Three power stations

2 March 2013

Dominating this photograph is Didcot A coal-fired power station, which opened in 1968. To its left, with two squat chimneys, is Didcot B gas-fired power station, built 1994–97.

There is, however, a third type of power station in the photo. To the right, in the distance, is a white, square building. This is the JET nuclear fusion experiment at Culham. If commercial-scale fusion power ever becomes a reality, it could be the answer the world's energy needs. However, the joke is that fusion power is always 50 years away.

If the technical challenges weren't enough of a hindrance, there is also the international politics behind the collaboration needed to make fusion happen. While coal power stations such as Didcot A were the technology of the first half of the 20th century, and gas-fired power stations that of the second half of the 20th century, it now seems unlikely fusion power will be the technology of the first half of the 21st century.

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