The Chinese power of "artificial sun"

  "It cost more than 10 billion Euros to attract the world's top scientists and engineers to participate, and the total population of all parties involved exceeds half of the global population... For this century's most ambitious energy technology cooperation project, Chinese President Xi Jinping installed a congratulatory letter at the launch ceremony The speech said that since the implementation of the plan, China has always abided by its international commitments, Chinese companies and scientific researchers have bravely shouldered heavy responsibilities, and made concerted efforts with international counterparts to contribute to the smooth progress of the plan."

  The light and heat on which all things grow on the earth originate from the energy released by the sun's nuclear fusion reaction. The fuel deuterium that supports this fusion reaction is extremely abundant on earth, enough for humans to use for tens of billions of years.

  Li Jiangang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, firmly believes: "In my lifetime, there must be a lamp that can be lit by the energy of fusion. This lamp must be, and it can only be in China."

  On the 180-hectare project site in Cadahas, southern France, the Dewar base of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) weighing 1,250 tons has been steadily settled on the temporary support in the foundation pit of the tokamak, which means ITER main engine The equipment installation kicked off.

  On July 28, the launch ceremony for the installation of major projects of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Program was held at the headquarters of ITER International Organization. The Director General of the ITER International Organization commented that this marked the official transition of ITER from the construction phase of the former member states to the device assembly phase.

  The "planting the sun" sung in nursery rhymes is expected to be gradually turned into reality by humans. Through the ITER project, they will imitate the process of generating energy from the sun-polymerizing hydrogen isotopes into helium, releasing inexhaustible nuclear fusion energy.

  The ITER project carries mankind's wish for peaceful use of nuclear fusion energy. French President Macron commented that this is "hope for the future" and South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised it as "the greatest scientific project in human history."

  It cost more than 10 billion euros to attract the world's top scientists and engineers to participate, and the total population of all parties involved exceeds half of the global population... For this century's most ambitious energy technology cooperation project, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a congratulatory message at the installation launch ceremony Zhong said that since the implementation of the plan, China has always abided by its international commitments. Chinese companies and scientific researchers have bravely shouldered heavy responsibilities and made concerted efforts with international counterparts to contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the smooth progress of the plan.

Join a club with tens of billions of "introductory dues"

  The light and heat on which all things grow on the earth originate from the energy released by the sun's nuclear fusion reaction. The fuel deuterium that supports this fusion reaction is extremely abundant on earth, enough for humans to use for tens of billions of years.

  If an "artificial sun" can be created to generate electricity, mankind can completely realize energy freedom.

  Ideals are beautiful, and reality is very skinny.

  One of the most prominent questions is, what container is used to carry nuclear fusion?

  The use of nuclear fusion energy on the earth requires the ion temperature of the plasma to reach more than 100 million degrees Celsius under artificially controlled conditions. At present, the melting temperature of tungsten, the most heat-resistant metal material on earth, is more than 3000 degrees. This means that at 100 million degrees Celsius, you can't find a container with such a high temperature plasma.

  Since the 1950s, China has basically synchronized with the international community, and has begun research in the field of controllable nuclear fusion. In 1965, China’s nuclear fusion research base-the Southwest Institute of Physics (now China National Nuclear Corporation Nuclear Industry) was established in Leshan, Sichuan. Southwest Institute of Physics).

  Different technological routes ebb and flow. Eventually, the Tokamak program proposed by Soviet scientists suddenly emerged, and the key research direction of the international nuclear fusion community turned to tokamak.

  In the 1980s, the writer Mo Ran visited the China Nuclear Fusion Research Base on the 108-level stone-ti barren mountain in Leshan, Sichuan, and described it as follows: "Although the rooms of the institute are like caves, our scientists have the spirit of self-sacrificing dedication. In that environment, they created the'China Circulator No. 1', the design drawings alone are as high as three stories."

  As my country's first large-scale scientific engineering device in the field of nuclear fusion, "China Circulator One" has laid a solid foundation for my country's nuclear fusion cause and cultivated a talent team.

  In the 1990s, my country replaced the Soviet T-7 semi-superconducting tokamak device with the value of 18 million rubles in the Soviet Union with down jackets, jeans, porcelain and other daily necessities.

