Chapter 556: Fusion ignition!
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories.
Several engineers in protective clothing were standing in a half-spherical device to overhaul the cooled down equipment.
This machine was called the Z-machine.
The capacitors that were densely packed inside the machine could discharge up to 1,000 times the power of lightning. Just by pressing the switch, a 20-million amps current would instantly surge into the cylinder, violently compressing the hydrogen atoms. This would then release the terrifying fusion energy.
Even though they were being pressured by the demonstration reactor across the Pacific Ocean, the controllable fusion laboratory in the United States had been having a good day.
Especially after they saw the disturbance that occurred in the energy futures market a while ago. Congress finally began to pay attention to the controllable nuclear fusion technology, and they started to generously give out research funding.
In addition to Congress, multiple giant energy companies had also increased their investments in the fusion technology. However, Sandia National Laboratories, a research institute under the Department of Energy, was mainly funded by the federal government.
Unlike the National Ignition Facility in California, the Z machine wasnt exactly considered inertial confinement fusion. The high power current and nuclear fuel formed a magnetic cage. This cage produced fast ignition in the microsecond time range. This basically combined inertial confinement fusion and magnetism together.
Even though this machine wasnt as popular as the National Ignition Facility, it previously set a world record for the highest recorded temperature of 3.5 billion degrees. Even the researchers that designed the machine themselves were surprised and confused by this temperature.
But honestly, there was no point achieving this high of a temperature for the deuterium-tritium fuel. After all, 100 million degrees was more than enough for a fusion reaction to take place. Even the second generation nuclear fusion fuel, He3, only needed a critical temperature of 600 million degrees.
The difficulty in controllable fusion research had never been the high-temperature part, but rather, it was on how to confine the high-temperature plasma.
But compared to other technical routes, the Z machine had at least produced some results in terms of electricity output.
Rick Perry, the secretary of the United States Department of Energy, looked at his watch.
When the watch handle landed on the hour, Sandia National Laboratories chief researcher Andy Rofan appeared at the door and walked toward him.
Perry waited for Rofan to sit across from him before he asked, How is the result?
Andy Rofan shook his head.
Its still too early to ask this question. Can the materials anti-radiation problem be solved, are the elements inside the reactor self-sustaining? These are all basic problems of the controllable fusion
Perry took a deep breath and interrupted him, Listen, I need a specific time frame. When can you produce real results?
Rofan couldnt help but say, Youre giving me such a hard time! I cant give you a specific time unless the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory can tell us when they can figure out the D-Li neutron interaction.
Perry said, So the source of the problem is the neutron?
Obviously not just that Rofan had a bitter smile on his face. He went silent for a bit before he continued, But after the neutron source problem is solved, we can at least begin anti-radiation testing on materials.
Suddenly, they heard footsteps coming from outside the lounge.
Perry looked at the man who was walking over, and he frowned.
The man, who was wearing a suit, took a deep breath before saying hesitantly, The White House called. The president wants you to go back immediately Theres an important conference tomorrow.
I just heard rumors The man in the suit sighed and quietly said, Our allies have informed us that in twelve hours the demonstration reactor in Haizhou, China, is about to begin fusion ignition.
Perrys eyes began to squint.
Rofan, who was sitting across from him, bounced off his chair and exclaimed, This is impossible!
Haizhou, STAR demonstration reactor base.
There wasnt a single cloud in the sky. The ocean waves were calmly crashing toward the rocks.
Inside the reactor base, all of the researchers and soldiers were stationed in their respective positions.
Since last night, the farthest checkpoint had been set to more than 20 kilometers away. With the help from armored vehicles, all roads leading toward this area had been blocked. All nearby tourists and pedestrians had been warned. Soldiers with live weapons were patrolling inside and outside the reactor base, to defend against any potential threats and safety hazards.
Three days ago, the regiment-level combat units stationed in this area prepared enough heavy firepower to defend against terrorists and enemy air units. They carried out various drills, including ground-to-air combat, anti-missile training, and anti-ship combat.
They had taken every possible scenario into account and made adequate preparations.
At the same time, the China National Nuclear Corporation engineers were inside the nuclear plant, doing final inspections on the reactor.
If the STAR-1 was a steel behemoth, then this fully assembled STAR-2 was a giant steel dragon.
The SG-1 superconducting magnet was its legs, the supercomputer was its brain, the plasma control scheme, developed by artificial intelligence, was its running instructions. The He3 atom probe was its eyes, while the PGC-1 composite material was its organs, and the liquid lithium was its blood
There were countless other components in addition to these, all of these were the blood, sweat, and tears of countless researchers.
Thankfully, this project was finally completed.
The engineers finished all of the inspections and quickly left the building while accompanied by security personnel.
The control room was on the other side of the demonstration reactor; everything was being carried out in an orderly fashion.
They had completed a fusion ignition drill three days ago. Everyone here was familiar with the safety and operating instructions.
All they had to do now was to repeat what they did three days ago.
Superconducting magnet inspection completed! Liquid helium is being injected
Liquid helium injection completed. Temperature has reached critical value, turn on the electricity!
Electrical current reached critical value
Magnetic field adjustment complete
Inject the fuel!
The last step finally came.
All they had to do now was to turn on the ion cyclotron resonance heating antenna. After that, all of the work would be done.
When Lu Zhou looked at the button in front of him, he suddenly started to get second thoughts.
He took a deep breath and looked at Academician Pan.
How about you press it?
No, you do it. Academician Pan shook his head and smiled as he said, Being able to witness this in my lifetime, Im already satisfied!
All of the researchers inside the control room were looking at Lu Zhou.
The CTV camera was facing him as well.
Lu Zhou took a deep breath and reached out his right hand.
From the 863 plan to now, China had been mingling with controllable fusion for almost half a century, while the international community had been researching controllable fusion for more than 70 years.
The year would turn 2020 tomorrow.
Everyone had waited too long for this day.
And right now, they were at the edge of a new generation of technology.
There wasnt anyone else closer to the future than Lu Zhou.
Lu Zhou gulped and looked at the dial on the dashboard. He then looked at the researchers around him.
I am honored to witness this moment with all of you.
We have completed all of the work necessary, we have done our best to make everything as perfect as possible.
No matter what the outcome is, history will remember this day, we will all be remembered.
He pressed the button.
It was like the sun was rising.
That pitch-dark reaction chamber was illuminated by the hottest energy in the entire solar system