The development of thermonuclear weapons in recent years has placed within the grasp of mankind a new, cheap, and almost inexhaustible source of energy. The principal ingredient in thermonuclear reactions is deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen. Deuterium occurs naturally wherever hydrogen is found, since about 0.015 percent of all hydrogen is the heavy isotope, H2. Although the percentage seems low, the total amount of deuterium is extraordinarily large, and a relatively inexpensive process for extracting the deuterium from natural hydrogen has been invented. The atmosphere and oceans of the earth contain enough thermonuclear fuel to last mankind for millions of years at a thousand times the present rate of energy consumption. But, since thermonuclear energy has so far been available only in explosive form, it has not yet been harnessed for nondestructive purposes. Several major research programs currently under way in the United States and other countries are aimed at developing methods of containing and controlling fusion reactions to permit adapting their power output to conventional power‐distribution systems. Substantial progress has been made in this field, but it may be many years before a practical controlled‐fusion machine will be a reality.

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