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Isa Soares Tonight

Ukraine Warns A General Blackout Is Realistic; Iran Executes Second Man Related To Anti-Government Protests; U.S. To Report Breakthrough In Clean Energy; Source: U.S. To Report Breakthrough In Clean Energy; China Braces For Rising COVID Cases As It Relaxes Rules; Six People Detained Over EU Corruption Scandal. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 12, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I am Isa Soares. Tonight, Ukraine warns a nation-wave blackout is

a possibility as Russia bombards the country's energy infrastructure. We are live in Kyiv, for you. Then three months into anti-government protests

in Iran, a second person is executed. We've all the details.

Plus, how scientists just made a huge breakthrough in fusion energy that could eventually end dependence on fossil fuels. We will explain this hour.

But first, Russian missile attacks over the weekend have plunged much of Ukraine into the dark. Now, Ukraine's foreign minister says a nationwide

blackout is a realistic possibility, as snow blankets Kyiv and other places right across Ukraine.

The state energy company is reporting a significant power deficit. Meanwhile, there's fierce fighting in the southern and eastern Ukraine with

Ukrainian shells reportedly hitting Russian targets in the occupied city of Melitopol. Will Ripley joins me now from Kyiv this hour. Will, good to see

you. Let's start off right there in Melitopol. What do we know unfolded there, because there have been some conflicting reports from what I saw, in

terms of numbers of casualties?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we are still unclear about exactly what has transpired. But the latest information when we put

together what's being reported in Russian state media, what sources here in Ukraine are telling us is that the target of this shelling may have

included a hotel, a private hotel that served as a sleeping quarters for private Russian mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group.

Now, this is a group that has been highly controversial for their role in this conflict and others. They are fighting on the frontlines, and based on

Russian intercepts listened to by CNN, these mercenaries for the most part have better conditions than a lot of the Russian soldiers, in terms of

their weaponry, in terms of the equipment that they have available to them.

And also, in terms of just their overall living conditions because they come to the frontlines, they fight and then they return to occupied areas

often where they see these buildings that they used as their accommodation, their sleeping quarters. Well, Ukrainian Intelligence directed them to a

location that was targeted by intense bombardment, again from the Ukrainian side.

And people died, perhaps scores of people died. You're talking about potentially dozens or even more numbers that could have been to the

hundreds. Still unconfirmed what exactly the numbers are, but if this indeed is the case, if the Wagner Group's sleeping quarters were targeted

and there were mass casualties, this would be yet another huge setback for Russian forces on the frontlines that have been able to essentially, hold

the lines.

But certainly haven't gained back any grounds even though they have been intensely targeting, in particular, the town of Bakhmut which is where

Russian forces have been focusing their efforts in the Donetsk region. Isa, and so, the Wagner Group potentially here taking huge losses.

SOARES: Yes, and where the Wagner Group we know have been enforcing or been -- their presence has been very strong in Bakhmut as we reported last

week or so. In terms of, you know, the situation on the ground in Ukraine, Russia, from what I understand, continue to target, Will, this critical

energy infrastructure. Just paint a picture for our viewers around the world, just how dire is it right now? And is Ukraine able to fix, Will,

these energy grids fast enough or at all?

RIPLEY: Well, they're running out of Soviet-era replacement parts, which they rely upon to rebuild the power infrastructure since this is obviously

a former Soviet country. Ukraine has been reaching out to other former Soviet nations for assistance in getting replacement parts in. Now, they're

trying to modernize the infrastructure --

SOARES: Yes --

RIPLEY: They're trying to move Kyiv power stations underground, but that's a time-consuming, expensive and difficult process. especially when you

consider that we're rapidly approaching the official start of Winter in the coming days. Which also means that there is a deep freeze, which makes the

ground much more difficult when you're talking about moving equipment underground.

It's not the kind of work that you want to do when you have, you know, the deep freeze rapidly setting in. To give you an example, we traveled to the

southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa, which is remarkably normal in terms of daily life, even though people there have been living for extended

periods of time without electricity.


Businesses are using solar panels and generators just to operate. But just last week, they were without power for several days, up to three days for

some people after the Russian missile strikes. And then, over the weekend, Iranian-made drones that Russia launched, these kamikaze drones as they're

calling them here, they basically explode upon impact. So, we can say they're explosive drones made in Iran, fired by Russia.

They plunged 1.5 million people into darkness over the weekend. So when I spoke to Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, that was the first

topic that I asked him about.


RIPLEY: What's your best tragedy to defend against these kamikaze drone attacks from Russia?

