The multibillion-dollar ITER fusion project will take another 6 years to build beyond the—now widely discredited—official schedule, a meeting of the governing council was told this week. ITER management has also asked the seven international partners backing the project for additional funding to finish the job.
In case you're not keeping score, here's a round-up of the most visible fusion projects around the world. And while the article notes that "even amateurs have done it," there's no mention among this Top Ten list of the Fusor or any of the individuals who are experimenting with it. In other words, if you don't have a big institutional budget, you just don't register on the radar.
Interest in nuclear fusion, in which atoms are forced to join and thus release some of their energy, has been on the rise along with the development of solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies. Fusion is the holy grail of energy: completely clean, using only water and other commonly available elements as fuel, and cheap.
The problem isn’t that scientists can’t produce fusion reactions; even amateurs have done it. It’s that all discovered fusion processes consume more energy than they produce. (The similarity of the terms can be confusing, so it’s worth a reminder that nuclear fission, in which atoms split, is the well-known technology that already keeps lights on in some homes.)