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Norks 'have answer to humanity's greatest problem'

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The North Korean regime says that its scientists have solved most of humanity's problems by developing controlled nuclear fusion. Unfortunately this is almost certainly a lie.

Nork state media reports that North Korean researchers have developed a "unique thermo-nuclear reaction device" with potential to end the human race's energy problems. Boffins worldwide have toiled for the past half-century to harness fusion, as it would offer plentiful clean energy without requiring scarce uranium fuel or involving the production of weapons-grade material as part of its fuel cycle.

Thus far, however, all fusion reactors consume more energy than they generate. The only practical application yet found for the process is that of enormously enhancing the power of atomic weapons, by using a uranium/plutonium fission bomb to trigger a fusion-powered explosion.

The BBC notes sceptically that the announcement was timed to coincide with the birthday of the Nork "eternal president" Kim Il-sung. Miraculous occurrences are often reported on birthdays of the ruling family. When the current dictator, Kim Jong-il, was born state media said that a new star had appeared in the sky.

Other assertions by the Nork government have included their recent announcement that the regime's scientists had launched the country's first satellite into orbit atop a Taepodong-2 rocket stack - also capable, if used as a missile, of delivering a warhead to the continental USA. The satellite was said to be broadcasting revolutionary songs.

In fact, however, the Taepodong suffered a technical mishap and its payload fell into the Pacific.

Nice as it would be to believe that the secret of controlled nuclear fusion has been found out at last, it seems likely that the debate around less satisfactory sources of power actually available in the real world will continue. ®

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