ITER has released updated plans for the medium term (~2030) and - to the shock of nobody pragmatic - it's underwhelming. ITER at this point suffers massively from the sunk cost fallacy, and geopolitics/job creation have pretty clearly superseded their engineering north star. Even if everything in their newest roadmap goes to plan (it wont), that's just a very small scale POC (from a net energy POV); further work in the form of a subsequent DEMO project would be required to scale the reactor to something usable, then testing of that new iteration.. etc. Newer designs exist that likely should be prioritized over the ITER tokomak, yet 'we' (the species) soldier on with ITER despite it being orders of magnitude behind schedule, over budget, and suboptimal based on contemporary science.

Private enterprises pursuing fusion in a more results-oriented manner include Tokamak Energy and CFS Energy, who are both leveraging nascent advancements in materials (specifically, high-temp superconducting tape fabrication) and will likely outpace the ITER behemoth if funding persists.

Of recent accolade, the ARC design may well be the first to produce net energy gain, and is well advocated for here. The MIT proposal would cost approx $2B to build a 500MW reactor, or an order of magnitude less for a (SmallestPossible)ARC POC. Some context: ITER was originally budgeted at approx $5B but is currently at $20B and nowhere near the finish line. However, a single ARC reactor (hello, Iron Man) would consume approx 40% of the world's Beryllium supplies in order to produce the necessary FLiBe (requisite for neutron multiplication), so were this design to prove viable, massive rampup efforts around mining said element would need to occur to achieve meaningful output at scale. One upside: some MSR designs also need ingredients of FLiBe (specifically, enriched Lithium) so that particular endeavour seems worthwhile on multiple fronts.

Germany's Wendelstein 7-X reactor (using a Stellarator design) has produced promising results recently.

Other interesting ventures include KSTAR, General Fusion and LPP.

For a lay read into why fusion is still worth aspiring to, despite the litany of physical and political hurdles, read A Piece of the Sun. In short:

  • sovereign energy independence (lower the 'need' to involve your nation with parties not aligned with your world view, eg Europe and Russia's gas, or the US and Middle Eastern oil)
  • very low energy generation costs would allow us to desalinate more prolifically, providing an economically viable way to combat drought (and thus famine) along with the scourge of desertification
  • sequestration of atmospheric CO2 + water = synthetic hydrocarbons (bye-bye peak oil + relatively aggressive method of addressing climate change)
  • cheap power = cheap compute = cheap AI/ML, cryptocurrencies etc (no more 'bitcoin now uses more power than xyz country' headlines)

Of note, these benefits apply to pretty much any source of cheap baseload power (really efficient renewables+batteries, MSR fission etc); fusion is just one of many avenues being explored to achieve said outcome.