House counting on fusion power

The House, lured by the promise of a virtually limitless energy source, voted Monday to commit $20 billion to harnessing nuclear fusion by the end of this century. The bill directs the Energy Department to speed up its fusion research program, leading to operation of a fusion test facility by 1987 and a demonstration plant by the year 2000.

Nuclear fusion produces massive amounts of energy by combining hydrogen atoms. Its advantages over nuclear fission (the splitting of atoms), include the use of water as the fuel source and the production of low-level radioactive wastes rather than the more dangerous wastes produced by existing nuclear plants.

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