In China the Big Nuclear Question is “How Soon”?

Reuters reports on the development of China’s nuclear industry, which doesn’t seem to be fazed by the recent disaster in Japan:

Many of the nuclear research institutes across the country are working on advanced solutions to some of the problems facing traditional reactors, from the recycling and storage of spent fuel to terrorist attacks. But Duan and his state-funded team of scientists are on a quest for the Holy Grail of nuclear physics: a fusion reactor that can generate power by forcing nuclei together instead of smashing them apart — mimicking the stellar activity that brought heavy elements into existence and made the universe fit for life. Duan said fusion could be the ultimate way forward: it is far safer than traditional fission, requires barely 600 grams of hydrogen fuel a year for each 10-gigawatt plant, and creates virtually no radioactive waste. “Due to the problems in Japan, the government hopes nuclear fusion can be realised in the near future,” said Duan, the director of fusion science at the Southwestern Institute of Physics, founded in 1965 and funded by the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). While fusion has moved some way beyond the purely hypothetical after more than half a century of painstaking research, it still remains some distance away from being feasible. Critically, the energy required to induce a fusion reaction far exceeds the amount of energy produced.

Fusion might be the ultimate goal, but in the near future, all China’s practical efforts will continue to focus on a new model of conventional fission reactors. While China’s nuclear industry awaits the results of a government review in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, all signs point to China pushing ahead with its long-term strategy. The National Development and Reform Commission said last week China would continue to support the construction and development of advanced nuclear reactors and related nuclear technologies.

“Suddenly, China has become even more important to the world — as other people ask whether they still want to go ahead, China still seems intent on going ahead at full speed,” said Steve Kidd, deputy secretary general with the World Nuclear Association, a London-based lobby group.

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