HEFEI: 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 revolutionise 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 six billion yuan (RM3.6bil) 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 six billion yuan and new construction plans are underway. — Reuters