By Richard Fisher
China has decided to sharply increase the funding for its experimental nuclear fusion reactor called the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokomak (EAST) located in Hefei, Anhui Province.
Song Yuntao, Deputy Director of the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science, said the EAST project has received a second funding bloc for six billion yuan ($893 million), doubling overall funding for this project, according to an April 12, Reuters report.
Chided by critics as a technology that “will always be fifty years away” from being realized, fusion energy research since 1958 has been a priority investment for the Chinese Communist Party. China would be the first country to harness an energy source that essentially sustains a contained nuclear fusion reaction plasma as powerful as a “mini-sun.”
While a coal-fired 10 megawatt power plant may require 2.7 million tonnes of coal a year, a nuclear fusion power play may require only 250 kilos of deuterium and lithium, which are readily available.
In July 2017, Song told a China’s Science and Technology Daily that China could develop a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction in 50 to 60 years, or between 2067 to 2077. Song now says that in five year his institute will start construction of a power generating fusion reactor and be generating power by 2040.
Being the first to perfect commercially available nuclear fusion power would constitute an enormous geopolitical as well as economic victory for the Chinese Communist Party leadership.
That is why Beijing pursues this and other long-lead “big science” projects like its massive solar energy generating farms in Low Earth Orbit.