Nuclear power is having a bit of a low moment these days. But that’s just because we don’t know how to do it right, the way the sun does. General Fusion–a startup that just announced that Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos is providing financial backing as part of a $19.5 million funding round–claims it’s going to solve the nuclear problem by creating clean, harmless nuclear power from water.
You read that correctly–Bezos is betting on nuclear fusion, the holy grail of nuclear nerds everywhere. Today’s nuclear plants generate power from fission, a process that splits atoms to release energy as heat. The simple version of the nuclear fusion process–which is what happens on the sun–goes something like this: isotopes of hydrogen atoms fuse together to make helium. The reaction releases incredibly large amounts of heat, which is used to power steam turbines.