Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is ‘Very Likely to Work’

A series of research papers renews hope that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achievable.

Construction of a reactor, called Sparc, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said.

Although many significant challenges remain, the company said construction would be followed by testing and, if successful, building of a power plant that could use fusion energy to generate electricity, beginning in the next decade.

“Reading these papers gives me the sense that they’re going to have the controlled thermonuclear fusion plasma that we all dream about,” said Cary Forest, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin who is not involved in the project. “But if I were to estimate where they’re going to be, I’d give them a factor of two that I give to all my grad students when they say how long something is going to take.”

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