OLEKSII REZNIKOV, DEFENSE MINISTER, UKRAINE: Every day we're trying to find the best solutions. They're targeting our infrastructure, they're

trying to ruin our energy supply, water supply, heat supply systems because they cannot have a success against armed forces of Ukraine. They're trying

to fight with the civilian population. That's why they're trying to stop the energy or water to the houses, especially during this Winter time.


RIPLEY: Now, he also told me that the number one item on their wish-list are air defense systems from the U.S. and NATO, specifically, the Patriot

Missile Defense System made in the U.S. which has not arrived yet.

He couldn't give me an explanation specifically as to why it hasn't arrived, but he did say that he has confidence that in the next stage of

Ukraine's counteroffensive, that the Patriots will be arriving and they're really needed, Isa, especially when you consider the fact that all of

Ukraine's thermal and hydroelectric power stations have been damaged in these waves after waves of Russian missile strikes targeting their

country's energy grid.

That, by the way, was according to the country's prime minister just on Sunday. But the heavy artillery fire including GRAD missiles, that was

reported in Dnipropetrovsk in the southern Ukraine region overnight. So this onslaught really does continue both from the Russian side and also the

Ukrainian side.

SOARES: Yes, and that's been on their wish-list for some time, let's see whether they get it. Will Ripley, appreciate it, Will, thanks very much.

Well, Ukraine's military says Bakhmut is holding on despite Russia's relentless strive to capture the town. But the people who still live there

are suffering. Their bodies shattered by war. Sam Kiley visits a hospital that's trying desperately to save them. And a warning, some viewers may

find images in his report disturbing.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Getting the ingredients for lunch to Vyachesslav's best friend, his arm and his

livelihood. Hit by a missile in Bakhmut, he thinks his life was saved by his leather jacket which held him together when he was hit, searching for

cabbage and beads.

"I don't know what hit me, I don't understand, but the force was incredible." He says. "Because the arm just flew off. I was conscious, but

I was praying, I tell you, I prayed to survive." He was a builder and he was right-handed. But not anymore. He was rescued by soldiers from Bakhmut,

which has been the scene of the most intense fighting along an 800-mile front, and rushed to hospital here.

"The first thing I asked was if I could have my arms sewn back on", he said. I saw that it was completely torn off and was just hanging in the

sleeve and my stomach was burning." There are times he wishes he hadn't survived. "Now, I'm half man, half zombie. Half human, to be exact."

The fighting in Bakhmut is merciless, and it's been relentless. Weeks of intense artillery duels have torn the city apart and ripped into the

dwindling numbers of civilians still there. The local Ukrainian authorities have implored civilians to leave the region for months. The consequences of

staying on are rough and catastrophic and end up here in the nearby Kostyantynivka hospital.

(on camera): So, this is how the Ukrainians are managing to get around the destruction of their power grid. This is a Ukrainian series of boilers

installed in this hospital. It can only heat, though, the intensive care ward, the maternity ward and the operating theaters. Everybody else just

has to wrap up warm.

Is that because you don't have power?

(voice-over): Medza Sonfrontier(ph) has rushed medics to replace those who have fled.

LUCIA MARRON, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: And I was having issue with the electricity supplies and sometimes there's not light or no water, so that's

a bit challenging.

KILEY: But still the injured come from Bakhmut. This woman in her 30s has been riddled with shrapnel. Her leg is shattered. But as they examine her

more closely, her internal organs have been badly damaged. These two surgeons will be in this operating theater for many hours to come. .

The doctor says, she is a resident of Bakhmut. She came under artillery fire and suffered a shrapnel wound to the abdomen with damage to several


(on camera): Is she going to live?

YURI MISHASTY, SURGEON (through translator): We hope so.

KILEY: We hope so. Are you seeing a lot of these sorts of injuries?

MISHASTY: Yes, every day, every day.


KILEY (voice-over): And with the fighting in eastern Ukraine expected to intensify, every day will be a bad day. Sam Kiley, CNN, in Kostyantynivka.


SOARES: Now, U.S. women's basketball star Brittney Griner is feeling right at home, back on the basketball court in Texas. Griner was released last

week after nearly ten months spent in Russian detention. Her agent says she landed her first dunk during a light practice. The agent also says Griner

is doing really well and will decide whether to resume playing over the holidays.

And now that Brittney Griner is free, attention is turning to other Americans detained overseas, particularly Paul Whelan; the former Marine

currently 2 years into a 16-year sentence in a Russian jail after being convicted if you remember of espionage. Well, in an exchange for his

freedom, Russia is said to want Vadim Krasikov; a spy serving a life sentence in Germany. Fred Pleitgen takes a look at how likely that scenario



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The early indications are that it's pretty much off the table for now. The U.S.

is saying that they don't believe that this was ever a serious inquiry that the Russians made or anything. That the U.S. could actually follow through

on. But we're talking about a man named Vadim Krasikov, he's known here in Germany as the tear-garden killer. He assassinated a man not far from where

I am right now in central Berlin in 2019.

