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CNN This Morning

A Year After Mass Shooting At Buffalo Supermarket; Erdogan's Leadership In The Balance As Turkey Votes In Pivotal Elections; CNN Is Inside A Laboratory Working To Revolutionize Electricity Production. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 14, 2023 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Sunday morning. Feels great. Doesn't it?


BLACKWELL: Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is May 14th. I'm Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker. Happy Mother's Day. I hope all of you mothers out there are lounging in bed, getting served coffee or tea, and being pampered today.

Here is what we are watching this morning.

Officials along the U.S.-Mexican border say they have not yet seen they chaos they were expecting after the expiration of Title 42. There is speculation as to why things have been calmer than expected.

BLACKWELL: President Biden and Republican leaders are expected to meet this week as they rushed to avoid an unprecedented debt default, the warning coming from the White House as that crucial June date inches closer.

WALKER: A cease-fire appears to be holding between Israel and the Islamic jihad after days of violence and more than 30 deaths. The likelihood of this fragile truce holds in the reaction coming from the Biden administration.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we do a shot?

It's 1,000 times the power of the entire U.S. electrical grid. But your lights don't flicker at home when we take a shot.


BLACKWELL: And CNN takes you inside the lab that is achieved a stunning scientific breakthrough in the field of a nuclear fusion. The advancement that has scientists all excited, coming up.

WALKER: We've given the situation the southern border, a top homeland security officer says there has been, quote, no substantial increase of migrants trying to cross into the country from Mexico after Title 42 expired on Thursday. The lines of people that have been waiting for U.S. entry have tapered off dramatically, and border cities are reporting that they have not seen the massive surge that was expected.

CNN's Gustavo Valdez joins us live from El Paso now.

And for months we have been saying that this has come or at least people have expected that this was coming and it is not there. What do you know?

GUSTAVO VALDEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that the city of El Paso still has some migrants living on the streets, like you see behind me. But I talked to a few of them yesterday, and they tell me that they were processed prior to the end of Title 42 and they are ready to move to another city, they just don't have the funds to pay for the transportation. So they have to wait here. We have not seen any new migrants who might have been processed recently in the last couple of days, in the last days of Title 42. So, perhaps, they are still being processed at the detention center, or, most of them, as the Biden administration promised, are being deported back to their country of origin.

On the Mexican side was spent most of the day yesterday, we did not see barely any migrants trying to get across the Rio Grande. Use it a few troops trying to find a gap on the barbwire fence installed along the Rio, and they couldn't find those openings that were available earlier in the week because there is also not that group of migrants who are assisting the new arrivals to get across. We did not even see members of the Texas National Guard that have been helping with the efforts to secure the border.

The Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is actually on the Mexican side of the border. He was in Matamoras yesterday. He is going to be in Nuevo Laredo today. He said he is supervising the protection of the border on that side, because he says that there are more migrants coming in from the south, and he expects thousands of people being deported back into Mexico.

WALKER: Gustavo Valdez, really appreciate your reporting, thank you.


Despite ongoing negotiations on the U.S. debt limit, leaders in Washington are still without a clear path forward to a void a catastrophic default. There are just four days when both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session before June 1st. That is the date that the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

BLACKWELL: But President Biden says he is optimistic that he could reach a deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The two are expected to meet sometime in the next few days. Yesterday, the president told reporters the talks between

congressional and White House aides are moving forward. Sources also say behind the scenes that dialogue between staff on both sides have been productive, respectful, and in good faith.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is with the president in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

So, the presidents optimistic cautiously that, there will be a deal. What do we know about these talks?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, Victor. Cautiously optimistic is the phrase for President Biden yesterday when he said that those talks were moving along and progressing in a positive manner when he was speaking to reporters about the state of negotiations that basically stave off economic calamity. We know that staff, from the White House, wider Biden administration, as well congressional leaders met in Friday. They are expected to continue meeting across the weekend to talk about the contours about these negotiations.

Now, if you remember, President Biden, House Leader Kevin McCarthy and others were expected to meet on Friday again to talk about these negotiations. But that was postponed. At the time, staff said it was postponed because even though these conversations were progressing in a positive matter, they had not yet progressed to the point where they thought it was appropriate to bring these principles back given that they could then have a progressive meeting on their own. So that, for the staff, was the goal this weekend.

