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July 25, 2006

China Superconducting tokamak fusion device starting Aug 15

Hot fusion may not be the best way to go to solve our energy problems (in terms of cost or timeliness of making a difference). Making solar cheaper and better and creating space based solar power should be better. But with enough breakthroughs advanced fusion power could become very important.

the Institute of Plasma Physics at Hefei, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), has successfully completed the first tests of the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion experiment. The final assembly of the device is complete, and it is now undergoing vacuumizing, cooling, and galvanizing experiments. The first plasma discharge is scheduled for august 15.

EAST started overall assembly in 2003, and was developed as an upgrade from HT-7, China’s first superconducting tokamak completed in 1990. The budget for the device was just 300 million yuan ($37 million) — a small fraction of the cost of the multi hundred million dollar price tag of similar devices being developed elsewhere.

If the device succeeds, China will become the first country to build and successfully demonstrate a superconducting tokamak fusion device. The goals for EAST include exploring and demonstrating steady-state operation of a tokamak and generating plasma currents of 1MA. With a capability for pulse times as long as 1,000 seconds, the device will also be used to investigate particle and heat flux handling on a time scale much longer than the wall equilibration time.

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