China to cooperate with Japan on stellarator

Updated 2017-07-05 09:30:08 Global Times

China has reached an agreement with Japan to build its first quasi-axisymmetric stellarator, the latest move to explore nuclear energy.

Southwest Jiaotong University (STU) and National Institute for Fusion Science of Japan Monday signed a cooperation agreement in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, read a statement sent by the university to the Global Times on Tuesday.

A working staffer at the university surnamed Chen, who is engaged with the project, told the Global Times that "the two sides are still negotiating the implementation of the project."

Nuclear fusion, which powers the sun and all stars in the universe, is regarded as the alternative way to provide sustainable, zero-emission and relatively cheap power to grids.

Stellarator and tokamak are the world's two most important devices to sustain nuclear fusion reaction with magnetic confinement as well as the two fusion devices that are most likely to be viable power sources.

According to the statement, stellarator, which imitates the function of the fixed star, requires more complex techniques to build than tokamak but can avoid large rupture caused by plasma current.

Tang Chuanxiang, director of the Department of Engineering Physics of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "China has achieved much progress in tokamak research, but is still at an early stage in stellarator research."

China launched studies in stellarator in the 1970s but failed. It is now one of the seven members of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor plan, together with the US and Russia, to build the world's first tokamak fusion reactor, the statement said, adding that cooperation between China and Japan would help create conditions for China to build large stellarator devices in the future.

SJU's move came less than one month after the University of South China (USC) signed a memorandum of understanding with Australian National University (ANU) with the ANU agreeing to provide the USC with its plasma stellarator device, hopefully by the end of this year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Working under the memorandum, China and Australia aim to jointly develop a future energy source for the world, making fusion a viable baseload power source by 2050.

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