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China to Play Major Role in ITER
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A trial operation on a miniature of a planned international reactor has succeeded and China is now confident of contributing to an international bid to meet future energy needs through nuclear power, Jin Xiaoming, director-general of the International Cooperation Bureau of the Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday.


The US$12.8 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project involves nations bearing half the world's population and vies to build a viable international fusion power reactor.


Chinese scientists successfully completed the test with a device known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, or EAST, similar to but much smaller than the ITER, two weeks ago in Hefei of Anhui Province.


An international committee will evaluate the device next month.


"The building of the EAST shows that China has the capability to contribute more to the ITER," Jin told China Daily.


The ITER project, gathering China, the EU, the US, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea, seeks to convert seawater to fuel similar to how the sun produces energy, thus creating an alternative to polluting fossil fuels. Ministers from the seven sides signed the agreement to implement the project on November 21.


Unlike existing fission reactors, which release energy by splitting atoms apart, ITER would generate energy by combining them. Although fusion power has been done in a lab setting, scientists have so far been unable to build a commercially-viable reactor.

The 500MW ITER reactor will be powered by deuterium, extracted from seawater, and a giant electromagnetic ring will fuse atomic nuclei at extremely high temperatures.


"It is the largest and most expensive international science program that China has ever joined," said Jin. "China has been welcomed into the project primarily because of its achievements in nuclear fusion research."


"Joining the ITER is one of the key steps China has taken to be involved in international mega science programs and projects and in international efforts to develop new energy sources and fight global warming," he added.


China is a member of numerous global science programs, such as the Human Genome Program, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the Galileo Project. It is also considering whether to join FutureGen, a US-based project to build the world's first coal-fed, near-zero emission power plant.


Before the ITER, the nation's most expensive foray was through the Europe-based Galileo satellite navigation project, to which China committed 200 million euros.


On ITER, China will far exceed this total, preparing to spend over US$1 billion in total and involving 1,000 of its scientists, according to Jin.


Scientists and managers will be sent on a rotating basis to the ITER headquarters at Cadarache in France, said Jin. Six Chinese are already working there soon to be joined by more than 20.


(China Daily November 30, 2006)

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