The DOE is set on “building bridges” to a fusion energy future

December 20, 2023, 3:04PMNuclear News
A slide from the DOE-FES’s recent presentation to the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. (Image: DOE)

The Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science introduced a new plan—"Building Bridges: A Vision for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences”—during a Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) hearing on December 13, and announced that news December 14. What’s included? A plan for the DOE to “establish the steps needed to help advance fusion energy, including addressing key science and technology gaps in the supply chain and industry.” The vision is less a guiding document than a preview of DOE-FES’s near-term intentions, which include drafting a fusion science and technology road map in 2024 to shape investments for the coming decade.

Three new inertial fusion energy hubs have distinct, laser-focused missions

December 14, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
STARFIRE is the name of an inertial fusion energy hub led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—one of three hubs announced in early December. (Image: LLNL)

The Department of Energy recently announced that it was establishing three inertial fusion energy (IFE) hubs and funding them with a total of $42 million over four years. The leaders of the three hubs selected by competitive peer review—Colorado State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Rochester—all issued press releases touting the attributes and plans of their facilities and their research collaborators on the same day—December 7.

Kerry shares U.S. plan for international fusion energy engagement on COP28 stage

December 7, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

John Kerry speaks on U.S. fusion energy policy. (Photo: Craig Piercy)

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has a new plan for international partnerships in fusion energy development that would build on over 60 years of collaborative fusion research and development to address the climate crisis and ensure energy security. The plan, first released December 2, was announced December 5 at COP28 in Dubai, UAE, by John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate. He delivered “a call to action” during an Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum. The plan follows on the administration’s Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy of March 2022, which recognized fusion energy’s increasing technical readiness and strong market interest—$6 billion to date.

“I'm pleased to announce the U.S. international engagement plan for fusion energy,” Kerry said. “This strategy identifies five areas of work that will help us to realize the promise of this technology, and they are R&D, supply chain and marketplace, regulation, workforce, and education and engagement.”

What’s happening in big fusion? A global update

December 5, 2023, 9:35AMNuclear News

One year ago today, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved a record shot at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that set the world talking about the potential of fusion energy. And the buzz hasn’t stopped. Fusion energy is getting its most significant attention yet on the world stage at COP28 in Dubai, UAE, where John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, delivered a keynote address today titled “An inclusive fusion energy future,” followed by a panel discussion.

U.S. and U.K. agree to “strategic partnership” on fusion energy

November 13, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Bowie

Turk

Two top energy officials—U.S. deputy secretary of energy David M. Turk and U.K. minister for nuclear and networks Andrew Bowie—met on November 8 in Washington, D.C., to talk about a “coordinated, strategic approach” to advance fusion energy demonstration and commercialization and “maximize value” for both nations.

Focused Energy partners with LLNL on inertial fusion energy targets

November 10, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
Concept art showing inertial fusion ignition. (Image: Focused Energy)

Focused Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have signed a strategic partnership project agreement that will allow LLNL—home of the National Ignition Facility (NIF)—to help the company develop and assess isochoric compression target designs for inertial fusion energy. Focused Energy announced the news on November 7.

In split from Euratom, U.K. will spend nearly $812 million on domestic fusion R&D

September 13, 2023, 12:06PMNuclear News

Having decided “to not associate to the Euratom Research and Training program (Euratom R&T) and, by extension, the Fusion for Energy Program,” the government of the United Kingdom announced plans on September 7 to support its homegrown UK Fusion Strategy by investing up to £650 million (about $811.8 million) through 2027 in a suite of research and development programs to support the country’s fusion sector and strengthen international collaboration. The funds are in addition to the £126 million (about $157.3 million) announced in November 2022 to support U.K. fusion R&D.

New research funding will leverage machine learning and AI for fusion energy

September 12, 2023, 9:27AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced $29 million in funding for seven team awards for research in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data resources for fusion energy sciences on August 31. In all, 19 institutions will build algorithms to address high-priority research opportunities in fusion and plasma sciences using interdisciplinary collaborations of fusion and plasma researchers teamed with data and computational scientists.

DOE invests $112 million in computational fusion energy research

August 15, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $112 million in funding on August 14 for 12 projects designed by fusion scientists, applied mathematicians, and computer scientists to apply high-performance computing and exascale computers to complex fusion energy problems.

The list of projects and more information can be found on the Fusion Energy Sciences homepage.

General Fusion presses toward goal of magneto-inertial breakeven by 2026

August 11, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News
General Fusion’s current plasma injector (PI3) is the 25th in a series of prototypes developed by the company. (Photo: General Fusion)

General Fusion announced on August 9 that it will build a fusion machine called Lawson Machine 26 (LM26) at the company’s new headquarters in the city of Richmond, British Columbia, near Vancouver. The machine is intended to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026 to support the company’s vision of commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.

