On Friday, China officially launched its “artificial sun”, the HL-2M Tokamak. The reactor is now China's largest and most advanced fusion device, and scientists believe that the device can be used to develop a clean nuclear energy source, along with aiding in bringing down the costs of accessing this energy. The project is considered to be a major milestone in China’s quest for sustainable nuclear energy and paves the way for the future of its technological advancements.
Located in Chengdu, Sichuan province, the device carries its name due to the blazing levels of heat it can achieve. According to People’s Daily, the reactor can reach a heat level of over 150 million degrees Celsius, roughly ten times hotter than the core of the Sun. Yang Qingwei, the chief engineer of the China National Nuclear Corporation’s Institute of Fusion Science, stated that the HL-2M Tokamak can achieve a magnetic plasma confinement time of up to 10 seconds. In total, the reactor operates at a heat level three times larger than its previous model, the HL-2A. It is also three times larger in plasma volume, and six times larger in plasma current intensity.
The reason the device generates minimal nuclear waste is due to the process of fusion. Fusion produces energy by “fusing” the nuclei of two atoms together, a process that differs from fission, which splits atoms in order to produce energy. Although fission is a less expensive process, it produces far more nuclear waste which is toxic to the environment. Fusion, while being environmentally safer, is far more expensive.
The project is to be used in collaboration with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor(ITER), the world's largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, expected to be completed in 2025. Other members of this project include America, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.
China has announced its intentions to develop its fusion technology into an experimental reactor. They have also stated their plan to build an industrial prototype by 2035, and accomplish the ability to have commercial use of fusion by 2050, and according to the results of this reactor launch, they are headed in the right direction.
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