What if scientists could harness the extraordinarily powerful process that fuels the sun to generate clean energy here on Earth?
In a potentially historic milestone, they took a step towards just such a future this week.
At a ceremony in southern France earlier this week, a 35-country consortium officially began the assembly phase of a mega-project known as ITER.
Once assembly is complete, about four and a half years from now, it will be the world's first industrial-scale fusion device.
If successful, it promises to pave the way for virtually limitless, waste-free energy.
ITER or the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, what is it and how will this global effort help fight against climate change and our daily lives?
It's the topic of our News In-depth.
Joining us live in the studio is Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) consortium was launched in late 2006, with South Korea as a member along with the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and India, where all members share the cost of construction.
How did this project come about being launched in the first place?
ITER has now entered its years-long assembly phase toward putting together the world's largest tokamak, a plasma reactor that creates the conditions necessary for atoms to fuse and release considerable amounts of energy.
It seems the role this structure called a tokamak is critical, as it confines the hot plasma.
Can you help us understand the basic physics behind developing this "miniature sun"?
While the initial reaction to "nuclear power" is generally reluctance, nuclear fusion has been reported to provide clean, reliable energy without carbon emissions.
Is fusion safe from the possibility of a run-away accident or a meltdown?
How do you see nuclear fusion energy on "the road to solving humankind's energy problems." (replacing other energy sources)?
The assembly of ITER, we're told, will take about four to five years from now.
As the ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot put it, it's going to be 5 years of assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline with the precision of a Swiss watch.
Such a massive project is likely to face challenges ahead throughout the assembly work.
What are some of the challenges?
South Korea's role in this project is supplying a massive tool, referred to as "giant."
Korean industries have developed this vacuum vessel sector of the reactor for the past decade or so.
Can you help us understand the overall involvement and role that South Korea plays into the whole project?
Everything for ITER has been custom-built, including the building where it will sit in Provence, France and the road that leads there from the nearest body of water.
Is there any significance in location to the site being located in Cadarache, France?
The plan is to switch ITER's reactor for the first time in December 2025.
After that, ITER will have several more years to fine tune and approach full plasma generation by its goal of 2030.
What are some practical uses that may come from this project for the average person?
Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University, many thanks for your expertise. We appreciate it.