Now, when we talk about the layout of these negotiations, we know a couple things. First we know that they had been centered really on trying to get around one of the contours of what is possible when it comes to a deal on not defaulting the debt, but also spending cuts on the side. For the White House is part, they have made clear sources. I've told CNN that a couple things are off the table, that includes Inflation Reduction Act that historic bill that President Biden passed to invest in things like climate change, as well as, as you see on the screen, here student debt forgiveness, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits.

But time is ticking here, Victor. And that is something that President Biden was very aware of when he talked to reporters on the tarmac on his way here to Rehoboth on Saturday. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're moving along, it's hard to tell. We're not -- we have not reached a crunch point yet. But, there is real discussion about some changes. (INAUDIBLE) but we are not there yet.


WRIGHT: That crunch time point when President Biden was interesting, because it is reminding our viewers, June 1st is the soonest date that the Treasury Department has said that the U.S. could default on its debt for the first time ever in this country's history.

Now, that is, like you said, not so far away, so time is really of the essence here. We know in terms of these conversations going forward that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders are expected to meet sometime early next week, although a date is not set. Remember, though, President Biden is expected to leave out for a foreign trip to Japan and Australia on Wednesday so only a couple days for the key principles to before that happens.

So we also, know early next week, Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to meet with CEOs and Wall Street bankers in Washington, D.C. to talk about the state of negotiations and what comes next.

But, asked on the tarmac on Saturday if a deal can be reached by June 1st, that first date, President Biden said it has to be. Of course, this will have grave implications if their deal was not made for President Biden's political future, obviously, we know that he is running for reelection in 2024 -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, certainly has to be. And so, let's talk about that. What are the stakes, what happens -- Jasmine, right thank you -- if the U.S. default on its debt?

Well, first, it would almost immediately trigger a recession. The U.S. stock market would likely tumble, unemployment would jump, 401ks could plummet. Borrowing costs would increase. That's on top of increased cost Americans are already facing from the Federal Reserve rate hikes. Social Security payments to about 66 million Americans could be delayed. Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors and health insurance plans, they could also be affected, and millions of federal civilian workers an active duty military members could see their paychecks delayed.

The United States has never defaulted on its debt. It is still on likely to happen now, in part, because the stakes are so high.

WALKER: Here with me now to discuss this further is CNN global economic analysis, Rana Foroohar.

Rana, great to see you.


I mean, look, we have seen this movie may times before where Congress runs out the clock, almost, and then, of course, they end up raising the debt ceiling. This time around, are you more pessimistic or optimistic that we will not default?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, you know, I have no reason to think that we won't go right up to the, edge and in some ways, I think that is why the president seemed to perhaps a little sanguine, you know, it seems like the edge was really close, June 1st, it's actually not. I mean, the last few times around, I can't believe I'm saying, that that we have been in this movie multiple times, we went right up to the edge. And I think that is why it's going to happen this time, too.

Now, I think that the White House is being very smart about saying, I think it's ridiculous and most callers would agree that it's ridiculous to tie the congressional duty not the false American debt, I think that that is the wrong approach. The presidents being, he is correct in trying to say, look, what can we get on the table? Not the IRA, not student -- but hey, can you some of the COVID relief funds were not used to try and even out the inflation to try and get Republicans out, is there anything else to get on the table?

I mean, you know, he is doing the best he can. But let's face, that Congress has a legal requirement to raise the debt limit. This is in the Constitution, we should never default on debt. So the stakes are incredibly high.

And, in terms of whether I am pessimistic about whether we default, it is impossible to say, but if we were to default, I will tell you something, I would be very pessimistic about economic prospects in both the U.S. and the world for a couple of years, at least.

WALKER: Well, yeah, tell me more about what the repercussions would be, because the White House economist, they warned that a protracted debt default would cause a loss of more than 8 million jobs and cut the stock market in half. That sounds pretty scary.

FOROOHAR: It is, and let me tease that apart a little bit. The dollar is the world reserve currency. But why is that? Part of it has to do with the economic might of the U.S., we have a large consumer market in the world, we are very rich country.

But a lot of it has to do with trust. I mean, what is, money really? It is trust. It is trust that currency has value, that debtors will repay their debts, and if you see that trust eroded, particularly in a time where we are moving to a more multi-polar world. There are other currencies out there.

China would love, it is the sort of give to China that would get involved, because they would love it if a lot of other emerging markets would say, gosh, maybe we'll do them in Renminbi, which is the Chinese currency. This is all things that could happen. Dollar makes assets with absolutely depreciate.

