In DepthENERGY

Private fusion machines aim to beat massive global effort

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Science  28 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 360-361
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6336.360

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Summary

When finally complete in 2025, the $20 billion fusion reactor called ITER, rising near Cadarache in France, will be seven stories tall. Even then, nothing guarantees that it can induce nuclei to fuse and release energy. Now, a small U.K. company has unveiled a 2-meter-tall chamber that looks like an oversized beer keg and cost about £10 million to develop. Using a different reactor shape than ITER and, eventually, superconducting magnets, the company says it has a cheaper and faster path to an energy-producing fusion reaction. It is not alone. A few other privately financed startups are also challenging the status quo and two in North America are building new machines in the next few years that aim to get close to the break-even point, where the energy generated equals the energy put into the system.