One of China's top science and technology decision makers said that scientists are considering strengthening international cooperation in research on fusion.
In a recent interview with BBC correspondent Geoff Watts at the end of January, Lu Yongxiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said fusion power plants would be the final result of today's plasma physics research.
China, the EU, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US are collaborating on an international experimental program called ITER, which means "the way" in Latin.
Lu, who is also a CAS academician specializing in hydromechanics, estimated that commercially viable fusion power plants could be in use within the next 50-70 years.
ITER is based on a hydrogen plasma torus operating at over 100 million degrees Celsius, which will produce 500 MW of power.
He predicted that, in the long run, the world's energy would come primarily from clean energy sources, supplemented by nuclear energy.
The government believes that science and technology are driving forces for the country's overall social and economic development, Lu said.
From 2001 to 2005, budgetary expenditure on research and development was double that from 1996 to 2000, he said.
In 2003, research and development expenditure was 153.96 billion yuan (US$18.6 billion), with a year-on-year increase of 19.6 percent and accounting for 1.31 percent of GDP.
Joint research and international collaboration will help promote the prestige of Chinese scientists among their global peers, Lu said.
"But fundamentally," he said, "China needs to cultivate an environment for innovation."
(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2005)