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China Claims Successful Fusion Power Test 247

SeaDour writes, "China claims to have carried out a successful test of its experimental thermonuclear fusion reactor. But what exactly made this test 'successful' is not clear. From the article: 'Xinhua cited the scientists as saying that deuterium and tritium atoms had been fused together at a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for nearly three seconds. The report did not specify whether the device... had succeeded at producing more energy than it consumed, the main obstacle to making fusion commercially viable.'" China is a participant in the 10-nation ITER project to build a fusion reactor in the south of France by 2015. The article quotes the research head of ITER as saying, "It was important for China to show that it is part of the club. Here are English language versions of the Chinese news release: announcement, background.
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China Claims Successful Fusion Power Test

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  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:16PM (#16234837)
    Will be tied to their ability to get away from fossil fuels and develop alternative sources. They, not the United States will be the leader in developing the "big thing" that moves us beyond our oil based economy.
  • Re:Containment? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RsG ( 809189 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:20PM (#16234901)
    This is a fusion reactor. There is no nuclear pile - that would be a feature of a fission reactor, which is a different technology altogether.
  • Awsome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:39PM (#16235237) Homepage
    Good for them.

    I hope the test was practical in nature, and will lead to useful contributions from China towards the achievement of practical fusion power.

    This is good news. I look forward to following China's future progress and contributions.
  • Re:Containment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:42PM (#16235319)
    or even more accurately, Tokamaks have been consuming far more energy than they put out for over 30 years. But governments still throw billions at them rather than use already operating fusion reactor in the sky.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday September 28, 2006 @03:55PM (#16235583) Homepage
    Achieving a net energy gain is not the main obstacle to making fusion commercially viable. That has been done quite successfully. There is no problem passing break-even.

    No, actually niether has been demonstrated - ITER is intended to do so. (Among other things.)
    It is ignition we are trying to achieve now. That is, a fusion reaction which produces enough heat to cause more fusion, provided enough fuel.

    No - ignition means achieving fusion. What you call ignition is called a self sustaining burn - something else ITER is intended to investigate.
    If you're going to write an article about fusion, at least know something about the state of the field.

    That's something you might consider doing yourself - as you plainly know niether the state nor the terminology of the field.
    Journalists should all be required to read the relevant wikipedia articles before publishing something about science.

    Actually, what they should so is skip reading the articles and follow the links. Reading the articles is the fastest way to confusion that I know of.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2006 @04:03PM (#16235697)

    given their current engineering "success" revolves around what they could steal from other countries, I fear we aren't moving away from oil for a LONGGGGG time.

    Not at all. It takes a couple of generations to catch up, to get a significant number of researchers trained up to the level where they're pushing the technology, rather than just following. China is about a generation into that process, and they're already doing significant amounts of real research. Given them another 10-20 years with the sort of emphasis they're putting on it, and they're very likely to be running with the best of the world.

    Remember that you're talking about a country with 1.2 billion people. With a crop that large, the cream is very, very good.

  • Re:Containment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RsG ( 809189 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @04:14PM (#16235937)
    If you have some design for a solar power generator that can even come close to the output of a fusion reactor, then please, by all means, post it. Or patent it - I'm sure you'd make a fortune.

    Of course I somehow doubt that. After all, photoelectric solar panels are already close to their maximum possible energy effeciency. We could get far better effeciency out of them if we put them in orbit and beamed the power back, given that doing so would get around the problems associated with the atmosphere, but our current space program doesn't even come close to adequate for such a task.

    For a point of comparison, fusion is already hitting breakeven. So much for "wasted" money these past thirty years, eh? The fact that something takes time and effort does not make it worthless.

    If you seriously want power from sunlight, burn oil or coal. After all, the energy in fossil fuels comes from sunlight introduced into the biosphere millions of years ago. In fact one could argue that fossil fuels are the worlds oldest natural solar battery. And unlike solar energy, which loses much in transmission, oil is easily transportable. You can extract and use it in places where the sun doesn't shine.

    Of course, it also burns dirty as hell. Even ignoring climate change, burning fossil fuels releases all sorts of crap into the air, from heavy metals, to soot, to radioactives. But lord knows, if you want to utilize that "fusion reactor up in the sky", you can do so today for all your energy needs - no fancy new tech required.

