China activates nuclear-powered Artificial Sun: All you need to know!

China’s artificial sun is a nuclear fusion reactor called HL-2M Tokamak reactor. It is called an "artificial Sun" because of the enormous heat and power it produces.

Created On: Dec 10, 2020 16:17 ISTModified On: Dec 10, 2020 16:17 IST

China successfully activated its nuclear-powered ‘Artificial Sun’-HL-2M Tokamak reactor- for the first time on December 4, 2020. The fusion reactor was switched for a brief test. 

The successful activation of the nuclear fusion reactor is being hailed as a significant scientific achievement, as it comes at a time when countries across the world are attempting to shift to safer, cleaner forms of nuclear energy.

The reactor is expected to fuel China’s energy ambitions for years to come if it is made more sustainable. 

Why is this development important

The nuclear-powered artificial sun will not help solve China’s strategic energy needs, but it also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy.

7 Things to Know about China’s Artificial Sun: 

1. China’s artificial sun is a nuclear fusion reactor called HL-2M Tokamak reactor. It is called an "artificial Sun" because of the enormous heat and power it produces.

2. The nuclear fusion reactor is China's largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device.

3. Scientists aim to unlock a powerful clean energy source by using the device. 

4. The reactor generates power by applying powerful magnetic fields to a contained loop of hot plasma, which can reach temperatures of more than 150 million C, which is almost 10 times hotter than the core of the sun.

5. The magnets and supercooling technology will keep the reactor contained.

6. China has developed the nuclear reactor by working alongside the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which is a coalition of dozens of nuclear-powered nations.

7. The main aim of the coalition is to develop a reliable form of nuclear fusion based on the same concept.

What is Fusion? 

Fusion is considered the 'Holy Grail' of energy, which also powers our Sun. Fusion generates power by merging nuclei of atoms. The process emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material. However, it is a coveted and elusive form of nuclear technology that scientists have been trying to perfect for decades, as achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive. 

Difference between Fusion and Fission

Fusion Fission
The fusion process brings together atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy. The fission process, which is used in nuclear and atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, splits atomic nuclei into fragments.
It does not generate large amounts of nuclear waste.  It generates nuclear waste. 
It is harder to achieve.  It is easier to achieve.

Background

China’s nuclear-powered artificial sun is located in southwestern Sichuan province. It was completed late in 2019. Chinese scientists have been working to develop smaller versions of the nuclear fusion reactor since 2006. 

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor scientists are also working on their own nuclear fusion research project based in France. The project, which will be the world’s largest, is expected to be completed by 2025. 

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