  At the time when the economy was very difficult, the T-7 and its cryogenic system were fundamentally modified mainly relying on their own strength. In 1994, a large scientific device renamed "HT-7" was successfully developed, making China the fourth country to have a superconducting tokamak device after Russia, France, and Japan.

  However, in the process of exploration, scientific researchers in more and more countries realized that the "artificial sun" scientific device is large in scale, long in construction period, and high in investment cost. No country can solve all problems by "closed door and construction". Difficulties must be "gathered together and borrowed from all directions."

  In 1985, the US and Soviet leaders proposed the ITER plan for this purpose.

  But before 2001, this powerful club kept China out. At that time, in addition to ideological exclusion, it was mainly because China's scientific research level was not high.

  In 2001, due to the withdrawal of the United States, ITER member countries hoped to expand the scope of participating countries out of consideration of apportioning expenses. China used this to apply for membership again. In 2003, it formally joined the ITER plan negotiations as an "equal partner"-to join this high "introductory fee" club, each member country must commit at least 10% of the investment, which is about RMB 100. 100 million yuan.

  At that time, the issue of carbon emissions was not so urgent, and the issue of smog and air pollution was not so severe.

  "China's participation in ITER is to highlight to the world that China is a responsible and capable country." In 2017, at the "ITER Decade-Review and Prospect" meeting, Xu Guanhua, the former Minister of Science and Technology, said when recalling his participation in the ITER negotiation process "It is a matter of national interest. China should actively participate in international high-tech clubs and should not miss out on opportunities for its own reasons."

  In 2006, the International Thermonuclear Fusion Experimental Reactor (ITER) Program "Joint Implementation Agreement" was signed, involving seven parties including China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States. It is planned to jointly build the world’s largest super-electrical reactor in France. Guide the Tokamak experimental reactor.

  This is the largest international scientific and technological cooperation project that China has participated in as an equal. Among them, China has undertaken about 9% of the procurement package development tasks, including 18 procurement packages including magnet support, correction field coil system, magnet feeder system, and the first wall of the cladding.

Innovation forced by the "exciting general method"

  For Luo Luo, director of the China International Nuclear Fusion Energy Program Executive Center who participated in the negotiations, the calendar from 2003 to 2006 was full of difficulties and twists. "Because this is the first time that our country has an equal status and has intervened from the very beginning when designing the rules of the game. For us, this is a new attempt. Therefore, each negotiation team has carefully studied the documents and carefully considered how to To maximize the protection of our national interests, we work overtime before each negotiation to discuss these proposals, discuss how to formulate high-level cases and low-level cases, and how to organize and negotiate well."

  Rod Long recalled that the team's unanimous opinion at the time was to first win the superconducting purchase package, because ITER is a magnetic confinement fusion device and superconducting materials are the core content. Although it was possible to make it, everyone was at a loss.

  As the world's largest and most complex tokamak device under construction, ITER is close to the size of the Temple of Heaven Prayer Hall in Beijing, 30 meters high, 30 meters in diameter, and weighs 23,000 tons.

  Although there are many tokamak devices in our country, ITER is not simply amplifying, it needs to solve new key problems from the overall design, technology and materials. But even for small tokamak devices in the past, my country has always used imported superconducting materials.

  “What you can do must be done by yourself, and what you cannot do must be done by yourself through innovation.” Rod Long said that this is the philosophy and principle that China has always adhered to in participating in the ITER plan.

  The superconducting strand required by ITER needs to draw tens of thousands of filaments in a diameter of 0.8 mm. The most important thing is that such a fine superconducting coil has a minimum length of 1 km.

  On the one hand, it advocates based on domestic research and development, on the other hand, in order to ensure the progress of the project, Luodelong uses the "excited general method": it is recommended that Western Superconducting Material Technology Co., Ltd. undertakes the task to buy some imported superconducting materials as a spare. . If the company cannot develop it within a certain period of time, taking into account the project schedule, it will need to use imported materials for related certification activities; but if the certification uses imported materials, subsequent production must also use imported materials.

  The "exciting general method" puts tremendous pressure on the R&D team of superconducting companies. Initially, at most one or two hundred meters, the wire was broken and the materials were wasted. The researchers held back their energy and finally completed the technical research within a limited period of 10 months.

  "The silk pulled out now will not be broken for more than 1 km, and it has better performance than foreign countries." Rodlong is satisfied with the results brought by the competition.

