(p. B1) The fusing of hydrogen atoms requires incredible heat and pressure, and for decades fusion research has been the exclu-(p. B7)sive province of big science, like ITER, a 35-nation thermonuclear project in the south of France that covers 100 acres and is expected to ultimately cost more than $20 billion.
Such initiatives, though, have made slow progress toward the ultimate goal of building a machine that generates more power than it takes in.
Fusion is now attracting science-minded entrepreneurs and investors willing to make a long bet. They see small companies as more nimble than government-funded behemoths. They are sensitive to rising alarms over the impact of climate change. They want to create a power source with enviable possibilities: millions of times the energy potential of oil and gas and substantially more than nuclear power, without the carbon emissions of fossil fuels.
Fusion proponents also say that it is free of most of the risks of contemporary nuclear plants — which are powered by splitting, not joining, atoms — and that it has advantages over wind and solar, whose output is variable and whose turbines and panels require enormous space.
“There is no doubt in my mind that humanity will eventually succeed in making fusion energy happen,” said Robin Grimes, a professor of physics at Imperial College, a public research university in London. “We’ve got no choice.”
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 13, 2019, and has the title “The Fusion Reactor Next Door.”)