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China to use fusion power in 30 to 50 years: scientist

Apr 25, 2022 | By Global Times

China has finished researching and developing more than 80 percent of the key technology in fusion energy, and is expected to use the fusion power in 30 to 50 years, a Chinese scientist told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

China is constructing a new grand research facility for fusion technology, the Comprehensive Research Facility for Fusion Technology (CRAFT), which is expected to be completed by 2025. Based on the CRAFT and experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST), or the Chinese "artificial sun," we are planning to build a compact fusion energy experimental reactor to realize the burning of plasma and produce fusion energy, laying a solid foundation for future fusion reactor construction, Hu Jiansheng, deputy director of Institute of Plasma Physics at Hefei Institutes of Physical Science, told the Global Times.

After the compact experimental reactor, Hu said he hopes the construction of Chinese Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) could be started as soon as possible aiming at future fusion development and application.

"With all these years of development all over the world, the scientific feasibility of fusion power has been proved. So far China has finished more than 80 percent of the key technology research and development. If the construction of CFETR gets a 'green light,' it's expected that we could achieve the application of fusion energy in about 30 to 50 years," Hu said.

The institute which developed the "artificial sun" is working on a new round of experiment of the EAST and has preliminarily obtained plasma. The main target of the experiment was to be among the first to sustain the high-confinement plasma for 400 seconds, and conduct plasma heating experiment, Hu said.

The institute is soliciting global experimental proposals for EAST to strengthen international cooperation, explore advanced operation and conduct in-depth research on key physics of plasma, provide scientific and technological verification for future fusion reactor's construction and operation.

The EAST has set a new world record by running for 1,056 seconds at high plasma temperature during an experiment in December 2021, the longest discharge of its kind in the world. It has scored a previous record of achieving a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds in an experiment in May 2021.

All these achievements showed that EAST successfully proved a series of key technology of future fusion reactor, and EAST is leading the world in long pulse operation, Hu said. It also demonstrated the feasibility and viability of a series of key technologies applicable for future fusion reactor, Hu added.

Future fusion reactor will create energy like the Sun, using tritium and deuterium abound in the sea to provide a steady stream of clean energy.

Once fusion energy is successfully produced, it can provide mankind with sustainable clean energy and can completely replace fossil energy, Hu said.

It is of great significance for China to build a new consumption energy system dominated by green and low-carbon energy and fulfill China's commitment of having CO2 emissions peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, he said.

The institute has established inter-governmental fusion framework agreements with countries including Japan, South Korea and Russia, established stable cooperation with more than 120 international research institutions and organizations and signed 39 formal cooperation agreements with the most important fusion research institutes.

In recent years, the number of EAST international experimental proposals accounted for 46 percent of the total proposals, and EAST has become a global open and shared international experimental benchmarking device, Hu said.

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