Achieve ice breaking in the field of shortcomings

  Due to the adjustment of the plan, the "first wall" directly facing the hundreds of millions of degrees of the core, the final heat per square meter will rise from 0.5 MW to 4.7 MW, which can instantly melt one kilogram of steel. my country has undertaken 12% of the ITER first wall development tasks.

  The Southwest Institute of Physics of Nuclear Industry of China National Nuclear Corporation took the lead in the research and development of the semi-prototype components of the first wall procurement package, and successfully passed the high thermal load test in 2016, and was the first in the world to pass the certification. What is less known is that as the project leader of the unit undertaking the ITER shielding cladding project, Chen Jiming and his team have struggled for nearly 12 years to overcome a series of problems such as special materials, connection technology, and high reliability.

  In the field of "short board" design, China has also achieved ice-breaking. The "Chinese solution" provided by the Chinese team's design optimization has greatly increased the Chinese contribution share in the ITER power supply procurement package, and also led the development of the ITER power system for our side in the later period. , Project management and other tasks laid a good foundation.

  In 2017, researchers active in the field of fusion research gathered together to discuss the ITER project and the future path of global fusion energy research and development. More than 30 foreign experts in the international fusion field and more than 10 Chinese experts drafted and signed the "Beijing The Declaration of Fusion-Supporting the Development of China's Fusion Energy", the declaration believes that China will deliver high-quality components for ITER on time, showing that China has played an important role in ITER, and further advocated that scientists in the world fusion community should strengthen the research and development of fusion energy related technologies. Cooperation to contribute to the ultimate solution to the world's energy shortage and environmental pollution problems.

  "Completing the task that should be undertaken is to abide by the promise. When the entire ITER project encounters difficulties, bravely shoulders the heavy burden." Rod Long said that China and its international counterparts work together to contribute Chinese wisdom and power to the smooth progress of the plan. , Behind it is long-term accumulation and hard work.

  "Never do it, to do it, even better than other countries"

  In the original design version, the steam condensing tank was designed as a whole, placed on the top of the entire ITER device.

  However, in 2016, the newly appointed Director General of the ITER organization advocated that the original design should be changed because the previous design had a major safety hazard. The steam condensing tank must be decomposed into four and buried in advance before the foundation is built. underground. At that time, the foundation had been excavated, which meant that the production schedule and delivery time of the steam condensing tank were greatly advanced.

  The original supplier of steam condensing tanks temporarily "chooses", and in accordance with the procedures, ITER organized an open tender for all participants.

  China General Nuclear Power Engineering Co., Ltd. led the formation of a consortium with Suzhou Tianwo Technology Co., Ltd., and for the first time directly obtained the task of ITER through an international bidding. In more than two years from the beginning of the bidding to the final delivery on time, the two units of the consortium overcome many difficulties such as short production cycle, large design changes, high standard requirements, and multiple coordination interfaces, ensuring the progress of the project.

  There are many such stories.

  The PF6 coil is the heaviest and most difficult superconducting magnet that has been successfully developed in the world. It is equivalent to the weight of two Boeing 747 aircraft and plays a vital role in the normal operation of ITER.

  The Plasma Institute of Hefei Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Sciences has completed the development of this component for 6 years. All key manufacturing processes and components have passed the ITER international group certification at one time.

  Around 2018, a more important task was beckoning to China. The ITER organization issued a tender for the installation of the main engine TAC1.

  "This is the most important core equipment installation project for the tokamak device of the ITER experimental reactor, and it is also ITER's largest contract project so far." Rod Long told reporters that ITER has many installation packages, but the TAC1 installation tender project is like a nuclear power plant nuclear island. The importance of the reactor and the human heart is self-evident. The main task is to install the Dewar structure and all the systems between the Dewar structure and the vacuum vessel.

  The difficulty of the project is also unusual. As the base of the pressure vessel of the Tokamak device, the Dewar base has a lifting weight of 1,250 tons, and the final installation deviation of the equipment does not exceed 2 mm.

  What is different from the past is that the five Sino-French member units led by China National Nuclear Corporation formed a Sino-French consortium to jointly respond to the bid and finally won the bid.

