Todd Gloria at General Atomics
Mayor Todd Gloria watches a monitor as the tokamak in General Atomics’ fusion laboratory reaches 100 million degrees. Courtesy of General Atomics

Mayor Todd Gloria took time off from local politics this week to tour two San Diego laboratories where a limitless source of clean energy is being developed.

Gloria and representatives of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. were invited to the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which is managed by General Atomics for the Department of Energy, and the San Diego company’s own inertial fusion laboratory.

The two installations, located near UC San Diego, are working to tame the power that drives the sun to produce electricity on earth. When perfected, nuclear fusion could be a nearly limitless, clean source of energy.

“GA is a globally recognized leader in the advancement of fusion science, research, and technology, and we were honored to show Mayor Gloria how we are helping to shape the future of clean energy,” said Dr. Anantha Krishnan, the company’s senior vice president of the energy group.

At the National Fusion Facility, a donut-shaped chamber called a tokamak uses powerful electromagnets to shape and confine plasma at 100 million degrees — hot enough for hydrogen atoms to fuse into helium while releasing vast amounts of energy.

Nearly $1 billion is spent in California annually on fusion research and development, and last year the Lawrence Livermore National Library reported the first net energy gain from “fusion ignition” using high-energy lasers to compress a target of nuclear fuel.

The target components that were used in that historic experiment were produced by General Atomics at its inertial fusion laboratory.

“I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about General Atomics’ important work in fusion research,” said Gloria after the tour. “Hosting the largest magnetic fusion machine in the United States, San Diego plays an essential role in advancing fusion technology, which has the potential to revolutionize clean energy.”

Last week, Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. of Virginia, chair of the Congressional Fusion Caucus, visited General Atomics along with Reps. Darrell Issa of East San Diego County and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon.

General Atomics began research into fusion in the 1950s and is seeking to develop a pilot utility plant.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.