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China joins a powerful push for fusion future
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China will undertake nearly 10 percent of an international fusion-research project to be implemented this year.

The project is called ITER and wants to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion power - the energy of the sun or hydrogen bomb - for peaceful use.

"The project aims to find a shortcut to solve our energy shortage," Luo Delong, deputy director of the ITER China Office, said at the Oriental Science and Technology Forum held in Shanghai over the weekend.

He said Chinese researchers would be in charge of producing various components of the project and escorting them into Cadarache in the south of France where the ITER's key equipment will be constructed.

China will inject about one billion yuan (US$137.5 million) into the project, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the overall ITER investment, officials said.

Other partners in the project include the European Union, the United States, Japan, India and Russia.

According to Zhang Jie, a fusion-power scientist of Jiao Tong University, researchers of universities in Shanghai, including Fudan and Donghua, are conducting fusion-related studies.

China will further enhance its education in the area to lift the country's overall research power.

The long-term objective of the research is to harness fusion nuclear energy to help meet the future energy needs of mankind, project officials said.

The aim of ITER is to show fusion can be used to generate electrical power and do the preparation work to build and operate an electricity-producing plant.

The key part of the project is to develop a viable fusion-power reactor.

Scientists of ITER will test a number of key technologies, including the heating, control, diagnostic and remote maintenance that will be needed for a real fusion-power station, officials said.

Local experts said fusion may produce dozens of times more energy than fission, which now directs most of the world's nuclear-power plants.

Fission can only be caused by uranium. However, the resource to trigger fusion can be found in ordinary substances from the sea, they said.

According to the Website of ITER, the overall construction cost of ITER is estimated at five billion euros (US$7.37 billion) over 10 years and another five billion euros are earmarked for the 20-year operation period.

The ITER organization owns the ITER device and is responsible for all aspects of the project, such as licensing procedures, hardware procurements and operation.

(Shanghai Daily January 7, 2008)


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