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November Launch for 'Artificial Sun' Project

Seven parties will sign an agreement on the joint implementation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project next month, according to a senior official with the ITER International Fusion Energy Research Project on Tuesday.

Kaname Ikeda, Director General Nominee with the ITER International Fusion Energy Research Project, told Xinhua at the ongoing 21st Fusion Energy Conference in Chengdu that the signing by the US, EU, China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and India would mark the formal launch of the project.

The project aims to recreate solar conditions under which a nuclear fusion reaction can take place. The process has been given the nickname of "artificial sun" by scientists.

As a member of the joint partnership, China will promote its development, said Xu Guanhua, Minister of Science and Technology.

The formal implementation of the project offers people an opportunity to realize their dreams of bringing nuclear fusion energy under control, said Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

According to ITER's Ikeda, the construction of the reactor will take about 10 years and cost 10 billion euros. It will be located in France.

Controlled nuclear fusion is seen as an efficient way for people to generate infinite amounts of clean energy to offset dwindling supplies of fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Scientists believe the fuel, deuterium, can be extracted from the sea and an enormous amount of energy can be obtained from a deuterium-tritium fusion reaction under extremely high temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius. After the nuclear fusion process, the deuterium extracted from one liter of seawater will produce energy equivalent to 300 liters of gasoline.

Different from nuclear fission which has as many problems as it does benefits, nuclear fusion is a more viable option, Burkart said.

China has put the finishing touches on its self-designed full super-conducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, dubbed EAST (Experimental Advanced Super Conducting Tokamak), and it is now in its trial phase. It is the first of its kind in the world.

Similar to the operation mode of ITER's devices, EAST could offer research and experimental know-how for ITER, Xu Guanhua pointed out.

According to Zhou Caipin, deputy director of the Center for Fusion Science of Southwestern Institute of Physics, China will send about 30 scientists to France to participate in the ITER research.

As the first international joint project concerning a nuclear fusion reactor, ITER is a good example of how the world can cooperate in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Burkart added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2006)

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