I am designing a world where one world power or set of world powers have developed commercial fusion reactors. The fusion of this world meets all of the expectations fusion we believe might be possible -- a person's lifetime energy needs are met with a cup full of sea water, a hydrogen economy is developed, phosphorous fertilizers become cheaper, etc.

All of these outcomes offer tremendous benefits. However, the country or countries that develop commercial fusion refuses to share the technology (or critical components not . Or, more likely, smaller countries are unable to afford this massive innovation.

For the purposes of this question we will assume that a large tokamak style reactor is needed, a tremendous expense in at self, that additionally require powerful magnets to achieve plasma containment / compression. To build on the above, the issues associated with magnetic confinement require a rare superconductor and only the originating country that can create it.

Why would a country such as the US or China share this blockbuster technology? What would the outcomes of not sharing this technology?

In the interest of making this question more objective (and less opinion based) please cite historical precedence for innovation, preferably in energy production, or science based fiction where possible.

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    $\begingroup$ What parts exactly do they not share? You are talking about a secret government project then like in a movie? How do they build commercial plants then? You request to require answers to be alternatively based on fictional books and only those 2 options is unusual, but I like it. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 17 '18 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ I assume you mean "of not making this question opinion based". If so, fix it. Else you should know that OB questions are closed here. Also, I assume you mean "why would a country [...] NOT share this technology?" $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch May 17 '18 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I find the premise of this question very hard to swallow. "Countries", possibly with the exception of China, do not develop technologies. Companies develop technologies, or, in the case of such highly expensive technologies, multinational research institutions do. For example, at present the most advanced attempt to build a full-scale fusion reactor is project ITER, funded by a wide assortment of participating countries. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 17 '18 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ If the fussion reactors are so massively expensive I don't think fussion energy would be the free energy you are thinking about, since often something that is expensive to build is also expensive to maintain, specially if it consumes energy and/or has moving parts. Even static pieces of concrete like bridges, or any kind of building, are expensive to maintain. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft May 18 '18 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Gianluca: That fusion power will be very cheap is a common but strange misconception. It will probably be cheaper than oil-based power, but quite likely not any cheaper than hydropower. The fusion reactor and power plant will be massive investments, with a limited lifespan, and the electric power will have to be sold at a price calculated to recoup the investment and make a profit during the lifetime of the plant, say 25 to 50 years. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 18 '18 at 8:32

The country that develops limitless (almost) free energy is at a massive economic advantage over every other country. They wouldn't release it. They would protect it from spies and possibly even go to war against any country that stole the technology from them.

If America (for example) developed it, it could build said reactors as part of their military bases around the world and on sell the excess energy to the host country.

This would give America additional military power and create a dependence in the host country to the point where countries would virtually become vassals of an American empire.

Countries that didn't want American military bases would have to produce their own power at a much higher cost which then affects the production costs of trade exports.

Energy is like a drug to countries. They will sell their soul to get it cheap....

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not mad if you did I'm just curious: Did you summarize points from my answer? $\endgroup$ – Jared K May 18 '18 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think a single base that can withstand against the army of a country. Moreover, the base depends on the resource of the host country (think food and water at least), also if it can have some stocks. And in the moment the first country besieges a base with the reactor, other will follow. $\endgroup$ – Gianluca May 18 '18 at 20:31

Based on your assumptions, the fusion reactor was probably a gray project, contracted through companies that were legally bound to keep the research and development highly classified, similar to classified military tech like the B2 Stealth Bomber:

From Wikipedia:

During its design and development, the Northrop B-2 program was a gray project before its revelation to the public. Unlike the Lockheed F-117 program, which was a black project, the type of military project of which very few people knew even existed while it was being designed and developed, more people within the United States federal government knew about the B-2 and more information about the project was available. Both during development and in service, there has been considerable importance placed to the security of the B-2 and its technologies. Staff working on the B-2 in most, if not all, capacities have to achieve a level of special-access clearance, and undergo extensive background checks carried out by a special branch of the Air Force.

For the manufacturing, a former Ford automobile assembly plant in Pico Rivera, California, was acquired and heavily rebuilt; the plant's employees were sworn to complete secrecy regarding their work. To avoid the possibility of suspicion, components were typically purchased through front companies, military officials would visit out of uniform, and staff members were routinely subjected to polygraph examinations. The secrecy extended so far that access to nearly all information on the program by both Government Accountability Office (GAO) and virtually all members of Congress itself was severely limited until the mid-1980s. Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) was the B-2's prime contractor; major subcontractors included Boeing, Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon), GE, and Vought Aircraft.

In 1984, a Northrop employee, Thomas Cavanaugh was arrested for attempting to sell classified information to the Soviet Union; the information was taken from Northrop's Pico Rivera, California factory. Cavanaugh was eventually sentenced to life in prison and released on parole in 2001.

