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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Uh-oh, Russia . . . Here Comes Nuclear Fusion

The Scotsman reports that the Chinese are about to begin beta testing nuclear fusion reactors, which promise gigantic quantities of energy with a fraction of the radiation risk posed by today's fission reactors. This news should terrify Russia, as it hastens the day when the world will have no use for Russia's oil and gas reserves. When that day arrives, Russia as we know it will cease to exist unless before then it undertakes massive reform.

CHINESE scientists will next month test a so-called "artificial sun" device which will help scientists working to build a nuclear fusion reactor to produce huge supplies of energy for the world.

The device, an "experimental advanced superconducting tokamak" (East), is a prototype fusion engine and it is expected to carry out its first plasma discharge some time around 15 August.

The results of the test will inform work being done in the south of France to build the Iter fusion reactor, which will bring together the best practices from around the world for the first time.

The attempt to create a fusion reactor, which would produce abundant energy at a fraction of the radiation produced by fission reactors, and with less radioactive waste, is a rare example of international co-operation involving China, the European Union, the United States, Russia and Japan among other countries.

The East device, on Science Island in Hefei, is the biggest of its type. It uses super-conducting magnets as part of a process that involves heating hydrogen ions to between 100 million and 200 million degrees Celsius so they fuse together to become helium.

This process produces more energy, in the form of heat, than it uses, which can be used to drive a steam turbine.

Christopher Carpenter, of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which provides support to Iter, said the plasma discharge test was an important step on the road to fusion energy, which may become a commercial reality within 30 years.

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