13.09.2007 No. 210 / News
South Korea Announces Fusion Test Milestone
13 Sep (NucNet): South Korea says it has finished constructing a fully superconducting nuclear fusion test bed using an advanced magnetic system.
The state-run National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) said today that the 'Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research' (KSTAR) device is "the first in the world to use the highly efficient niobium-three-tin (Nb3Sn) cables to generate powerful magnetic fields that can create dense, super-heated plasma".
NFRI president Shin Jae-in said: "KSTAR is the eighth fusion energy test bed built so far, but is the first to use tin-based superconducting cables that can make magnetic fields three times more powerful and stable than the previously used niobium-titanium system."
KSTAR, which is in a laboratory in Daejeon, 160 kilometres south of Seoul, is a device that allows plasma fuelled by naturally abundant deuterium and tritium to undergo a fusion reaction that releases helium, neutron particles, and energy.
A stable and powerful magnetic field is essential for creating plasma that can allow energy-generating fusion reaction to take place. KSTAR can create a plasma field with temperatures reaching 300 million degrees Celsius. In a tokamak, more than 100 million degrees is needed for the deuterium-tritium reaction to occur.
NFRI says that once fusion generating plasma fields are created in the first half of 2008, they are to be maintained for at least 300 seconds so valuable data can be collected and analysed for future reference.
In addition to its cooperation with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project to be built in France, South Korea plans to build a demonstration fusion power plant of its own in the mid 2030s followed by a commercial version capable of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity in the 2040s.
Shin Jae-in said: "Using purely current technology, fusion reaction is 10-20 times more expensive than conventional atomic reactors using nuclear fission, yet costs are expected to be brought down with technological advances." [no doubt, getting fusion fuel from the lunar surface will help in this respect...]
One of ITER's goals is to bring the costs down.
South Korea's government has spent the equivalent of about 330 million US dollars (USD) (238 million euro) since 1995 to create KSTAR and plans to spend about USD 40 million every year for the next 18 years to run tests on the device.
The country's science and technology ministry said in January 2007 that it planned to boost spending on "high-profile" nuclear technologies such as KSTAR and in support of ITER. Work began on KSTAR towards the end of 1995.
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