China Fires Up Its ‘Artificial Sun’ Fusion Reactor For The First Time
China’s quest to become a clean energy powerhouse took a big step forward this week, with the country successfully switching on its ‘artificial sun’ fusion reactor for the first time.
The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s most advanced research device when it comes to nuclear fusion, and scientists believe that if tests are successful, this kind of technology could be the key to developing a clean energy source capable of providing sustainable power at a previously unseen scale.
Nuclear fusion generates massive amounts of energy by merging atomic nuclei. It’s the opposite – and far more complicated – process to nuclear fission, which is currently used to power nuclear power plants. Nuclear fusion is both more environmentally friendly – generating no greenhouse emissions – and safer than fission, and has been described as the ‘holy grail’ of nuclear technology.
The ‘artificial sun’ replicates the process of nuclear fusion by using a magnetic field to fuse hot plasma, which can generate temperatures of more than 150 million degrees Celsius. That’s about 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun.
The reactor, which is located in Chengdu, south-west China, was unveiled at a ceremony on Friday after construction of the device was reportedly completed last year. Smaller versions of the device have been in development since 2006, but this is the first time a reactor of this size and nature has ever been fired up in the country.
In a report on the reactor, Chinese state newspaper The People’s Daily wrote:
The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,
Scientists working on the project also plan to collaborate with a French team currently developing the $22.5 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project – which is slated for completion in 2025.
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