Monday, January 23, 2006

Sure hope they know what they're doing!

We are of two minds on nuclear fusion: the scientific half loves the idea of limitless power from the harnassing of the secrets of fusion; the pragmatic, down-to-earth half has the willies over the idea that we can light off something so powerful and expect it to work perfectly without malfunction.

Name one thing in all of human history that hasn't gone off the tracks, exploded dramatically, or otherwise hasn't had unforeseen problems that need to be tweaked?

So when we saw this report, it set up an internal device conflict.

China to build world`s first "artificial sun" experimental device
A full superconducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, which aims to generate infinite, clean nuclear-fusion-based energy, will be built in March or April in Hefei, capital city of east China`s Anhui Province.

Experiments with the advanced new device will start in July or August. If the experiments prove successful, China will become the first country in the world to build a full superconducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, nicknamed "artificial sun", experts here said.

The project, dubbed EAST (experimental advanced superconducting Tokamak), is being undertaken by the Hefei-based Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
So far so good. Our scientific side was so excited. But then the next sentence slammed into the entire brain like a runaway neutron reaction:
It will require a total investment of nearly 300 million yuan (37 million U.S. dollars), only one fifteenth to one twentieth the cost of similar devices being developed in the other parts of the world.
The Chinese are gonna do it on the cheap? Instantly we flash back to last 4th of July when half of the seemingly normal fuses on our fireworks zipped from zero to 60 in about half a second. Yeah, the burns have healed, but the psychological scars!

A fully operational Tokamak fusion reactor for $37 million?

May God have mercy on our souls.


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