New Scientist That is five years later than planned – by which time China could be ahead of everyone. By Fred Pearce
'Cowley told the committee: “ITER says 2020, but I believe the first
plasma will be [generated] in 2025.” Burning plasma is unlikely before
“the early 2030s”, he said. He likened the moment when burning plasma is
achieved to the moment in the early 1940s when the first “critical”
nuclear fission reactions were produced.
'Only then will the international researchers, many of whom have been
working together for decades, move on to building a new plant that could
generate continuous power – the forerunner for what they hope will be
commercial nuclear fusion by late in the century. “But the biggest
investment now is in China,” says Cowley. China is a collaborator on
ITER, along with the European Union, the US and others. But it is
investing heavily in building its own reactor, the China Fusion
Engineering Test Reactor, which will be bigger than ITER and may be
finished by 2030, he said.
'Cowley disclosed that some partners had discussed whether to continue
collaboration with China or shut them out. “We decided to continue to
collaborate.” Shutting China out “would only slow them down by a few
months”, he told the Lords, who are investigating whether the UK
government is getting value for money in its fusion investments. Fusion
currently accounts for 14 per cent of UK government spending on energy
research, Sharon Ellis of the Department for Business, Innovation and
Skills told the committee.'