This was a person, a Georgian national who had fought against the Russian military in Chechnya in the 1990s. And the court -- after Mr. Krasikov was

apprehended, ruled that this killing was put in place by the Russian government. That it was instigated by the Russian government, ordered by

the Russian government and aided by Russian security and intelligence services.

Now, of course, all this caused a big rile between Germany and Russia. The Germans expelled two Russian diplomats, the Russians for their parts said

that they had nothing to do with it and called all this politically- motivated. But we do know from earlier this year that there was indeed an inquiry on the part of the United States towards the Germans about Vadim


The Germans say that they never really took that seriously or didn't take that as a serious idea from the United States. And it certainly was never

discussed on the top levels of the German government. So, right now, the U.S. also seems to have come to the conclusion that it's highly unlikely

that a three-way swap, if you will, that, that would work out.

Certainly, it's very difficult to see what would be in it for the Germans in all of this. So right now, the U.S. obviously says that it's still doing

everything it can to try and get Paul Whelan released. Very unlikely, though, that Vadim Krasikov would in any way, shape or form be part of



SOARES: That's Frederik Pleitgen there reporting. Well, Griner isn't the only American tasting freedom after a terrifying ordeal in a foreign

prison. Later this hour, I'll bring you my exclusive conversation with Jorge Toledo; a member of the so-called Citgo Six. He and his fellow Citgo

executives who were released earlier this year, if you remember, after years of imprisonment in Venezuela. Here's part of what he told me.


JORGE TOLEDO, FORMER CITGO EXECUTIVE, MEMBER OF THE CITGO SIX: The air had a different smell. I perceived you know, a wonderful, fantastic, sweetness

in that smell of the air.


SOARES: And my full, exclusive report coming up in just about 30 minutes time. Now, today Iran executed a man involved in the country's protest

movement in a public hanging. It comes just four days after the first known protest related execution took place. Majid Rezar Rakmara(ph) was convicted

of waging war against God for allegedly killing two members of the security forces during demonstrations last month.

As the regime cracks down on dissent, several other protesters are facing death sentences. Salma Abdelaziz joins me now here in London to discuss.

And Salma, as I read those words, I mean, just so distressing, so shocking. Just explain to our viewers exactly what grounds he's been -- he was

sentenced on?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Very terrifying and shocking public, early morning execution. Now, emphasizing that public part, Isa --

SOARES: Yes --

ABDELAZIZ: That means in the streets of Masha(ph) this morning, residents could have potentially seen his body hanging. Again, hanged by the

authorities early this morning. Iran's government affiliated new sites say that he was convicted of waging war against God. The allegation from Iran's

authorities is that he used a knife to stab and kill two members of the security forces and wounded several others.

Now, the devil is in the details here because Iran's authorities allege this incident took place November 17th. That means he has gone from being a

man accused of murder to a man facing the death penalty in less than a month. And that's exactly what rights groups are saying, right?

SOARES: Yes --

ABDELAZIZ: They're saying these are speedy, sham trials that have no semblance of due process, no fairness about them. That those who are facing

these trials -- and I'm going to point to Amnesty International here, because they've been tracking these executions.


They say there are 17 others right now that could face the death penalty, are facing the death penalty right now proceedings in Iran. And they say

these are done in kangaroo courts, and they really have one purpose, and that is to intimidate --

SOARES: Yes, to silence protesters --

ABDELAZIZ: To silence protesters. To scare people from going back out on the streets.

SOARES: Is it -- is it silencing protesters? Is it stopping them from they getting on the streets, though?

ABDELAZIZ: You've been following this for week. What happens with every incident? What happens every time the government target someone or someone

is victimized in this crackdown? That gives fuel --

SOARES: Yes --

ABDELAZIZ: To the protesters --

SOARES: It's fueling it --

ABDELAZIZ: It injects that anger, that passion that's been driving this popular uprising. His name now, Majidreza Rahnavard(ph), repeated over and

over again by those demonstrators and protesters. The details of his execution, of this trial, this sham trial as Amnesty International called

it, being shared among the opposition as a reminder of just how far Iran's government will go to silence this movement, and make no mistake about it,

this is a huge challenge to Iran's government.

Of course, almost three months now of near constant demonstrations --

SOARES: It's clearly rattling them, right?

ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely --

SOARES: It's a sign that it's rattling them at the very core.