So I can imagine, very easily, the stock market value being cut in half.

WALKER: Victor laid out some of the real life stock market as America would default their payment for the first time ever. I think the latest consumer sentiment reports show that Americans are concerned that we could default.

Talk to us more about the real life impacts on just regular people.

FOROOHAR: Yeah, for sure. Well, look, just talking at the stock market for a minute. Anyone in the stock 401k, anyone that has got retirement funds is going to see them flock. And imagine, just think about it for a minute. Imagine if your 401k was set in the 50 percent. I mean, that would change retirement plans for a lot, like a lot of people, tens of millions of people.

So you will see borrowing rates go up, so at a time when a lot of people, partially working, people are feeling pain, because of inflation. The added borrowing costs would just put kerosene on that problem. It would become wildly more expensive to borrow for a home, for a car.

You know, it would, you can imagine people's household budgets simply not working anymore. The math not adding up. Now, add to that, the loss of jobs, you'd be talking about a serious economic catastrophe. I mean, I'm not getting to the hyperbole, but I think that is not an overstatement.

WALKER: No, I think we all believe you on, that because that is what we keep hearing from experts like you. You know, I'm also hearing the of Social Security advocates who are, especially when you talk to seniors who rely on your Social Security payments, every couple years or weeks for their livelihoods. We are bracing them for what could potentially happen.

Is there any way that, you know, these people, especially the seniors and the most vulnerable in our society, could prepare for a potential default?

FOROOHAR: You know, that's a great question. I mean, I have been telling everyone actually for the past year or so since interest rates have been going up, just to pay down debt.


If you have any debt, try and get rid of it.

But, you know, you are raising a hugely important point, people on a fixed income, there is not a lot you can do to prepare for something like this. I mean, imagine if your Social Security doesn't come, there's much of choose between medication and food. These are really -- it is unconscionable for Congress to let the U.S. go over the debt limit.

And I know the president has been working at it, but --

FOROOHAR: Yeah. Let's hope they come up with a deal quickly in the next four sessions. I appreciate you joining us, Rana Foroohar. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: This morning, Israeli military officials say several border crossings into Gaza as well as its maritime area, had partially reopened, as the ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad, it was declared last night. Palestinians were also seen celebrating in the streets after the cease fire took effect in Gaza City after days of violence.

They claimed the lives of at least 35 people, 34 of, them Palestinians.

CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us now from Gaza. Ben, I understand this is the first time that CNN has been lived there

since the conflict began. Tell us what you know.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: Yeah, Victor. We can tell you that the entrances to Gaza are open. That is why here, the cease-fire definitely is holding after a few missiles in airstrikes happened after the 10:00 p.m. beginning of that cease-fire. Now we are just down the street from a house that was destroyed at 5:00P p.m. yesterday in an Israeli airstrike, it was typically -- the Israeli army called up one of the people inside the house and warned them to leave. But, of course, that was a four story apartment building with about 40, 45 people living inside, several of them handicapped.

So it was quite a scene of panic to try and get people out of that building as quickly as possible. And, is often the case, when you ask the residents of the building if there was any reason why that particular building was struck, and I wish we could show you, but the signal is very weak down here. So we had to come up the street, they don't know why the building was struck.

But what we have seen, and what I've seen many times before when I've come back to Gaza after cease-fires have begun is that life is very much back in action. We drove by a very busy fruit and vegetable market, people are out and about, you don't see them, but we are surrounded by children, very curious to see what it's CNN crew is doing here.

So 24 hours ago, this entire Gaza strip, where more than 2 million people, lived was the scene of outgoing missile and Israeli airstrikes. Now it is quiet and life is quickly going back to normal -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we are seeing some of those kids around, you and as we're discussing with David Miller a little earlier was that this happens every few months. So there is a pattern to what happens after these volleys.

Ben Wedeman for us this from Gaza, thanks so much.

WALKER: Still ahead, Ukraine's president says his country's counteroffensive against Russia will begin soon, as he is meeting with leaders who are pledging billions of dollars in aid. The latest from the front lines, and Zelenskyy's German trip, coming up.

BLACKWELL: It has been one year since 10 people were killed in a mass shooting at Top Supermarket in Buffalo. We are joined by the mayor of the city as they honor those who were lost.



