South Korea has made a new advance in fusion technology after successfully running an artificial Sun at 100 million degrees C for 20 seconds.
The Korea National Nuclear Synthesis Research Institute (NFRI) has just announced the superconducting Tokamak reactor (KSTAR) capable of maintaining the plasma ion temperature at 100 million degrees C for 20 seconds.
KSTAR is like the artificial sun of East Asia. Photo: NRCST.
South Korea’s new achievement has set a world record for the extremely high temperature run times achieved by nuclear reactors. At the same time, Korean scientists are closer to realizing the dream of harnessing nuclear power.
To reproduce the fusion reaction on the Sun, hydrogen isotopes must be placed inside a device such as KSTAR to create a plasma state, where ions are separated from electrons and heated at high temperatures.
By 2025, NFRI hopes KSTAR can operate continuously for 300 seconds at 100 million degrees Celsius. With a target of 2040, Korea moves to commercialize electricity production by fusion reaction. The roadmap set by the research institute is 10 years earlier than the goal of the International Thermonuclear Reactor Project (ITER).
In 2018, KSTAR successfully operated a plasma at 100 million degrees C in 1.5 seconds. By March this year, the team set a new record with a time of over 8 seconds. Compared with the 15 million degrees Celsius heat at the center of the Sun, the figure that KSTAR achieved is 7 times higher.
Although not the first fusion device to reach 100 million degrees Celsius, the KSTAR is the first device to have a heat retention time of more than 10 seconds. Photo: Getty Images.
Thanks to devices like the KSTAR, the scientists are able to replicate the fusion reaction that happens on the Sun right here on Earth.
According to the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), there are about 250 Tokamak reactors operating around the world. Tokamak is an abbreviation of the Russian term “toroïdalnaïa kameras magnitnymi katushkami”, roughly translated as a toroidal chamber with magnetic coils.
Yoon Si-woo, Project Manager of KSTAR, said that the fusion energy from fusion reactions is 10 times more efficient than traditional fission, while minimizing the risk of radioactive leakage. This is considered as a new generation of clean energy.
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