EDITOR’S COMMENT: Nuclear energy innovation has been stifled by overregulation and government interference. Could it be the key to cheaper, cleaner energy in the future?
A nuclear fusion reactor creating clean power that could help stem climate change by replicating the process of the sun could be complete within four years and producing electricity within ten, its backers have said.
The timeline would put the Sparc project, by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and private spinoff company Commonwealth Fusion Systems, ahead of several projects around the world attempting nuclear fusion, in which energy is produced by fusing together atoms, rather than splitting them apart.
Nuclear fusion has long been the holy grail of energy production, because it holds the hope of abundant, safe, non-polluting power.
In theory, nuclear fusion reactors can take up a fraction of the space of renewables such as wind or solar, and produce a power supply that is not interrupted by changing weather. They would also produce much less toxic waste than fission technology, and rely mainly on seawater to run. Whoever manages it first will have a head start on a market that could boom as countries race to decarbonise swiftly in the coming decades.
“We’re really focused on how you can get to fusion power as quickly as possible,” Bob Mumgaard, Commonwealth Fusion’s co-founder told the New York Times.
One of Sparc’s closest competitors is the British Tokamak Energy system, a more compact reactor, which its developers say will be more efficient than its rivals.