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China Powers Up Its Artificial Sun

December 5, 2020: China successfully powered up its HL-2M Tokamak reactor, which is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device on December4. This reactor is an improvement over HL-2A Tokamak. Installed in 2019, the Tokamak reactor was built by the China National Nuclear Corporation and the Southwestern Institute of Physics. The reactor is located in Leshan, Sichuan province.

Dubbed as ‘Artificial Sun’, this device is supposed to be the source of clean energy for China. It is said so because the HL-2M Tokamak device is designed to replicate the natural reactions that occur in the sun. According to Global Times, the new apparatus can generate plasma hotter than 200 million degrees Celsius, and the plasma electric current level can be elevated to more than 2.5 trillion amperes. 

The achievement is considered a great feat by China since achieving stable nuclear fusion is considerably tougher than achieving a stable nuclear fission. The Tokamak design, originally conceptualized by Soviet physicists in 1950s, is now a primary candidate for achieving a stable nuclear fusion reactor for clear energy. Tokamak is a torus shaped device which is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices currently being researched and produced to harness thermonuclear fusion power.

The project is a part of China’s involvement with France based International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). China is one of the seven members of ITER along with the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. The ITER is the world’s largest nuclear fusion project involving 35 countries and is expected to be completed in 2025. As per the 2006 ITER agreement, the seven members share cost of project construction, operation and decommissioning the project based in France and will also share experimental results and any intellectual property generated by the fabrication, construction and operation phases.