BLACKWELL: Let's focus now on Russia's war on Ukraine.

President Zelenskyy is hinting that the long-anticipated summer counteroffensive will begin soon. The comments come as he is vying for support from his European partners. This morning, he met with Germany's chancellor who is promising his support for as long as it is necessary.

Just a day ago, there were the pledge from Germany for the largest military aid to date. It was worth three billion dollars.

WALKER: Inside Ukraine, Russia is hitting targets across the country. This is new video of a drone attack, a huge ball of fire there. It injured 21 people in western Ukraine.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin, but we begin with our Sam Kiley, who is joining us from southeastern Ukraine.

Sam, we are getting these new images of the moment a Russian war plane crashed near the Ukrainian border. What have you learned about that?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, that's a very interesting development, and it comes close on the heels, if that's not the wrong term, of the downing of a helicopter which reportedly an electronic jamming up and electronic warfare helicopter shot down, a Russian aircraft.

Now, what is interesting is that we don't yet know who, or rather how. We know that they were probably shot down by Ukrainians, although there has been some speculation inside Russia that could even been an own (INAUDIBLE) by the Russians, because it is very, very, close to the border with Ukraine, Ukraine's northern border with Russia. There have been cross bordering incursions in the past by Russian aircrafts, although they don't admit that in Kyiv.

But it's a significant development not least because once again, there is very angry criticism of the Russian military hierarchy from military bloggers and other commentators inside Russia who, in the, most we wouldn't have dared raise their voices against the administration that is prosecuting their war.

If you combine that what we've seen where around Bakhmut, where, again the Ukrainians have enjoyed some success in a recent localized counteroffensive there.


Again, you've seen the mercenary leader, Prigozhin, blaming the Kremlin and their leadership for the failures there. This is all just what the Ukrainians want to see ahead of what they hope to be able to do, which is launch a major offensive sometime in the summer. President Zelenskyy said, soon.

BLACKWELL: Fred, back to you now. President Zelenskyy's tour of Europe, yesterday in Rome, today in Berlin. What is he hoping to get out of these meetings?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, weapons, first and foremost, Victor. And that is certainly something that appears to be happening. One of the things that was said was that Volodymyr Zelenskyy did, in fact, say that he said that the offensive should begin soon. He also said, what a lot of people said was very interesting in a press conference that I attended, that he believes the Ukrainians could end the war by the end of this year. That, of course, is something that a lot of people would like to see happen, the Ukrainians, of, course first and foremost, with the victory of themselves. And for, that they obviously need a lot of these western weapons.

And one of these things that these guys were talking about is actually correct. Big weapons package coming here from the Germans, worth about three billion dollars. You look at some of the things that are in there, very capable air defense, but also more main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and also some pretty strong howitzers as well, on top of ammunition, which of, course the ammunition certainly need.

Now, there was also talks between the Zelenskyy government and the Schultz government afterwards, and Vladimir Zelenskyy said that they would really like to see a jet coalition come together for the Ukrainians where they would get western combat's jets.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, not really willing to talk about. That the German reports have said in the path of the don't believe that -- the Ukrainians could really use, that would be so double over what the cranes are trying to do, so there certainly are still areas over where the two sides could be on the same page, but there is also a lot of agreement between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and also Olaf Scholz, and you can really see how the Germans have come a long way from being very reluctant at the beginning of Russia's full on invasion, to now where they're making these big weapons pledges.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, certainly.

Fred Pleitgen, Sam Kiley, thank you both.

WALKER: Up next, a somber day in buffalo, New York. As the city marks one year since a gunman opened fire on a supermarket, killing ten people in a racially motivated attack. Buffalo mayor, Byron Brown, joins us next.



BLACKWELL: Today marks one year since the racially motivated mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. 10 people were killed. Three others were wounded after a white 18-year-old man opened fire at a top supermarket. 11 of those shot were black.

The gunman was sentenced to life in prison in February admitting to targeting the city's black community that continues to reel from that tragedy.

Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo joins us now to discuss. Mr. Mayor, good to see you again. I think also about this being Mother's Day. And the mothers who were killed that day and the mothers who buried a son or daughter in the days after that massacre. You know the families impacted. How are they?

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: The families are strong. They're rallying around each other. They're holding each other up. They're healing. Certainly this was a horrible tragedy. Something that is unimaginable, but have talked to the families frequently was with some of the families yesterday, and their actions in fighting for positive changes on gun reform, fighting white supremacy, fighting to rein in social media. So, hate speech can be spread by technology companies through social media. The families have been nothing short of courageous.

