Asia Turns to Europe For Joint Work on Fusion
September 9, 2013 • 8:40AM

Over the past few weeks, officials of the Chinese fusion program have signed a number of agreements in order to broaden their collaboration with colleagues in Europe, to realize the promise of fusion energy. It is well recognized that interest in collaborative work with the U.S. has increasingly waned, as the U.S. fusion program has been under fierce attack by the Obama Administration.

Fusion Power Associates reported on Sept. 6 that an "Associated Laboratory" for fusion has been established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the French Atomic Energy Commission. The agreement, signed on July 3, establishes this entity to develop cooperation specifically between China's EAST, a superconducting tokamak, and the Tore Supra, in France. The French tokamak is being equipped to test components similar to those that will be needed in the international fusion experiment being built in France—ITER. The Tore Supra, it was stated, will be appropriately renamed, WEST, for W [chemical symbol for tungsten] Environment for Steady-state Tokamak. An interview with Dr. Yuanxi Wan, the father of China's EAST tokamak, can be found in the March 11, 2011 EIR.

On Sept. 2, the Institute of Plasma Physics in Hefei, home of EAST, and the School of Nuclear Science and Technology of the University of Science and Technology there, signed two memoranda of understanding with Britain's Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. These agreements are focused on the exchange of scientists, professors, students, and young researchers between Culham's MAST device and the EAST tokamak in Hefei and other Chinese fusion experiments. As Physics Today reports, China is planning to build a demonstration fusion plant on an early timescale, and these agreements will give British researchers access to these planning discussions.

South Korea, like China, sees fusion energy development as an absolute necessity. During a trip to Europe this past February, as reported July 15 in the Newsletter of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA), which coordinates Europe's fusion research, South Korean fusion leader, Dr. Lee Gyung-Su, explained in an interview why his country is seeking to deepen cooperation with Europe. Dr. Lee, who was the "father" of Korea's K-STAR superconducting tokamak, is now leading his country's effort to design a next-step DEMO fusion plant.

Dr. Lee told the Newsletter that the purpose of his trip to Europe was to discuss potential collaboration on DEMO. "There is a large gap to bridge between ITER and DEMO, and currently no one has the resources to fill that gap alone," Dr. Lee said. "But we cannot wait until ITER is done. Instead, we should have a DEMO concept ready by then. At the moment," he continued, "I view Europe as having the leading edge in the DEMO preparation work, among the ITER partners. Dr. Lee diplomatically stated that, traditionally, Korean fusion research has strong ties to the U.S. Through ITER, we learned about the capabilities of Europe... That's why I visited the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and EFDA.

Dr. Lee explained that fusion will help Korea advance as a science nation. He reported that the fusion research budget for Korea is now at $250 million (about two thirds of the U.S. Fusion budget!). An interview with Dr. Lee can be found in the Dec. 4, 2009 issue of EIR.