The secretive billionaire backed plans to harness fusion

By Jonathan Frochtzwajg
28 April 2016

Inside a laboratory near Vancouver in British Columbia, an alarm is blaring. In the middle of the industrial warehouse stands what looks like a cannon from a spaceship, about five metres long and festooned in wires.

None of the lab’s red-coat-wearing technicians seem fazed by the noise. The siren, which alerts workers to don protective earmuffs in case of a blown fuse, precedes every test “shot” on this prototype nuclear fusion reactor – and these engineers have performed well over 50,000 shots over the past five years.

That speed – currently, 50 to 100 tests a day – would not be possible within the bureaucracy of a public lab, where the most prominent research in long-awaited fusion energy is being conducted. But this is a little-known company called General Fusion – funded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and free to pursue technological revolution at its own, breakneck pace.

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