ABDELAZIZ: And you're looking at a crackdown now that has, if you asked, activists really tried everything, right?

SOARES: Yes --

ABDELAZIZ: State media messaging, cracking down with force, with the security forces trying to silence, trying to censor, taking media and

journalists off the ground. Rights groups say that over 480 people have been killed. We can't verify those numbers. But those who are tracking the

demos say that. Thousands arrested.

We know we have that CNN investigation, reports of sexual assault --

SOARES: Yes --

ABDELAZIZ: In prisons. Even with that brutal crackdown, every incident just adds to that passion of this uprising.

SOARES: And more at risk of execution, just so terrifying and just brutal. Salma, appreciate it, thank you very much. Well, Palestinians are mourning

after a 16-year-old Palestinian girl was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin on Sunday. The

Israeli military acknowledges shooting Jana Zakarneh and says it was unintentional.

It says Israeli fire was directed at armed gunman, and the girl was on a roof nearby. Zakarneh's uncle tells CNN she went to the roof when the raid

began to see what was happening. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid says he has some condolences to the girl's family. And still to come on the show

tonight, more than 30 years after the worst terror attack on U.K. soil.

The man accused of building the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, is facing arraignment in the U.S. We'll have a preview

for you. And the U.N. says it is concerned about the unrest in Peru could escalate. Warning authorities not to use excessive violence on protesters.

I'll bring you that story, next.



SOARES: During its cruelty, its brazenness, and the immense loss of life. It was the worst-ever terror attack on British soil. And now, more than 30

years later, the loved ones of those who died may at last see justice. December 1988, a bomb planted in a suitcase blew up Pan Am Flight 103 as it

flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, 270 people were killed.

In a Washington D.C. courtroom in the coming hours, this man, a Libyan national accused of building the bomb is set to face arraignments. Earlier,

the wife of passenger John Cummock told CNN the victims' families have waited far too long for this day.


VICTORIA CUMMOCK, WIFE OF LOCKERBIE BOMBING VICTIM: Today's arraignment of Mas'ud in a Washington court house is a significant step -- first step to

address this three-decades long miscarriage of justice. It's the victims family fervent wish that the U.S. criminal trial proceedings begin

immediately. Since justice delayed is justice denied.


SOARES: CNN's Nic Robertson traces a long history of attempts to hold the terrorists accountable.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Almost 34 years since the deadliest terror attack in British history, and the man

accused of building the bomb that killed 270 people, mostly Americans, is finally going to face justice in a U.S. court. A huge moment for victims


KARA WEIPZ, LOST BROTHER IN PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING: It has been one of our -- it has been the top priority to find the truth and hold these people

accountable. And the fact that this is now going to happen in the U.S. is monumental.

ROBERTSON: Libyan Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi was arrested for his alleged role in blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,

Scotland, 38 minutes after it took off for the U.S. from London, killing everyone on board and 11 people on the ground. The U.S. first charged Al-

Marimi for his involvement in the attack two years ago while he was already in custody in Libya for unrelated crimes.

MICHAEL SHERWIN, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY: It is alleged in the criminal complaint and the indictment that at that time, all co-

conspirators worked together to arm the explosive device in the suitcase.

ROBERTSON: The Justice Department expects Al-Marimi to make his first appearance in district court in Washington. For years, the only person

convicted in the Lockerbie bombing case was Abdel Baset Al-Mohammed al- Megrahi. Al-Megrahi; a former Libyan Intelligence official was accused along with another Libyan man who was acquitted for planting the explosive

inside a portable cassette player in a suitcase on the plane.

Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison. But eight years after his conviction in 2008, he was released from a Scottish prison with terminal

prostate cancer. Arriving home in Libya, he received a hero's welcome. In 2011, following the revolution that toppled Libya's dictator Muammar

Gaddafi, I visited al-Megrahi at his home in Tripoli. He was near death, his family as they always had protesting his innocence.

(on camera): Has he been able to see a doctor?

KHALED AL-MEGRAHI, SON OF CONVICTED LOCKERBIE BOMBER ABDEL BASET AL- MEGRAHI: No, there's no doctor. There's nobody to ask, and we don't have any phone lines to call anybody.

ROBERTSON: What's his situation right now?

AL-MEGRAHI: He stopped eating, and he sometimes come in coma.

ROBERTSON: Coma, he goes unconscious?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): He died the following year without ever proving his innocence. Al-Marimi's trial will likely revisit parts of Megrahi's

defense, particularly alleged inconsistencies about how the bomb came to be in the plane.


