BEIJING (Kyodo) — China is to contribute $1.4 billion towards an international research project it hopes will solve its massive future energy needs, state media reported Tuesday.
China's cash will make up about 10 percent of the budget for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor nuclear fusion project, which will be based in France, the China Daily reported.
Luo Delong, deputy director of the ITER office in China, said the goal of the project ''is to find a shortcut to solve our energy shortage.''
A team of international scientists, including experts from Japan, are to attempt over the next three decades to produce energy by fusing atoms, rather than the current form of nuclear energy that relies on atoms being split apart.
Supporters of the project say that if successful the process could produce huge amounts of energy with little of the radioactive waste produced by conventional nuclear power.
Chinese officials say much of China's cash will be spent on building the experimental nuclear reactor at Cadarache in southern France.
It is due to go into operation in about 10 years.
Critics of the ITER project have said the logistical problems involved in attempting to achieve nuclear fusion are immense, including building a reactor capable of containing gases as hot as the center of the sun.
China admitted last month in a policy document on its future energy needs that, despite concerns about global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, it will have to continue to rely on coal as its prime source of energy for ''a long time to come.''
About 70 percent of China's electricity is supplied by coal-burning power stations.
The report also said China aims to produce most of its own oil, but officials have recently admitted the country will import 40 percent of its needs this year and that energy consumption in general has been steadily rising by about 5.6 percent a year since 1980.