A huge global increase in energy consumption is inevitable. Renewable energies alone will not satisfy our needs. While nuclear energy is often associated with fission and its dangers, scientists across the world are trying to master its bright side. Nuclear fusion is a safe, clean and unlimited source of energy. But unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to master.

There are different ways of going about it. Three main competing paths are currently being explored :

-Tokamaks, which confine a hot plasma at a temperature of one hundred million degrees in a  steady state within a magnetic field. 

-Lasers, which are used like hammers to compress a target and make it explode.

-The Z-pinch machine, which attempts to light a nuclear fire by compressing a tiny pellet of gas through an intense X-ray pulse. 

While the construction of Iter, the international super tokamak, is about to start in Southern France, teams are working flat out to solve physics and engineering problems. Let’s follow the team of the Tore Supra tokamak as they develop their machine and install new heating antennas.

At the Megajoule Laser, 240 giant lasers are being assembled. They will fire a target in a 30-feet diameter metal sphere. Everything must be immaculately clean as a speck of dust could burn and ruin extremely costly equipment.

In the Sandia laboratories, as the entire Z-machine has just been modernized to double its power, the team is already looking towards the future. In collaboration with Russia, revolutionary components are being tested.

Putting their rivalries aside, all these scientists share their knowledge of plasma, the fourth state of matter after its gaseous phase. Only when the secrets of plasma are mastered will the gates to fusion open.

Details: 52′

A film by Jacques BEDEL