SOARES: And Nic Robertson joins me now. Nic, there's a lot for us to get through. First of all, the point that you mentioned that we heard from the

families really a moment for justice and accountability here. But just on Mas'ud himself, what do we know about him and the case against him. You

lined up, you put it in perspective there for us. But what does the U.S. have here, because it's taken years to get here.


ROBERTSON: It has. The FBI affidavit that came out 2 years ago, almost to the day now, said that he'd been almost a 40-year veteran of Libya's

Intelligence service. That he was their expert bomb-maker, and that he actually admits in this interview that he had with a Libyan Intelligence --

with a Libyan law enforcement official 10 years ago, that he actually admits setting the timer on the bomb, being told to set the timer for 11


That's when the plane would be in the air. So he admits doing that. There is this question of whether that evidence --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Because of how that original interview was conducted, can that be admissible? But the FBI is believed to have his ticket stub that would

place him in Malta the day the bomb was set on its journey. Not only that, but his fingerprints on his ticket stub.

So, there is hard physical evidence that puts him in the place where this crime began, if you will, where the bomb was first put on the plane. So

there are -- there are points of substance, but does that actually --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Land a conviction? It's not clear yet.

SOARES: And also, I heard you say in the report that charges -- they charged him 2 years ago, so why is it taking this long to get him to United

-- I mean, do we even know how he even got here?

ROBERTSON: So, the situation in Libya is hugely messy. Who is actually in control? The internationally-recognized government or the militia that

controls the jailhouse where he's being held. And these things shift and change.

Now, in that FBI affidavit, the law enforcement officer who did the original interview with Mas'ud, said, yes, U.S. officials, FBI, I will come

and help you if the Libyan government says I can do it. It seems that they were on that track, because you wouldn't bring the case without being able

to --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Bring him to the court as well. So it seems to me that the Libyan government is supporting. But we don't really now. We don't know how

he made that physical transition and who had control over him. We just know that Libya is a very fractured place, and it's a -- there are possibilities

that were -- militia controlled certain things and can be -- deals can be done with them. We know nothing more than that.

SOARES: We don't know whether a deal is being done between Tripoli and Washington at this hour?

ROBERTSON: We -- at this moment, we don't.

SOARES: And what -- very quickly, what can we expect today, Nic?

ROBERTSON: So expect to hear the details of the charges. I mean, we've seen some of what they will be. You know, the destruction of an aircraft,

the murder of 270 people. But expect to get some more detail on that. Why the timeline for this case is slipping through the day isn't clear. Could

it slip further? Really, we have very little information.

SOARES: We will expect to see it in the next, what?

ROBERTSON: Half an hour --

SOARES: Half an hour, less than -- less than 30 minutes. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson. And still to come tonight, the process that fuels the stars

reproduced in a lab on earth using laser beams. Sounds like science fiction, right? Well, the truth is out there and it's up next. Plus, rules

are easing, but cases are growing. Concerns in China about whether relaxing the zero COVID policy is triggering a new wave of infections. We'll have

more, next.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Our next story sounds like science fiction, but it could hold the key to solving very real problems. The U.S. Energy

Department is expected to make a big announcement on Tuesday about the quest for the Holy Grail of clean energy. Bear with me. A source familiar

with the project tells CNN U.S. scientists have made a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion, producing a reaction that resulted in net energy gain

for the first time ever. Here's an explainer on how the U.S. lab is trying to recreate on earth the process that fuels the stars in space.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In total, the energy of the laser beams is increased a quadrillion times as they travel more than 1,500 meters from the master

oscillator room to the target chamber. Finally, the beans pass through the final optics assemblies, which convert the original infrared laser light to


The beams then converge on the 10-millimeter target assembly called a hohlraum, generating a bath of x-rays. This causes the tiny target sphere

to implode and ignite in a controlled, self-sustaining fusion reaction.


SOARES: So, basically the sun in a box. Well, to talk about what this mean and the long-term implications, I'm joined now by Michl Binderbauer, CEO of

TAE technologies, the world's largest private fusion energy company. Michael, great to have you on the show. You have the tough job here of

explaining this to our audience. So, in layman's term, just explain exactly what has potentially been achieved here.

MICHL BINDERBAUER, CEO, TAE TECHNOLOGIES: Yeah, well, I mean, I'm obviously not part of those experiments, but what I think will be announced tomorrow

by the U.S. Department of Energy is that we, as a community now, achieved for the first time, net energy gain in the fusion experiment. In other

words, the amount of energy that was put into this plasma, which is the state of matter you need to do fusion is exceeded by the output, the energy

that comes out of the process. And so that's a fundamental game changer, if you will.

SOARES: So we're talking about potentially clean energy here, producing energy as heat and limitless forms of energy. Do we know how long this heat

can be sustained here? What more details do you think we will expect to hear, Michael?

