In their quest for clean nuclear energy, researchers from Seoul National University and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy have made a significant advancement by building an ‘artificial sun’ at the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor. According to reports, the reactor experienced 30 seconds of temperatures up to 100 million degrees Celsius. In contrast, the sun’s core reaches temperatures of about 15 million degrees.
It is important to remember that nuclear fusion, which fuels our sun, is thought to be the ultimate form of energy. It is the opposite of the fission process employed in nuclear power plants and atomic weapons, which divides atomic nuclei into pieces and produces small quantities of energy.
Scientists anticipate using this technology to assist mankind to harness enormous quantities of energy and combat the global energy issue by simulating the sun’s natural response. According to Yoo Suk-jae, president of the Korea Institute of Fusion, ‘we usually say that fusion energy is a dream energy source – it is almost limitless, with low emission of greenhouse gases and no high-level radioactive waste’.
Fusion produces no greenhouse emissions and has fewer risks of accidents and atomic material theft than fission. The KSTAR scientists are not content to rest on their laurels and have set a goal of running the reactor for five minutes or 300 seconds. ‘This is not the end of the narrative; we must continue for 300 seconds, which is the required amount of time to establish steady-state processes before this plasma may function indefinitely’.
However, labs have previously produced artificial suns, so this is not a first. According to WION, Chinese researchers have been working since 2006 to create scaled-down versions of the nuclear fusion reactor. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion energy reactor reportedly produced a fake sun in December of last year by achieving temperatures of 70 million degrees Celsius for 1,056 seconds, which is five times hotter than the sun. The reactor had previously run for 101 seconds in May at a temperature of 20 million degrees Celsius.