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MIT researchers say nuclear fusion will feed the grid “in 15 years”

A new research push aims to make the silver bullet for our energy problems a reality by 2033—a very ambitious target.

The news: MIT says its researchers will work with a new company called Commonwealth Fusion Systems, funded by $50 million from Italian energy firm Eni, to “carry out rapid, staged research leading to a new generation of fusion experiments and power plants.”

Huge potential: Using the same process that powers the sun, fusion could, in theory, provide limitless, cheap, clean energy. MIT says its new venture will use “advances in high-temperature superconductors” to contain the fierce reactions more effectively than existing setups, allowing higher temperatures and net energy production.

The claim: Bob Mumgaard, CEO of CFS and until recently a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, tells the Guardian, “The aspiration is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change. We think we have the science, speed, and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in 15 years.”

But: Nuclear fusion has been a promised technology for decades. Many large projects, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, have suffered delays and overspending. Smaller fusion experiments have received more funding recently, but a deadline of 15 years still seems hugely ambitious.

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