fusion reactor by around 2040, a senior scientist involved in the project said, as it works to develop and commercialise a game-changing source of clean energy.

China is preparing to restart its stalled domestic nuclear reactor programme after a three-year moratorium on new approvals, but at a state laboratory in the city of Hefei, in China’s Anhui province, scientists are looking beyond crude atom-splitting in order to pursue nuclear fusion, where power is generated by combining nuclei together, an endeavour likened by sceptics to “putting the sun in a box”. While nuclear fusion could revolutionize energy production, with pilot projects targeting energy output at 10 times the input, no fusion project has up to now created a net energy increase. Critics say commercially viable fusion always remains fifty years in the future.

China has already spent around 6 billion yuan ($893 million) on a large doughnut-shaped installation known as a tokamak, which uses extremely high temperatures to boil hydrogen isotopes into a plasma, fusing them together and releasing energy. If that energy can be utilised, it will require only tiny amounts of fuel and create virtually no radioactive waste. Song Yuntao, deputy director of the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science, said on Thursday that while technological challenges remain immense, the project has been awarded another 6 billion yuan in funding, and new construction plans are underway.

“Five years from now, we will start to build our fusion reactor, which will need another 10 years of construction. After that is built we will construct the power generator and start generating power by around 2040,” he said at the site, built on a leafy peninsula jutting into a lake. China has been researching fusion since 1958, but at the current stage, it is still more about international cooperation than competition, Song said. The country is a member of the 35-nation ITER project, a 10-billion euro ($11.29 billion) fusion project under construction in France.

China is responsible for manufacturing 9 per cent of ITER’s components and is playing a major role in core technologies like magnetic containment, as well as the production of components that can withstand temperatures of over 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit). ITER is scheduled to generate first plasma by 2025. A demonstration reactor will then be built, with the aim of creating 500 megawatts of power from just 50 megawatts of input, a tenfold return on energy.

Despite the critics who say dependable fusion energy is unrealistic, Song said he was confident breakthroughs are being made. “Because we have a lot of technology now, a lot of challenges in plasma physics have been overcome, and I think this will speed up the entire process,” he said.

12 Comments on "China to generate fusion power from reactor by 2040"

  1. twocats on Sat, 13th Apr 2019 9:19 am 

    I laughed when Illinois passed $15/hr wage in 2025. Humans see their world collapsing around them and this is their response. BTW first plasma by 2025 as well. Taking bets on which response if the most pathetic.

  2. twocats on Sat, 13th Apr 2019 9:20 am 

    “if” should be “will be”

  3. Spread the Wealth on Sat, 13th Apr 2019 10:08 am 

    Better to think of livable minimum wages as wealth reallocation ; bring the elites bank balances closer to earth and perhaps their thinking will be as well. If nothing else, it’s the right thing to do; the rich aren’t wealthy because they are nice people; it’s built on largely stolen resources, made legit by buying the political system.

  4. Sissyfuss on Sun, 14th Apr 2019 11:09 am 

    Been listening to the hype of fussion since the 70s. Waste of time and money. We needed cheap, clean energy in the 70s. Cloggoes right about renewables but overly optimistic about their easy application. Overshoot will force us into mitigation and salvage at best. Climate disruption will force us into starvation and war.

  5. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 14th Apr 2019 11:23 am 

    Fusion is always 20 years away–
    1950 0r 2019, doesn’t matter.
    Kinda like the speed of light.
    (unless you are on the Sun, obviously)

  6. Majed on Sun, 14th Apr 2019 1:41 pm 

    IMO Fusion will have a 15% share of Primary Energy in year 2200.

  7. Outcast_Searcher on Sun, 14th Apr 2019 2:28 pm 

    At this is a reasonable statement about a fusion project, instead of over-reaching.

    Saying that they’re going to take a serious stab at it in 21 years, and that they have good hopes it will work is at least not wildly overstating things and claiming full success is more or less in the bag in a handful of years.

    And saying they hope to take a stab is a LONG way from stable, affordable, prolific fusion power. So the timeframe to make this a “real solution” will still be 40 or 50 years IF all goes well.

    I like technology. Sometimes it’s just fantastic. Look at computers. OTOH, the VAST majority of things in the lab never see commercial success, so keeping a realistic outlook is important when trying to forecast such new ventures. (Whether they be flying cars, coomon, cheap, safe, space tourism, a general, safe, effective cancer vaccine etc.)

  8. Go Speed Racer on Tue, 16th Apr 2019 4:27 am 

    LOL always 20 years in the future.

    NEVER 1 year from today.

    What a load of steaming horse manure.

  9. peakyeast on Tue, 16th Apr 2019 8:46 am 

    And as always: We already have the perfect maintenance free fusion reactor that provides true global power – all we need to do is to figure out how to collect the energy – which is not that hard if we just got our shit together.

    Perhaps like giant mirrors in orbit – or just get the 40% solarcells mass produced and mount them around the entire earth.

    The real problem is powermongers who wants total control of everybody and everything – at the expense of the future.

  10. Cloggie on Tue, 16th Apr 2019 10:27 am 

    “China to generate fusion power from reactor by 2040”

    Hopefully for China the laws of physics will cooperate. Don’t hold your breath.

  11. Antius on Wed, 17th Apr 2019 9:23 am 

    “China has already spent around 6 billion yuan ($893 million) on a large doughnut-shaped installation known as a tokamak, which uses extremely high temperatures to boil hydrogen isotopes into a plasma, fusing them together and releasing energy.”

    The Chinese are about to throw money where so much has gone before. Attempting to contain using magnetic fields, a hot gas with density considerably less than a milligram per cubic metre. And somehow draw energy from the hard neutron radiation that leaks out when the nuclei fuse, whilst simultaneously breeding new fuel from liquid lithium coolant. If it sounds difficult, impractical and cumbersome, that’s because it is.

    Is it possible that Tokamak fusion could eventually be harnessed to provide net energy? Yes, with enough capital investment and patience. Could it ever be harnessed to produce affordable electric power? Highly doubtful. At achievable plasma pressures, the core has at least an order of magnitude less power density than a nuclear fission reactor; is a hugely complex magnetic confinement system and is full of rare metals and technology that are constantly irradiated with hard neutrons.

    “If that energy can be utilised, it will require only tiny amounts of fuel and create virtually no radioactive waste.”

    Hard neutron radiation will rapidly degrade exposed metal components, requiring regular refurbishment. This will require complex remote mechanical handling in a highly radioactive environment and will produce a steady stream of radioactive metals that require disposal. It will certainly generate radioactive wastes, some of it with long half-lives. Not that that is necessarily the problem that many people seem to think it is. But it does degrade the utility of the concept relative to Gen 4 nuclear fission reactors, which can perform essentially the same function as a fusion machine with a high level of safety and a much greater potential for economic viability. If I had to choose where to put my money, it wouldn’t be the tokamak.

    There are pathways to nuclear fusion that show considerably more promise than the Tokamak. Inertial confinement concepts like Z-pinch; kinetic impact fusion; muon-catalysed fusion, laser compressed target fusion, or some combination of these concepts. Fission-fusion hybrids are also possible and some concepts allow fast fission of thorium or depleted uranium in a way that negates the need for breeding cycles. All of these options are more promising than the Tokamak because they allow the possibility of high system power density.

  12. Techie on Sun, 21st Apr 2019 11:52 am 

    I think that artificial intelligence would make a better government in the world.

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