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China turns on nuclear-powered ‘Artificial Sun’: Explained

China has successfully powered up its “Artificial Sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time as per the state media. With this, no doubt China marked a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.

About China’s Nuclear Reactor

The reactor is HL-2M Tokamak and is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental reactor device. It is a step forward China’s technology which would ultimately provide a powerful and limitless source of clean energy.

To fuse hot plasma it uses a powerful magnetic field and can reach a temperature of about 150 million degrees Celcius. As per the People’s Daily approximately it is ten times hotter than the core of the Sun.

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Where is the reactor located?

It is located in the southwestern Sichuan province and completed late last year. The reactor is also known as “Artificial Sun” due to the enormous heat and power it produces.

According to the People’s Daily “The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy.”

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When China started this project?

Since 2006, scientists of China are working on developing smaller versions of the nuclear fusion reactor. They plan to use the device in collaboration with the scientists working on the  International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. It is the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

What is Nuclear Fusion?

It is considered as the Holy Grail of energy that powers our Sun. We can say that fusion is the process by which the sun and other stars generate light and heat. Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more light nuclei collide with each other to form a heavier nucleus. It takes place with elements that have a low atomic number like hydrogen. It is opposite of nuclear fission in which heavy elements are diffused and form lighter ones. Both the process produces a massive amount of energy.

Due to nuclear fusion, every star in the universe, including the sun, is alive. Due to nuclear fusion, they produce an enormous amount if heat and energy. At the core of any star, the pressure is tremendously high therefore nuclear fusion reaction occurs.

The opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.

Here to note is that unlike fission, fusion does not generate radioactive waste and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material.

But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive. The total cost of ITER estimated is $22.5 billion.

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