Nine EUROfusion coordinators are currently involved in collaboration with Chinese fusion labs. Know how, resources and determined scientists on both sides will push research further.
Ultimate goal: fusion energy
The fusion programmes in Europe and China have one common goal: realising fusion energy. A Technology Management Plan, signed by Dr Andras Siegler, Director for Energy Research from the European Commission, and Dr Luo Delong, Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, in 2016, fostered a deeper cooperation between both parties within the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy agreement. The undertaking is financed with an extra 925,000 Euro per year from the European Commission.
The mutual motivation has now resulted in five well defined objectives. One of them is the project of Annika Ekedahl, research scientist at CEA - Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives. She and her team are investigating relevant heating methods for long plasma operations either in the western or the eastern part of the world. Each proposal is coordinated by one European scientist and his or her Chinese counterpart.
Annika’s experiments belong to a series of topics which address the successful start of ITER and training of future staff. ITER should demonstrate that fusion energy is feasible. But, what comes after ITER? Europe’s answer to this is DEMO, the first demonstrational fusion power plant. China has come up with a comparable project named CFETR, the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor. “DEMO won’t be built before 2040. So there is room to embark on joint design, research and development issues together,” says Gianfranco Federici, head of EUROfusion's Power Plant Physics and Technology group. He and his team have just returned from a fruitful meeting in Beijing. “We set up additional projects regarding breeding blankets, magnets, remote maintenance and diagnostics,” he reports.
Investing in the future
EUROfusion also funds two entire PhD programmes which will be part of Annika’s project. This includes a six month stay at the Chinese Academy of Science Institute of Plasma Physics. In addition, China finances students of their own who will receive training at European universities and labs in order to get acquainted with European experimental facilities, modelling systems and a number of diagnostics.