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A medium sized tokamak, HL-1, was constructed during the mid-1970s and upgraded to HL-1M in the 1980s. The results from these experiments formed the basis for fusion research in China.
In parallel, during the 1970s, the Chinese Academy of Sciences initiated a fusion research program and founded the Institute of Plasma Physics in Hefei, Anhui Province in 1978 and set up the Department of Plasma Physics at the University of Science and Technology of China.
By the mid-1980s, several small and medium sized tokamaks had been built and a stable fusion research workforce had been established. While science research was carried out at these two institutes, fusion technologies and associated products were developed in industries and factories. A focused technology effort was initiated in March 1986 through the development and implementation of the Project of Fusion and Fission Hybrid Reactor R&D, resulting in accomplishments in the areas of tritium handling, heating and current drive and the design of advanced tokamak fusion reactors.
China's first superconducting tokamak, HT-7, was built in 1994, through collaboration with the Russian Federation. and experiments have been ongoing since then. In March 2003, a repetitive plasma discharge of longer than one minute was achieved in this experiment. Another tokamak, HL-2A, acquired from Germany, began operation in late 2002 at SWIP. A new superconducting experiment is under construction, with operation expected to begin in 2005.
During the past 30 years, hundreds of fusion scientists and engineers from China have been sent around the world to study and to exchange fusion research know-how, particularly by participation in the experiments TFTR (in the U.S.), JET (in the U. K.) and JT-60 (in Japan). Within China there is a great deal of interest in fusion among students, as well.
The above report is drawn from a report written by Kaihui He and Changchun Yang of the ITER China Office and published in the November 2003 ITER ITA Newsletter.