    Plus, who ever said fusion and solar were incompatible solutions? Governments spend a pittance on both of them (yeah it sounds like a lot, but look at their overall budget for comparison), so impling that they favour one over the other is utter rubbish. If you want to get really technical, some of the budget for the space program over the past decades paid for solar panel development, as well as things like fuel cell technology, so it's hardly as though green power has been ignored.

    We can pursue solar power in the mean time without the assistance of the governement - go out and buy some for your own use, get your home off the grid (assuming you haven't done so already). No new R&D is required to make solar a viable partial solution to our energy needs, and at the same time, there is little R&D that could ever turn it into a full solution. Conversely we cannot pursue fusion power in the same fashion - the goals are too long term for the private sector to be interested in. Your point is a classic false dichotomy.
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @05:26PM (#16237235)
    Go to any elite engineering school and take a survey of the top 10% of the students there. I would be shocked if at least 50% of those students are not chinese. I don't mean chinese americans, I mean chinese from china.

    Some of the smartest people I know are chinese. What makes you think they can't do it? Is it because they are not white? Are chinese incabable of doing research? Are the chinese by nature liars?
  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @08:03PM (#16239245) Homepage
    It is not that we are trying to "get energy out" in the sense of produce usable electric current in transmission lines. The net energy gain or loss is how much energy you put into the reaction (like the electricity flowing through the sparkplug in your car) vs. how much energy everything in the reacting system has after the reaction is done. So if I start a fire, I put a small amount of energy in, ie I strike a match, involving a very small amount of energy of motion of the matchhead against the box, and I get a large amount of energy out, even though most of it goes to light and to heating the air around me. Whereas if I try to strike a damp match, there will be some combustion which takes place, but in order for more combustion to take place, water has to be evaporated. The energy of evaporating the water for one combustion reaction is more than the energy released by that one combustion reaction, so the match doesn't light. It fizzles. The net energy change in this case is a loss. So, in the fusion reactor, we have to have a net energy gain before we can have a reactor that can run for hours on end, because otherwise it would just fizzle instead of running.

    My point in my original post was that a net energy gain is not enough. You also must have a sufficiently dense plasma in your reactor so that enough of the energy you produce stays in the plasma so that fusion keeps happening. Once this is achieved, then it can run for hours on end. In fact, once you reach this point, called ignition, your reactor will run for as long as you keep feeding it fuel. Once we reach that point, all the really hard problems are solved. Not that producing electricity from it will be trivial, but it will be a darn sight easier than reaching ignition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:35PM (#16240059)
    Since you are modded offtopic, I will reply as AC. I didn't read the GP, but as a "telephone test fluent" speaker of Cantonese (American white-boy), and a passable speaker of Mandarin, I can state unequivocally that Chinese (from China and Taiwan) have trouble with the letter L. It is just not the problem that most people think it is (it is unrelated to the R sound). The following is my experience based on verbal interaction with ladies^W people from Guandong (Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhongshan, Taishan, Chaozhou, Xinhui, and Kaiping), Hubei(Wuhan), Shanghai, Beijing , Tianjin, and Taiwan (Xinzhu and Taibei):

    (1) as a final sound in words like "table" (tay-bo), "pool" (poo-), etc. This derives from the fact that in Cantonese/Mandarin the only voiced consonantal endings are M/N/NG.

    (2) as an initial (Southern Chinese speakers and people from Western Hubei). It sometimes comes out as the letter N (the reverse is more common, N coming out as L).

    This pattern is fading in Hong Kong Cantonese over the last 30 years. The solution was to eliminate N as an initial across the board in Cantonese (almost, everyone now says "lei5 ho2 ma3, but many still say "ni1 do6" for "here"). In English articulation the letters N and L differ little, with the significant difference being L having lateral airflow around the tongue and exiting the mouth. N is all nose. Many Cantonese speakers when they say English words being with L, the initial sound seems almost to be N and L simultaneously with the N starting a few milliseconds before the L.

    The conversion of N to L in HK leads to humorous statements from British educated Cantonese speakers saying after a tough day, "I'm completely lacquered." Of course they mean "knackered", both are funny in their way.

    Congratulation on having the wang2 ba1 removed from your dan4 (828) (inside joke to parent).
  • by McTaggart ( 893466 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:59PM (#16240183)
    I'm pretty sure that happens here in the capitalist west too. It's not a communist thing but a human thing.

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