Sustainable nuclear fusion power produces clean, virtually limitless energy – won’t arrive in the 2020s. Fusion power poses one of the greatest engineering challenges – building devices to replicate the nuclear reactions that occur in the Sun and the stars and capturing the resulting energy. It involves generating massive temperatures – more than 100 million degrees Celsius, creating the conditions for hydrogen atoms to fuse, releasing energy. Superheated plasma created in the reactor has to be held in place under huge pressure created by magnetic fields. Gravity does that job for the Sun and the stars.
The world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor, Iter, is under construction in France and on track to begin producing plasma in 2025. But it isn’t expected to produce fusion power until 2035. China’s “artificial sun”, the doughnut-shaped Tokamak test reactor, will be operational in 2020 and will give scientists valuable data. Meanwhile, the UK is investing £220 million in nuclear fusion reactors. By 2050, nuclear fusion could be the primary energy source of a post-carbon world.