It may prove to be as historic as the harnessing of fire, invention of the wheel, or the channeling of electricity. It will certainly rank on a par with the first release of nuclear energy in an experimental Chicago reactor or its first test as an atomic weapon near Los Alamos, New Mexico.
It is the first successful experiment to extract power from controlled fusion.
It may take a decade or more to convert their successful experiment into commercially available power, but what it offers is an inexhaustible, readily available source of clean energy that eliminates pollution, greenhouse gases, or radioactive waste from the current generation of nuclear reactors. In short, it has the means to be as powerful and transformative than any advance in energy technology mankind as ever deployed to run its society.
Fusion occurs within our Sun and the stars that fill our night sky. The process combines hydrogen atoms, turning it into helium and producing the sunlight that allows civilization to exist orbiting some 93 million miles from the Sun. In an effort to replicate that law of physics, American scientists have used reactors and lasers to determine how they can harness its enormous power. (It has been estimated that a modest container of the “fusion fuel” is equivalent to one million gallons of oil, generating some 9 million kilowatt hours of electricity.)
As we discovered with the invention of the atomic bomb, physics can’t be kept as a national security secret. The Soviets were working on trying to figure out how to harness fusion for something other than a hydrogen bomb more than half a century ago. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, there was even a mutual assistance program announced by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.