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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

First nuclear fusion plasma achieved in private-sector Chinese nuclear fusion tokamak


The HH70 device Photo: Energy Singularity
‘Controlled nuclear fusion is expected to provide humanity with an almost infinite, clean and cheap source of energy, and is considered the ultimate energy solution’, says Energy Singularity, which recently produced first plasma from what is claimed to be the world’s first fully high-temperature superconducting Tokamak device, HH70

Photo: Energy Singularity

Shanghai-based private-sector developer Energy Singularity’s HH70 tokamak has achieved first plasma, an essential prerequisite of nuclear fusion, giving China a ‘first-mover advantage’ in the development of fusion technology.

HH70’s toroidal magnetic field is 0.6 Tesla, with a plasma major radius of 0.75 metres. Its magnet system consists of 26 high-temperature superconducting magnets.  


Energy Singularity claims the unit is the first ‘fully high-temperature superconducting magnetic confinement fusion device’ in the world.  ‘High-temperature superconducting Tokamak [technology]… is expected to greatly improve the cost-effectiveness… and accelerate the commercialisation of fusion energy, and has become the direction of fusion energy research and development that attracts the most market-oriented funding worldwide,’ it adds.  


The company is also planning to develop the next generation of high-field high-temperature superconducting Tokamak devices – HH170, which aims to achieve a deuterium-tritium equivalent energy gain (Q) greater than 10. Q is the ratio of fusion power produced in a nuclear fusion reactor to the power required to maintain the plasma in steady state. It shows the energy efficiency of the reactor, with a Q value >1 indicating the output energy is greater than the energy input required to sustain the reaction.


Nuclear fusion is an increasingly popular area of nuclear energy research, and primarily carried out in the US. According to the Fusion Industry Association, there is one other private company in China that is currently developing spherical Tokamak magnetic confinement technology – ENN Science and Technology Development, based in Langfang, Hebei province. It has secured $400mn of declared funding to date (compared to Energy Singularity’s $112.5mn). The company is planning to build a spherical torus research and development platform and to construct its next generation device EHL-2 by 2026.  


Meanwhile, looking to the state sector, three fusion test reactors are understood to be currently in operation in China. They are Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) project, based on superconducting toroidal and poloidal magnets in a Tokamak; the HL-2A(M) at the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu, which is using non-superconducting copper coils; and J-TEXT, located at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan.  


The EAST project is an official test bed for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project currently under construction in France. There, the initial phase of operations is scheduled for 2035. The goal of ITER is to operate with a plasma thermal output of 500 MW (for at least 400 seconds continuously) with less than 50 MW of plasma heating power input. No electricity will be generated at ITER, according to the World Nuclear Association.


In July 2020 EAST achieved a completely non-inductive, current-driven, steady-state plasma for over 100 seconds, claimed as a breakthrough with significant implications for the future China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR) project. Due for completion in 2030, the CFETR is expected to be larger than ITER. China’s Comprehensive Research Facility for Fusion Technology (CRAFT) is a supporting project of the CFETR.