Leaders in the emerging Western nuclear fusion industry are convening in Washington this week seeking ways to attract more money for research to avoid falling far behind China in the race to develop and build commercially viable reactors.

A funding bill signed by U.S. President Joe Biden this month contained $790 million for fusion science programs for 2024, below the more than $1 billion backers say is needed.

Scientists, governments and companies are racing to harness fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, to provide carbon-free electricity. It can be replicated on Earth with heat and pressure using lasers or magnets to fuse two light atoms into a denser one, releasing large amounts of energy. Unlike plants that run on fission, or splitting atoms, commercial fusion plants, if ever built, would not produce long-lasting radioactive waste.