There is a joke in the fusion power community that suggests that fusion power is ten years away and has been for the past 50 years. However, according to a Feb 22, 2013 story in Divce, Lockheed Skunk Works, which has created a number of advanced aircraft, may be about to change that equation with a new concept of fusion power that is smaller and cheaper and, more importantly, really about five to ten years away.
The way the Skunk Works fusion reaction would work is that it would use radio energy to superheat deuterium gas into a plasma tightly controlled in a magnetic field. It is claimed that this plasma would be more stable and confined that in the far larger, more expensive tokomak model of a fusion reactor.
It is further claimed that a prototype fusion reactor could be built by 2017 with production models available by 2022. The fusion reactors envisioned by Lockheed Skunk Works would be small enough to put on a flatbed truck and taken to any location where it needs installing. They would be manufactured on a production line and thus would be relatively cheap. Each plant would produce 100 megawatts of energy.
Noting that similar claims have been made before without them panning out, it is still exciting to imagine the implications of such a technology. Fossil fuels, not to mention solar and wind, would be instantly obsolete. Cheap, abundant energy would transform the world, making the Third World as prosperous as the First, solving a variety of problems from desalination to address water shortage to fast space travel that would place Mars just weeks away instead of months. All that could happen if the technology actually comes to fruition.