The B-2 was first publicly displayed on 22 November 1988 at United States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where it was assembled. This viewing was heavily restricted, and guests were not allowed to see the rear of the B-2. However, Aviation Week editors found that there were no airspace restrictions above the presentation area and took photographs of the aircraft's then-secret rear section with suppressed engine exhausts from the air, to the USAF's disappointment. The B-2's (s/n 82-1066 / AV-1) first public flight was on 17 July 1989 from Palmdale to Edwards AFB.

In October 2005, Noshir Gowadia, a design engineer who worked on the B-2's propulsion system, was arrested for selling B-2 related classified information to foreign countries. Gowadia was convicted and sentenced to 32 years in prison for his actions.

The B-2 bomber is still classified technology, even though it is now deployed in service. People can see it flying around, but there are still many secrets to its design:

The bomber does not always fly stealthily; when nearing air defenses pilots "stealth up" the B-2, a maneuver whose details are secret.

So we know that a government can, through the methods used on the B-2, create a technology that no one else knows much of anything about. Why they would do that for fusion is up to your story.

I can't tell you why people in your story make choices, but if you are looking for inspiration, there are a couple possibilities:

Dominance through simple energy superiority and independence:

Countries succeed by leveraging resources. Sources of energy have become one of the most important resources. Fossil fuels are a big deal. Countries that have it or can get it prosper. Those who can't fall behind. If your country has fusion but others do not, you race ahead of them, making yourself a dominant power. You can make fusion-powered war machines and they can't. Your electricity is so cheap that manufacturers start moving operations to your country, boosting your economy. They wouldn't make that move if fusion will soon be coming to their current location. Your street lights and electric trains run for almost free. Your citizens can charge their electric cars for almost free. Your GDP would explode. If you share this tech, then the world advances together. If you withhold it, then you pull far ahead of the others.

Keep control of the reactors, but sell the electricity for money and political or strategic deals.

The superpower that has the fusion tech under government control could make deals to sell the power output, but not the tech itself, to other countries. If another country wants to be able to buy the cheap power, they have to give the superpower some land (of the superpower's choosing). The superpower will build a reactor and also a military base on that land. The reactor will be on super-power sovereign territory, and protected by the base, but the small nation's power grid can connect some power lines to the output. This is a sweet deal for the superpower. They get to build new military outposts and also sell electricity. Since the small nation is now dependent on the electricity, they are close to being a vassal-state of the superpower, who can threaten to cut the power if they misbehave.



A parallel is silk. The knowledge of how to produce silk was kept secret for hundreds of years, allowing the Chinese to monopolize this very desirable product. I did not realize that the Byzantines had a similar monopoly much later after silkworm eggs were smuggled out of China.


In the 6th century the smuggling of silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire led to its establishment in the Mediterranean, remaining a monopoly in the Byzantine Empire for centuries (Byzantine silk). In 1147, during the Second Crusade, Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154) attacked Corinth and Thebes, two important centres of Byzantine silk production, capturing the weavers and their equipment and establishing his own silkworks in Palermo and Calabria,[7] eventually spreading the industry to Western Europe.

So too fusion. Fusion can be used to make a number of salable products, for energy or otherwise. Unlimited energy would allow, for example, the production of alkane fuels out of CO2 even more cheaply than drilling for oil. It would allow the synthesis of precious metals from base elements. Just about any raw material could be made. If everyone can make these things, they are worth little and then the price crashes. By restricting the availability of the energy technology, the owners of fusion maintain scarcity of products sufficient to maintain demand and allow profitability.


There's a few options that come to mind


When Nuclear power became possible, the technology was not immediately shared either, for a simple reason, if a country can build a reactor they can also build a bomb. ANYTHING that can produce a large amount of power must have an ability to get that energy from its fuel in some way;

weapons simply require that same process to be done but in an instant instead of over time. so Fusion reactors could lead to a way to use the same process however they've (insert required plot point... more heat, less control mechs etc...). this could lead to a weapon that could fracture a tectonic plate and potentially end the planet... if that was the case it wouldn't be hard to see why they'd keep a lid on it.

And yes i know i'm over simplifying the difference between a reactor and bomb


Another possible is that the US economy is basically based off the value of Oil, if another country found a way to miniturise the technology to power cars etc it would cripple the current US. this would be dependent on how the US economy would be effected by the Fusion process in the first place...

More Economics

Maybe the one material Product X that without it the fusion reactors wouldn't work, and that only the fusion owning country could produce was actually a refinement of Product Y, something that only another country produces and by giving out that tech the other country would realize that they hold the key to the power and ramp the prices up.

Bad Press

Or you could go completely down the rabbit hole and have it be powered by Soylent Green... and they don't want the bad press

  • $\begingroup$ Fear seems not an option: we already know how to make a fusion bomb, the hydrogen bomb was detonated in 1952. We don't need a reactor, even if maybe can lead to a second way to build it $\endgroup$ – Gianluca May 18 '18 at 20:22

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