BLACKWELL: This is branded I know by the city as a weekend of reflection, healing and hope. Beyond the families because when I was there, I spoke with people who had lost people there, some survivors from inside the grocery store, and then just people who were in the community. And everyone was impacted whether they were there that day or not. How much healing has there been for the City of Buffalo in the last year?

BROWN: People are in various stages of healing. This was the darkest period in the history of the city of Buffalo. First mass shooting in the history of our city of this type, racially motivated. So there's still a lot of pain. But we are a strong, resilient community.

People continue to support each other, to comfort each other in many different ways. And our focus is on change not for Buffalo but change for this nation and building a stronger city of Buffalo and a stronger East Buffalo.

BLACKWELL: You know, when I was there, speaking with the families, I said that, you know, some will say mental health others will say that there needs to be gun reform. And not much will change. Well, there were some changes.

But in 10 days, there was Uvalde and then there was the July 4th parade shooting in Island Park and then Club Q and the outlets in Texas and Nashville and Louisville and Dadeville at the sweet 16 party and on and on and on.

I wonder what your assessment is of the changes that have happened at the state level in New York and in other states. Federally, as we look at the continuation of these mass shootings.


BROWN: At the state level, 10 pieces of legislation passed in New York State by Governor Kathy Hochul and members of the State Legislature acted very swiftly. First comprehensive gun legislation in 30 years in the United States of America. Good start, not enough. We are in day 136. This year, there have already been over 200 mass shootings this year in the United States of America.

And since 5/14/2022, the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo where we hoped it would not happen again, as you indicated, Victor, there have been over 650 additional mass shootings in the United States of America. So it's not getting better, it's getting worse. There are lawmakers in Washington who refuse to act. They have put their heads in the sand. And they are more responsive to the needs of the gun makers, gun manufacturers earning a profit, making a profit and less interested in the lives of American citizens living in urban, suburban and rural communities.

No one has been immune to this gun violence in these mass shootings. And in Washington, more needs to be done. We need to hold those lawmakers who refuse to act accountable.

BLACKWELL: The changes that came at the federal level after Buffalo and Uvalde, obviously insufficient because there have been so many and as you say more needs to be done. Every intersection of public life including the grocery store impacted by these mass shootings.

Mayor, thank you for spending some time with this one year since that massacre. Byron Brown, thank you.

And as we go to break, respect to those 10 men and women who were killed that day.



BLACKWELL: More than 61 million voters in Turkey head to the polls today. This could be a pivotal general election. Current president Erdogan is facing several challenges to his 20 year rule.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: His main opponent is the CHP leader representing a coalition of six opposition parties, a presidential candidate there must win at least half the vote otherwise, a runoff will be held later this month.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joining us now live from Istanbul. Hi there, Jomana. So tell us more about, you know, whether or not there are concerns regarding the fairness of this election and whether Erdogan would actually step down if he did lose, because we know this is quite a tight race so far.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Amara, there's really no concern here about the fairness of the voting process itself. Because no matter what happens, or has happened over the past few years to the state of Turkish democracy, people would tell you here, the Turkish democracy is still alive at the ballot box.

When it comes to fairness, it's the lead up to elections. It's campaigning, it's the fact that you have a president who has access to the state's resources, the airwaves, the TV channels when it comes to campaigning, they definitely have a lot more than the opposition has. It's not really a level playing field for both sides.

When it comes to President Erdogan accepting the results, whatever these results may be, if that means if he does lose, as you mentioned, he's addressed that himself in the past few days, he's been asked that question and he said, my alliance and I will accept the results of this democratic process, whatever it is, and he's indicated that he's going to respect the results no matter what.

I mean, as you mentioned, this is a very, very tight race. You have the Turkish people choosing between two very different candidates, two very different agendas, two different visions for the future of this country. But what you have right now is President Erdogan facing the toughest election he has faced in his 20 plus year grip on power in this country, because you've got an opposition that for the first time has united has come together diverse different parties, different political agendas, they've come together and they've put forward one candidate to face president or to one in this attempt to unseat him.

You've got the president here campaigning on this platform of showcasing his achievements over the past few years. And you've got on the other hand, the opposition, promising change.

