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Researchers say they've developed a concept for a fusion reactor that could be built for less money than an equivalent coal-fired plant — but they acknowledge that they still have some questions to answer. For example, will the concept really work?

The design concept, known as the "dynomak," is the subject of a detailed economic analysis as well as a presentation to be made next week in Russia at the International Atomic Energy Agency's 25th Fusion Energy Conference. The analysis suggests that a dynomak capable of producing 1 gigawatt of electrical power could be built for $2.7 billion, compared with $2.8 billion for a comparable coal plant.

That's far less than the estimated $50 billion-plus price tag for the 35-nation ITER demonstration fusion reactor that's being built in France, with a target date of 2027 for the first experiments. It's less than the $3.5 billion cost of the National Ignition Facility, which has yet to achieve true break-even with its laser-blaster fusion experiment. But it's quite a bit more than the unorthodox Polywell fusion reactors proposed by EMC2 Fusion, which are projected to cost in the range of $30 million to $200 million.

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