Burnaby, British Columbia, is similar to most North American bedroom communities. The majority of its residents commute into neighbouring Vancouver every morning and then head back to their suburban homes at night. There is one thing, though, that sets it apart: Around the corner from one of the two Costcos in town is a small start-up that's inching ever closer to solving the planet's energy problems — and tapping into a yet untouched trillion-dollar market.
That start-up, General Fusion, isn't like the up-and-coming companies you hear about in Silicon Valley, with eccentric founders, rapid growth and millions in revenues, though it does count Jeff Bezos, Microsoft and many others as investors and partners. Rather, it was started in 2002 by then 40-year-old physicist Michel Laberge, who quit a lucrative job at a laser printing company to follow an unconventional passion: nuclear fusion development.
Laberge, who's now the company's chief scientist, was drawn to nuclear fusion because of its world-changing possibilities. Unlike nuclear fission, which involves splitting heavier atoms to create lighter ones and can produce radioactive waste and nuclear bombs, fusion produces no environmentally harmful gases, no nuclear waste, it can't be made into a weapon, and it will never cause a power plant meltdown.