Timeline: Chain reaction
1929: Scientists use Einstein’s equation E=mc² to predict release of large amounts of energy by fusing atomic nuclei together.
1939: German-born physicist Hans Bethe, pictured, demonstrates that nuclear fusion powers stars.
1950: Andrei Sakharov and Igor Tamm in the USSR propose a “tokamak” fusion reactor.
1956: Tokamak programme begins in strict secrecy.
1969: Tokamak results declassified, astounding Western scientists.
1973: Design work begins on Joint European Torus (Jet), a tokamak-type reactor in Europe.
1983: Jet completed at Culham, Oxfordshire, on time and to budget.
1985: USSR proposes an international fusion-energy project.
1988: Design work begins for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, later known as simply Iter. 1992: Design phase begins for Iter.
1997: Jet produces 16 megawatts of fusion power, the current world record.
2005: Cadarache, France, chosen as Iter site.
2021-22: “First plasma” scheduled, when ionised gases will be injected into the Iter tokamak.
2027-28: Iter “goes nuclear” with injection of tritium.
2030s: First demonstration fusion reactor to produce electricity for grid.
2050s onwards: First commercial nuclear fusion power plants.
Fusion is the power of the future. Always has been, always will be.
They thought it was 15-20 years from being a commercial reality in the 70's and 80's too.