A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a “compact power plant.”

The experts envision that it could become a model for future plants.

“We are seeing tremendous progress being made in the path to achieving fusion energy around the world,” said Michael Mauel, a professor of applied physics at Columbia University and co-chair of the panel. “Now is the right time for the U.S. to benefit from the investments in burning plasma research and take leadership in fusion energy.”

The success of a reactor that can produce electricity from nuclear fusion will have major importance in the fight against climate change. If it emerges as projected around 2050, a commercial version of the plant would produce almost emission-free energy because its main fuel consists of two hydrogen isotopes—deuterium and tritium — that can be obtained from water.

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