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Fusion Power Could Be Here By 2020, U.K. Company Says

As world leaders meet in Paris to reach a legal framework aimed at limiting use of fossil fuels and the resulting rises in global temperatures, a U.K. company says it could be as little as five years from making "reactor relevant" fusion, a potential game-changer in energy production.

Fusion is how stars produce energy. It occurs when the nuclei of light atoms, such as hydrogen, are fused together under extreme pressure and heat.

Want Safer Nuclear Power? Fusion May Pave the Way 1:33

Tokamak Energy, from Oxfordshire, believes that the third version of their compact, spherical tokamak reactor will be able to reach temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius by 2020. That's seven times hotter than the center of the sun and the temperature necessary to achieve fusion.

Such a temperature fuses hydrogen atoms together, releasing energy, which differs from fission reactors that work by splitting atoms at much lower temperatures.

Such an achievement wouldn't mean a rapid rollout of a global fusion electricity network, but would be a significant step to achieving this by 2050, potentially making an enormous contribution both to world energy supplies and reducing carbon emissions.

Tokamak Energy says its technology would be similar in costs to a nuclear fission plant, but without any fissile material and with no risk of meltdown. The company's CEO, David Kingham, believes it will be possible for his team to transfer energy to the grid by 2030.

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"Fusion is one of those technologies which, if it could be harnessed, could be scaled up rapidly to be deployed world-wide by 2050 and could make a very big difference to carbon emissions and therefore to climate change from 2050 onwards," said Kingham.