Just over an hour until polls close and we'll have to wait and see how this all goes in the coming few hours if neither of those candidates gets more than 50 percent. This will go to a runoff into waste.

WALKER: So much at stake when it comes to the direction of this country. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you very much. Coming up, CNN takes a unique tour of the Livermore National Laboratory in California, the site of a groundbreaking breakthrough a successful nuclear fusion ignition.

BLACKWELL: First though, see how streaming changed the music industry and a new episode of the CNN original series "The 2010s" preparing tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Here's a look.



ESTE HAIM, MUSICIAN: I was best friends with Kesha and I heard TikTok for the first time. And I was like I'm probably never going to see you again once this comes out. I instantly knew it was going to be a hit. And the video was totally Kesha, you know, fun, irreverent. That was Kesha. That was quintessentially her.

BENNY BLANCO, PRODUCER AND SONGWRITER: 2010 was so insane. One time me and Kesha were like let's write a song. And then she's like, we went and got fully drunk rode the subway. All everyone got tattoos, and then we came back on it like I guess we'll write a song.

AMANDA PETRUSICH, WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: This is when we saw pop music and EDM, which is electronic dance music kind of meet and merge in a particularly compelling way.


BLACKWELL: The CNN original series "The 2010s" premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.


BLACKWELL: Right now scientists are working to revolutionize the way we generate energy.

WALKER: Instead of traditional power plants that burn coal or nuclear power plants that run the risk of melting down, scientists are working to harness a clean and unlimited source of power just like the stars in the sky do. CNN's Bill Weir with more.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Inside this building, some very smart people built a star on Earth. Not the Hollywood kind. That's easy. No, the burning ball of gas in the sky kind. One of the hardest things humans have ever tried.

TAMMY MA, LEAD, INERTIAL FUSION ENERGY INITIATIVE: I was at the airport when my boss called me and I burst into tears.

WEIR: Tammy Ma is among the scientists who have been chasing nuclear fusion for generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Count down for shot on my mark three, two, one, mark.

WEIR: And in the middle of a December night. They didn't.

WEIR (on camera): And you only need a tiny little bit of fuel.

MA: That's right. Yes. Because our little pellet that's it's written in the middle, you can't even see it on this target is just two millimeters in diameter.

WEIR (voiceover): That target includes an abundant isotope found in seawater, and goes into a chamber about the size of a beach ball in the 60s, but is now a round room 30 feet across with 192 massive lasers aimed at the center.

MA: They're big laser beams about 40 by 40 centimeters. Each one alone is one of the most energetic in the world. Every time we do a shot, it's 1,000 times the power of the entire U.S. electrical grid. But your lifestyle flicker at home when we take a shot. So what we're doing is taking a huge amount of energy and compressing it down just into nanoseconds.

WEIR: Right.

MA: So it's about $14 of electricity.

WEIR (voiceover): In National Ignition Facility then amplifies all that concentrated energy on the target. And if they get it just right, more energy comes out than when in with no risk of nuclear meltdown, or radioactive waste. MA: In a fusion power plant, you would shoot the same target over and over at about 10 times a second. Dropping a targeted and shooting it with laser.

WEIR (on camera): So you'd need a target loader like loader like (INAUDIBLE).

MA: We use target loaders. Exactly. So there's still many, many technology jumps that we need to make. But that's what makes it so exciting. Right?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: A lot of people were saying you've invested all this money, it's time to pull the plug because you guys haven't achieved ignition.

WEIR: Right.

GRANHOLM: I mean, it's called the National Ignition Facility. Right? And --

WEIR: At some point you better --

GRANHOLM: At some point, you better ignite? Yeah, exactly.

I mean, it's really hard to replicate the process that's happening on the sun on Earth. It's just really hard. And so when that happened in December, what it said is that this is actually possible. So it's no longer a question of whether it's just a question of when that fusion is actually possible. Now, let's get to work.

WEIR: While most experts say it'll be decades before most of the public will ever be able to plug into fusion energy. There are so many new startups in this space, about $5 billion worth of investment. A startup called Helion, which has a big dumbbell shaped reactor that shoots plasma rings at a million miles an hour says they'll be able to demonstrate electricity by next year. And Microsoft in a first of a kind deal has already purchased fusion electricity from them for the year 2028. Victor, Amara, the future is coming on fast.


BLACKWELL: His story is Bill Weir. Thanks for that report. We'll be right back.