It used to be China that was considered to be at the forefront of the development of fusion energy (the same energy the sun uses), but now it appears to be--of all places--that lovely tourist destination of southern France where the largest fusion reactor every constructed is being built.
Since the 1950s, fusion has offered the dream of almost limitless energy, but it has long been described as so difficult to achieve it's always been said to be "30 years away." And, in fact, the French plant is two years behind schedule. The plant is backed by the EU, the US, China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The Iter project at Cadarache in Provence is finally taking delivery of components for its reactor. In total, the reactor will have around a million parts.
Unlike conventional nuclear energy, fusion is non-polluting, and it has recently been found that long-term exposure to air pollution may be much more dangerous than previously thought. It may be linked to heart attacks and strokes by speeding up atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries," according to a University of Michigan public health researcher and colleagues from across the US. Sara Adar, the John Searle Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, and Joel Kaufman, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and medicine at the University of Washington, led the study that found that higher concentrations of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) were linked to a faster thickening of the inner two layers of the common carotid artery—an important blood vessel that provides blood to the head, neck and brain.
The new plant is intended to prove the practicality of fusion as a power source. It takes place when hydrogen atoms strike each other at high speed, and is the reason that the sun is so energetic and so long-lived. A few hundred large fusion reactors around our planet could replace all the coal, water, oil and nuclear powered facilities now in existence.