General Fusion marshals CNL support for Canadian fusion power by 2030

November 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
This still image, taken from a General Fusion video, explains the demo plant that will be built near Oxford, U.K. (Image: General Fusion)

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and General Fusion have announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to “develop fusion energy research capabilities within CNL, to support the goal of constructing a potential General Fusion commercial power plant in Canada before 2030.” The plant would follow on a demonstration-scale plant that General Fusion wants to have operating in the United Kingdom by 2027 to validate the performance and economics of the technology.

The approach: In General Fusion’s magnetized target approach to deuterium-tritium fusion power, a plasma target is injected into a spherical cavity inside a rotating chamber of liquid metal—lithium. As described in this video, the chamber is surrounded by a system of pneumatic pistons actuated with variable timings and pressures that is responsible for first shaping that inner cavity into a sphere and then collapsing the cavity to compress and heat the toroidal plasma target to fusion conditions. While magnetic fields keep the plasma from physically contacting the liquid metal, heat from the fusion reaction is transferred to the metal, which is then used to generate steam and drive a turbine. Magnetic control of the injected plasma does not require large cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets, according to General Fusion.

Based in Canada: CNL and General Fusion will collaborate at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories campus in Ontario on projects including feasibility studies, regulatory framework, power plant siting and deployment, infrastructure design, and testing and operations support.

“General Fusion is a Canadian company based in Vancouver and we are excited to advance this framework to collaborate with CNL, a leader in clean energy technologies,” said Greg Twinney, chief executive officer of General Fusion. “Together, we are strengthening the Canadian fusion industry and making progress on the path to supplying commercial fusion power to the electricity grid within a decade.”

In February 2022, Bruce Power, General Fusion, and the Nuclear Innovation Institute signed an MOU to evaluate the potential deployment of a fusion power plant in Ontario, including in a region on the shores of Lake Huron comprising three counties—Bruce, Grey, and Huron—that has been dubbed the Clean Energy Frontier.

Last year, CNL and General Fusion partnered through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) to use CNL’s Tritium Facility to develop technologies to extract tritium for use in future fusion power plants.

“If we are to limit the consequences of climate change in Canada and around the world, then we need to pursue every clean energy solution that is available to us,” said Jeff Griffin, CNL’s vice president of science and technology. “Fusion has incredible potential to serve as one of these clean energy solutions, and in recent years it has become a growing focus of CNL’s research through our CNRI program. This project will allow us to expand on that work with General Fusion and combine our extensive resources to further advance their reactor design towards deployment.”

U.K., U.S. are also invested: The United States and the United Kingdom both have decades of fusion research, development, and operations experience, largely centered on magnetic confinement fusion in tokamak machines, and both have also invested in research on General Fusion’s magnetized target fusion concept.

The 70 percent–scale demonstration of General Fusion’s technology is planned for construction at the U.K. Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) Culham Campus in England. Last month, General Fusion and the UKAEA announced a series of projects to advance the design of the demo using UKAEA’s expertise in building polychromators to measure electron temperature, in neutrons model development and simulations, and vacuum test facilities to test the steel for the demonstration vessel.

In 2021 General Fusion established a U.S. operations base in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the company has received funds through the DOE’s INFUSE program (Innovation Network for Fusion Energy) to work with Oak Ridge and Savannah River National Laboratories. ORNL is home to the U.S. ITER program, while SRNL’s decades of experience with tritium has proven value for fusion technology developers that want to develop a fusion fuel cycle.

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