Worlds Biggest Nuclear Fusion Plant Begins Construction

Last week, construction started on the ITER fusion plant in France, which hopes to prove the commercial viability of fusion power.

While conventional nuclear power plants generate energy by splitting atoms, nuclear fusion involves smashing two atoms together. This produces dramatically more energy than the process of fission that we’ve already mastered and doesn’t produce long-lived radioactive waste. It also doesn’t rely on radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium for fuel, instead using abundant isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium.

The only catch is that trying to contain a nuclear fusion reaction is like trying to keep the sun in a box. It’s the same reaction that powers all stars, and trying to corral that kind of raw power and turn it into something we can use effectively is a challenge scientists have been struggling with for decades.

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