  "We are more interested in this. The most important thing is that this procurement package can best reflect the technical and management capabilities. After comprehensive weighing, we decided to concentrate our efforts on this bid." Li Qiang, deputy general manager of China Nuclear Power Engineering Co., Ltd., used two " "The first time" is used to describe the epoch-making significance of the event-the Chinese nuclear energy unit successfully participated in an international large-scale scientific engineering project in the form of a general contract for the first time, and China participated in the construction of an international large-scale nuclear research facility for the first time.

  "Through participating in the ITER project, we have changed many things from what we didn't know how to do before, to make it, and do it better, even better than other countries." Rod Long concluded that through international cooperation, China is in the international nuclear fusion arena. Have a greater right to speak.

In China, there must be a lamp lit by the energy of fusion

  "When controllable fusion is realized one day, it will provide mankind with inexhaustible clean energy. At the same time, the intermediate technologies in the research and development process will also greatly promote social and economic development." China National Nuclear Corporation Southwest Institute of Physics Chang Duan Xuru said that as a large scientific project, the "artificial sun" relies on the development of many disciplines, and its development can promote the development of these disciplines.

  Luo Luodelong did not expect that the unintentional planting of willows in the past gave birth to the domestic fusion industry chain. Even in the industry, companies that have supplied ITER have become synonymous with high-quality products that do not require certification.

  Western Superconductor, which has experienced the "excited general method", is actively expanding the application of superconducting materials in the domestic and foreign markets, and in particular has successfully become a qualified supplier of Siemens nuclear magnetic resonance superconducting wires.

  “Before joining ITER, there was almost no voice from us at mainstream international fusion conferences. Nowadays, more and more Chinese scholars are invited to give keynote speeches, oral presentations, and even serve as conference chairpersons at the conference.” But Rod Long said that after joining ITER, China is gradually moving towards the center of the world fusion stage.

  With the help of China’s first nuclear fusion experimental device (HL-2A) with a divertor configuration (HL-2A) and the world’s first fully superconducting non-circular cross-section Tokamak nuclear fusion experimental device (EAST), two large scientific devices, China and the world have 120 A number of fusion research institutions have established cooperation. An average of 500 international experts visit my country each year to carry out cooperative research with relevant domestic fusion research institutions.

  "ITER is not a power station for direct commercial application, but an experimental reactor. It is to allow scientists to do experiments to explore the scientific and engineering feasibility of peaceful use of fusion energy for power generation, and to lay the foundation for the commercial application of fusion energy. Otherwise, It is to make wedding clothes for others.” Rod Long said that another major task of joining the ITER program is to cultivate talents.

  The ITER advancement process is also a process of continuous reserve of Chinese nuclear fusion engineering and technical personnel and teams.

  Initially, China had only 20 staff members in the ITER organization, which was the smallest number among all countries. According to China's 9% contribution ratio, there should be a quota of 40-50 personnel. Today, the number of Chinese staff in the ITER organization continues to increase, accounting for nearly 10%, ranking first among the six parties outside the EU.

  As of the end of 2016, more than 3,400 scientists and 2,700 graduate students have participated in the ITER special domestic research project. They will lay the talent foundation for my country's independent development of nuclear fusion demonstration reactors and even commercial reactor design and construction in the future.

  With the rapid improvement of the level of science and technology in the field of magnetic confinement fusion in my country, Chinese scientists have also put forward a suggested roadmap for the research and development of nuclear fusion energy in my country, such as aiming at a more long-term future-the China Fusion Engineering Experimental Reactor CFETR.

  Rod Long said that joining the ITER club is not only based on strategic energy considerations, but more importantly, through such an international platform, China has achieved leapfrog development in several high-tech fields, talent training, and project management.

  "In the future, in scientific research, most of the foreseeable obstacles can be overcome. The problem is that there must be unforeseen difficulties. For example, this year's epidemic will have some impact on the progress of the entire project." But Rod Long Said, "At present, everyone is still confident that the first plasma discharge will be achieved by the end of 2025."

  The word "ITER" means "road" in Latin. Looking back, mankind has walked a long time in understanding nuclear fusion.

  Someone asked: "Can we see a real artificial sun in our lifetime?"

  Li Jiangang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said frankly that it may take at least several decades to truly put the results into commercial use and turn them into electricity that can be used by every household. However, he firmly believes: "In my lifetime, there must be a lamp that can be fused. It can be lit. This light must be, and it can only be used in China." (Source: Our reporter Chen Yu)