BINDERBAUER: Yes, so there's different ways of doing that, first of all, so what they're doing at Livermore, at the facility where this breakthrough

occurred a few weeks ago, they are firing lasers at these pellets. And that creates a burst of energy and instantaneous burst of energy. And then they

have to replicate that following on the order of once a second or so to get sustained energy then on average.

The other form that, for instance, we're doing that most people in fusion actually are pursuing is a steady state release of energy, where you, if

you will, you start this furnace, and then you can keep it going indefinitely. In any case, you know, this step is significant because it

gets us to that point where you can actually show for the first time, beyond theory, we can actually harvest more energy than we put in.

SOARES: And that is fantastic. We will talk about what this means in terms of the climate crisis. But I want to ask you this because I'd read that

scientists in Oxford were able to do something similar, but I believe it didn't last for that long. I think it was sustained for something like --

the heat was sustained for five seconds. And that was only enough to power a house for a day.


So, I mean, how can we keep this going like you're saying and make it commercial here?

BINDERBAUER: Yes. I think it's not -- we're not far away, right? I mean -- so I think the thing that people need to appreciate, the listeners should

appreciate, that we're at a point where the science and the technology necessary to kind of create that preferred state so that net energy gets

produced are now coming together. This is the exciting point in our time, right? And for this field, a major breakthrough.

And I think what you're going to see over the next few years is just like going to the moon or any of these ambitious goals humanity has, as you now

have the tools together, and you have the insights on how to do it. It's now just sort of perfecting the engineering, if you will, to get to the

point where you can actually sustain it and eventually practically run the electric grid or fractions of the electric grid off that. And that'll take

some years to be sure.

But it's not a question then of if and may -- is it possible, but when and you know, that's the race that we're all hoping to contribute, you

mentioned climate change, you want to be really quick.

SOARES: Yes. And what would this mean in practical terms for the climate crisis, Michael?

BINDERBAUER: It's amazing, right? I mean, what it means is, you would end up with an energy source that essentially is unrestricted in terms of

supply of fuel that we can burn (INAUDIBLE) it would have, when done right, no output of any type, carbon or otherwise atmospheric pollutants, it would

be -- there's different flavors. The one that we're pursuing at TAE is completely free of any radioactivity, others have a little bit of

radioactivity, but it's short-lived, and essentially infinite energy in there and you can have it on tap when you need it.

Renewables are a fantastic source of clean power. But the problem is, of course, we're a bit at the mercy of the weather, right? And in this case,

here, it's going to be what we call baseload. It's the ability to run it when humans need it. So, it can be around in steady state 24/7.

SOARES: And I've been totally -- I'm going to be honest with you, I've been totally geeking out on this story. And I can't wait to hear more tomorrow.

But where exactly would this -- we're talking commercial scale here. Where exactly would this be taking place? Because I heard there was new

facilities in France, others in the U.S.? Where exactly would we see this actually on a commercial scale, you think?

BINDERBAUER: Well, I think first of all, you'll see it in probably multiple spots by multiple parties, TAE being one of those. And I think that the

scale, of course, of the market and the need of the market is so enormous that hopefully multiple of us in multiple geographies be able to -- lifting

this out of the R&D into the real commercial use quickly. We need that on a scale that's obviously humongous.

I think you will see it I would suppose in the U.S. first. I think you'll see it from companies like TAE, there's a host of private companies like us

now. There's a Fusion Industry Association. And I think we are together at the cusp of turning those first steps, which are the baby steps, but the

most important ones in the way to profit into the commercial reality next and so I think you will see over the next five to ten years the first

prototype plants coming about. I believe the U.S. will lead this. And from there on then in a global deployed basis growing, you know, generation

capacity against the whooping uptick in demand, just in the right timeframe.

SOARES: So you you're getting your ducks in the row for when that happens the next five to ten years.


SOARES: That's fantastic, Michael.

BINDERBAUER: That's exactly right. Yes.

SOARES: Really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you, Michael. Now --

BINDERBAUER: Thank you. Thank you.

SOARES: -- a top Chinese health expert -- thank you. Says the Omicron Coronavirus variant is spreading quickly throughout the country since the

start of the pandemic. China focused on containment, if you remember. Now as the government begins easing its zero-COVID policy and safety measures

are lifted, panic is taking hold. Our Kristie Lu Stout has more for you.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like many other cities across China, including Beijing, Wuhan is bracing for a surge in cases as the country

unwinds from its tough zero-COVID policy. Some businesses remain closed. People are lining up at clinics and hospitals. And there are reports that

some pharmacies are selling out of fever medications. Few people are out and about as residents remain very wary of an exit wave or flare up in



STOUT: In this restaurant in Wuhan, China, getting a table isn't a problem. Owner Zhu Chongping says even though China revised most of its COVID-19

restrictions last week, the customers have yet to return.


