China plans fusion research centre

4 April 2019

Chinese authorities have approved a project to create a national centre for thermonuclear research at the Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

IPP said it would become one of the most significant scientific and technical projects in China’s thirteenth five-year plan. According to representatives of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a site has been chosen for the centre near the city of Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province, about 400km west of Shanghai. Construction work began at the site in December, but this information was only made public at the end of February.

The project aims to test superconducting magnets for thermonuclear reactors in conditions close to real ones, and to study plasma behaviour at temperatures that will occur during a thermonuclear reaction, as well as to examine “the effect of complex dynamic loads on critical systems and components”.

China is one of the seven co-founders (along with Russia, the USA, the European Union, Japan, India, and South Korea) of the international pilot thermonuclear reactor Iter, which is currently under construction at Cadarache in southern France. However,  China is also conducting its own thermonuclear research, the results of which can contribute to the development of Iter as well as advancing domestic fusion development.

China intends to build the China Fusion Engineering Test  Reactor by 2030. Although it will be less powerful than Iter, Chinese scientists say that, in some modes, it will be able to achieve several times higher plasma temperatures, which should speed up the attainment of a useful fusion reaction. If the expectations of the project are met, China hopes to establish the first fusion power stations by 2050. This should coincide with the commissioning of the international thermonuclear reactor DEMO, which is intended to be the prototype for a fusion power plant.

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