China will be involved in the development of all the core technologies needed to build the world's largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor.
On Wednesday China signed a historic deal with the European Union, the United States, Russia, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea to build the US$14 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
With China contributing 10 percent of the funding, the project is believed to be one of the most expensive scientific experiments ever.
Scientists hope ITER will unlock the secrets of nuclear fusion which could solve the world's energy crisis and bring an end to global warming caused by burning fossil fuels.
Last night Yang Changchun, an ITER engineer told China Daily that Chinese scientists will be involved in 12 of the project's key programs including manufacturing superconductors and power supply sets.
"China will take part in the research and development of all core technologies in this project," said Yang.
All participants are expected to ratify the agreement to build ITER by the end of the year with construction starting in Cadarache, France, in 2007, said the Xinhua News Agency.
Under the new accord, which was signed in Brussels on Wednesday after three years of talks, the EU will pay 50 percent of ITER's total cost with the rest divided amongst the other participants. The entire project is expected to last 30 years with the first 10 spent simply constructing the facilities. The completed reactor will have a potential power capacity of 500 megawatts.
Experts predict that by the end of the century 10 to 20 percent of the world's energy could come from nuclear fusion.
Huo Yuping, the leading scientist in China's ITER Office, said it was the project’s significance in solving the world’s energy problem which had encouraged China to involve it's scientists with the project.
He added that the nation could also take advantage of ITER successes to develop related advanced technologies.
Although fusion experiments have taken place in only a few countries around the world they could hold the key to unlocking vast untapped supplies of energy. Theoretically a fusion power plant could generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity from only 1 kilogram of deuterium and 10 kilograms of lithium.
A conventional nuclear fission power station would need 500 kilograms of highly radioactive uranium to generate the same amount of power while a coal power station would need 10,000 tons of fuel.
Scientists are able to extract deuterium from sea water so with fusion power the world's oceans would contain enough energy to meet human needs for the next 6 billion years.
(China Daily May 26, 2006)