ZHU CHONGPING, RESTAURANT OWNER (through translator): On our street, people are still struggling. They all believe that life will go back to the way it

was after reopening. Everyone has this fantasy.


STOUT: It is a weary reopening in Wuhan, which was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. Many small business owners say even

though people are freer to move about, there are less customers than before. The streets aren't as bustling as they once were and some

businesses remain closed. Restaurant owner Zhu people are still afraid of COVID.



CHONGPING (through translator): Now that things have opened up, it also means the positive cases are all out. No one comes to the restaurant.


STOUT: Last Wednesday, China lifted many of its strict COVID restrictions, following protests against the country's zero-COVID policy. In many places,

QR codes are no longer needed to enter public spaces. Mass testing has been rolled back and some people are allowed to quarantine at home. But as more

people resume contact, there are fears of more scenes like this, line of people waiting outside of a fever clinic in Wuhan.

Experts say China has fallen short on vaccinating the elderly with boosters, stockpiling antiviral medications, and improving surge capacities

in hospitals. And some people worry that could mean more outbreaks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If we were in lockdown, at least all the asymptomatic cases would either be quarantined at home, or sent to

makeshift hospitals. But now, with everything opening up, all these people are out so the infection rate is high. I have a lot of friends who already

have a cold or fever, and I'm one of them, too.


STOUT: There are reports of some pharmacies selling out a fever medications, many people bracing for a new wave of sickness. The price of

moving away from a zero-COVID policy means learning to live with it.


STOUT: As China lets go of its tough zero COVID policy, one of its top disease experts is warning of a surge in cases. An interview with the

state-run Xinhua News Agency at the weekend, Zhong Nanshan called for an intensified COVID-19 booster drive, especially ahead of the Lunar New Year,

a major travel season in China. He says this, "Preparations need to be beefed up. I suggest those planning to travel back home get a booster shot

so that even with COVID-19 infection, they don't become seriously ill."

Zhong added that Omicron's fatality rate is in line with the flu, effectively downplaying the risk of COVID-19 as restrictions slowly ease

across China. Kristie Lu stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, the Citgo Six, they know just how much work it will take for Brittney Griner to get over her time in a Russian

prison. An exclusive firsthand account of being detained abroad. That is next.

Plus, we'll bring you the latest on the corruption investigation that has shaken the European Parliament. Six people were detained, including the

Vice President. That is next.



SOARES: Welcome back everyone. Now Brittney Griner had what must have been the best basketball workout of her life on Sunday, likely the first since

Russian authorities imprisoned her. But Griner isn't the only American tasting freedom. By CNN's count, 11 U.S. citizens or residents have been

freed during President Biden's term. Six of those, pardon me, known as the Citgo Six are back home after their release from Venezuela. I spoke

exclusively to one of them. Here's his story.





SOARES: Jorge taledo understands what it means to be held captive by a hostile foreign power.


TOLEDO: It's very close to a movie, but it seems that this is for real.


SOARES: A member of the so-called Citgo Six, Toledo and five other Citgo executives were imprisoned in Venezuela in 2017 on baseless allegations,

including money laundering, U.S. officials say.


SOARES: You finally were going back home. How did that feel?

TOLEDO: That was like going from total darkness to a total illumination.


SOARES: They were leaving behind an eerie and dark place. Five years of isolation, deprivation, and torture, Toledo tells me.


TOLEDO: I spent 18 months with a very strong and intense light on top of me 24 hours, seven days. So, that means that, you know, you are not able to



SOARES: Toldeo's health suffered. An athlete and marathon runner, he says he lost more than 50 pounds in his first year of incarceration. Eventually,

after months of back and forth between the U.S. government and the embattled regime of President Nicolas Maduro, Toledo and four of his Citog

colleagues were released in October as part of the prisoner swap.


TOLEDO: And we crossed with the two individuals that I didn't know who they were, but I assumed that they were the other human commodity that was being



SOARES: President Joe Biden signed off on the deal. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to release two of Madura's nephews, themselves convicted in 2016 for

conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S., nicknamed the Narco Nephews.


SOARES: How did you feel, Jorge, about that exchange? Do you think it ought to have happened?

TOLEDO: We need to prioritize life. And then we fix the long-term issue, which is how are we going to deal with hostage diplomacy as a society?


