THE recent announcement that the country will not implement any nuclear energy technology until it is proven safe is highly welcomed in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that struck Japan several years ago.
While the current nuclear energy technology is based on nuclear fission with dangerous radioactive byproducts, there is another nuclear energy technology that is based on nuclear fusion, which is approaching practical implementation without any dangerous byproducts.
Several countries are conducting research on nuclear fusion reactor technology, either individually or in groups.
The reactor consists of a doughnut shaped vessel called a tokamak that can create a strong magnetic field to hold ultra-hot gases, called plasma, where a nuclear fusion reaction can take place to release more energy without any radioactive byproducts.
China started its fusion reactor technology rather late, only in 2006, but they have now taken the lead in developing a stable plasma.
In 2018, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor in the city of Hefei made a record breaking plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius which is seven times hotter than inside the sun where hydrogen fuses together under high gravity and emits energy that powers the sun.
Last April, China announced that it will start commercial power production using nuclear fusion by 2040.
Over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to meet one of EAST’s leading research scientists, Professor Xiang Gao of the Institute of Plasma Physics in Hefei, while attending a scientific conference in Pakistan. According to the professor, the institute admits foreign graduate students who are interested in studying nuclear fusion.
The good thing was that the lectures and research work are all conducted in English, which is the language used in fusion research worldwide.
Had our universities sent students to the institute as I had suggested a decade ago in the media, we would have a pool of Malaysian experts by now to lead the country towards a future in nuclear energy industry based on the safer nuclear fusion.
Lets hope the prime minister will consider the safer nuclear fusion technology as one of the country’s future energy source.