Expert: clean energy from ‘artificial sun’ could be available in 30 years

(People's Daily Online) 08:51, March 14, 2023

Human beings would be able to start using clean and efficient energy from nuclear fusion in the near future, said Duan Xuru, a senior expert on fusion in China National Nuclear Corporation who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Photo shows the installation of the first piece of the ITER Tomakak Complex on May 26, 2020. (Photo/ITER Organization)

In November 2022, the enhanced-heat-flux first wall panel of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) was successfully built in China, marking a major breakthrough in the production of a core component of the ITER, the largest “artificial sun” in the world.

ITER emulates the natural nuclear fusion reaction of the sun to unleash clean and carbon-free energy. To meet the conditions of controlled nuclear fusion, the temperature of the fuel particles must surpass 100 million degrees Celsius. The course of burning produces large quantities of high-energy particles. The wall panel is designed to have immediate contact with plasma and high-energy particles with temperatures over 100 million degrees Celsius.

“After achieving the pivotal production of the ITER enhanced-heat-flux first wall panel, which has a stronger performance than design requirements and is suitable for mass production, China has achieved a breakthrough in the key technology of the ITER enhanced-heat-flux first wall panel,” said Duan.

International nuclear fusion research is in the development stage of deuterium-tritium combustion experiments, and key nuclear engineering technology research of fusion reactor.

Duan said that the next step of the “artificial sun” project is to gradually transition to fusion reactor engineering and physical experiments, and ultimately enter the stage of the pilot fusion power station and commercialization. In this phase, fusion energy will be available to users.

“If we rely on the existing nuclear science and technology industrial system, gather relevant advantageous research units and enterprises with professional experience and technical foundation in the field of nuclear engineering, gradually build a technological development system and industrial system for fusion energy, and focus on nuclear fusion engineering and technical research, I believe that human beings will be able to use controllable nuclear fusion energy in around 30 years,” said Duan. 

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Du Mingming)


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