SOARES: Under Maduro, Venezuela has been pushed to the brink. More than seven million people have fled the country in recent years, with the U.N.

accusing the president of crimes against humanity. But with the world's largest proven oil reserves, and as the West attempts to move away from its

dependence on Russian oil, Madura's oil supply is yielding some political power.

Last month, the U.S. granted Chevron limited authorization to resume pumping oil from Venezuela, despite U.S. trade sanctions in place since



SOARES: Should the United States ease sanctions on Venezuela?

TOLEDO: What I will say is this has to be revisited just to make sure that the sanctions are oriented toward the right direction, and not, you know,

the direction of damaging the common people causing shortages in the population, et cetera. So I think that we need to rethink the entire



SOARES: In the footsteps of fellow Americans' release from overseas captivity --


SOARES: What does freedom feel like?


SOARES: -- Toledo found a new appreciation for the meaning of freedom.


TOLEDO: The air had a different smell. I perceive you know, a wonderful, fantastic sweetness in the -- in that smell of the air.


SOARES: A scent only those held captive can truly savor.


SOARES: And our thanks to Jorge Toledo for taking the time to speak to me.

And coming up right here on the show, thousands of people have taken to the streets blocking roads in an airport in Peru. We'll have the report next.

Yes, it's the simple things, isn't it? I always want --



SOARES: They have frozen the information technology resources of 10 European Parliament staff and seized cash in new searches, all part of an

investigation into corruption involving the European Parliament.

Earlier, officials said six people had been detained in the case and two of those have been released. Among those allegedly involved, Eva Kaili, Greek

European Parliament Vice President. You can see there. Greek officials have moved to freeze her assets and she has been expelled from her political

party. The E.U.'s top diplomat commented on the arrests. Have a listen.


JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Certainly, the news are very worrisome. Very, very worrisome. We are facing some events, some facts that

certainly worries me as a former president of the European Parliament.


SOARES: Of course, we'll stay on top of that story for you.

I want to turn our attention though to Peru, where the U.N. Human Rights Office says it is concerned over the use of violence by security forces

against protesters. At least one person died over the weekend. The protests started when Dina Boluarte was sworn in as the new president after her

predecessor, Pedro Castillo, was impeached. Thousands have taken to the streets across the country since, blocking roads and occupying airports.


SOARES: Chaos and confrontation in the streets of Peru as thousands gathered to demand a fresh general election and the release of ousted

former president, Pedro Castillo.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We feel betrayed because we voted for Pedro Castillo and we want our vote to be respected.


SOARES: This outrage has led to violence from the capital Lima to Andahuaylas in southern Peru, where protesters have stormed the Regional

Airport forcing it to close. In this mostly Castillo stronghold, the violence has already turned deadly. With at least one person killed over

the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The right-wing today has shown us that it is brutal and violent, that it doesn't see the masses. It is not

aware that the people no longer believe in these politics.


SOARES: At the center of it all, this man, Former President Pedro Castillo, who, only last week, attempted to the south Congress to avoid impeachment.

Hours later, though, he was impeached and arrested. Prosecutors accusing him of a crime of rebellion, a charge which he denies. His arrest sparking

anger on the streets.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are here because they are violating the rights of our president. Pedro Castillo is still our



SOARES: But not in the eyes of the law. His vice president, Dina Boluarte, has stepped into his shoes. Though she hasn't had the warmest welcome

Boluarte says she's hoping to stabilize the country and regain support by bringing the elections forward two years and promising to end corruption.

It's a political crisis that is now reverberating across Latin America, with regional allies such as Bolivia and Mexico weighing in.


Only fueling further Peru's political divide and threatening to set this tinderbox alight.


SOARES: And now here on the show, nearly 26 days in space, more than one million miles traveled to the moon and back and a safe splashdown as you

can see here, off Mexico, as NASA's Artemis I mission successfully comes to an end. The unmanned test flight ushers in a new space, of course -- of era

of space exploration, paving the way for astronauts to once again walk on the moon.

And it's NASA Administrator Bill Nelson's words that really made us pause the thought today. He said, "It is the beginning of the new beginning, and

that is to explore the heavens."

And that is today's quote of the day. And before we leave you though, I have this story to bring you, a proof that really proves that it's never

too late to finish what you may have started. A 90-year-old woman, as you can see here, returned to college to earn her degree 71, 71 years after she

first enrolled. Joyce DeFauve started her freshman year at Northern Illinois University in 1951. But dropped out to get married as well as

start a family in 2019. She expressed an interest in going back to school, but first, she had to learn how to use a computer so she could take the

classes online. Three years later, as you can see here, she put on a cap and gown and got her degree. Congratulations to her.

Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next. I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.