University of Rochester aims for mass production of inertial fusion energy targets

July 18, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
A view through the 20-cm disk amplifiers of the OMEGA laser at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. (Photo: University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

Proponents of inertial fusion energy celebrated in December 2022, when researchers at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved fusion ignition by subjecting a carefully crafted diamond cryogenic sphere containing frozen deuterium-tritium fuel to NIF’s laser energy. NIF has yet to repeat the feat, in part because that facility was not designed to produce fusion energy, and ignition requires near-perfect targets. For inertial fusion energy to serve as a reliable power source, it will require swift, reliable, and economic target production.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems and Tokamak Energy: DOE’s tokamak fusion pilot picks

July 14, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and Tokamak Energy Inc. are the two magnetic confinement tokamak fusion developers to receive a portion of the $46 million in funding announced by the Department of Energy in late May for the first 18 months of a public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program aimed at developing fusion pilot plant designs and resolving related scientific and technological challenges within five to 10 years.

Princeton Stellarators and Type One Energy: DOE’s stellarator fusion pilot picks

July 3, 2023, 8:00AMNuclear News

Princeton Stellarators Inc. (PSI) and Type One Energy Group are two of the eight fusion developers selected by the Department of Energy in late May to receive a total of $46 million in funding to kick off a public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program aimed at developing fusion pilot plant designs and resolving related scientific and technological challenges within five to 10 years. The DOE’s selections cover an array of plasma confinement concepts, including the magnetic confinement stellarators being developed by PSI and Type One more than 70 years after the stellarator was first envisioned.

Nuclear Newswire previously took a close look at two of the DOE’s picks: Realta Fusion and Zap Energy (“innovative concept”) and Focused Energy and Xcimer Energy (inertial fusion). Here, we’ll examine how PSI and Type One are engineering solutions to the fusion plasma confinement challenge. Both companies are benefiting from recent advances in computing power and high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets. It’s in plans for design, manufacturing, assembly, and control of their stellarators that they differ.

Focused Energy and Xcimer Energy: DOE’s inertial fusion pilot picks

June 21, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Focused Energy and Xcimer Energy are two of the eight fusion developers the Department of Energy selected in late May for funding under the public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program, and the only developers using an inertial confinement concept. The Milestone program, announced in September 2022, was open to any fusion developer willing to undergo a competitive merit-review process, regardless of fusion confinement concept. But the prospects for inertial fusion concepts might have gotten a boost from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s December 2022 achievement of scientific breakeven at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which was announced shortly before the application window for the Milestone program closed.

Realta Fusion and Zap Energy: DOE’s "innovative concept" fusion pilot picks

June 9, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

Realta Fusion of Madison, Wis., and Zap Energy of Everett, Wash., are just two of the eight fusion developers selected by the Department of Energy for funding last week under the public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program. They are the two companies with power plant concepts that don’t fit neatly into established fusion confinement categories. As energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said when she announced the awardees, “Some are working on more technically mature approaches like tokamaks and stellarators and laser inertial fusion, and others are working on innovative concepts with lower technical maturity like mirror and Z-pinch, which could lead to more compact and lower cost systems.”

DOE picks eight fusion companies to design pilot power plants

June 2, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Announcing the funding for commercial fusion energy development were Asmeret Asefaw Berhe (top left), director of the DOE-OS; Jennifer Granholm, secretary of energy (top right); and Arati Prabhakar (bottom), director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and science advisor to the president.

From a crowded field of would-be fusioneers, the Department of Energy has selected eight companies for the public-private Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program to develop fusion pilot plant designs and resolve related scientific and technological challenges within five to 10 years. The DOE announced awards totaling $46 million for an initial 18 months of work on May 31.

General Atomics and Tokamak Energy join forces on HTS magnet tech

June 1, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
GA’s Magnet Technologies Center. (Photo: GA)

General Atomics (GA) and Tokamak Energy Ltd. are each independently developing magnetic confinement fusion power plant concepts that would use a tokamak and high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets to confine and shape a plasma heated to over 100 million degrees Celsius. On May 30, they announced a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on HTS magnet technology for fusion energy and other applications.

Two reports sound alarm on supply chain deployment risks—for fission and fusion

May 19, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

Reports released this week point to a clean energy future fueled by atomic energy—if and when pressing supply chain issues can be resolved. Advanced Reactor Roadmap, Phase 1: North America, released on May 15 by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, takes a broad look at the deployment of advanced fission reactors and identifies supply chain ramp-up as one key enabler. The Fusion Industry Supply Chain: Opportunities and Challenges, released by the Fusion Industry Association on May 17, focuses on fusion energy supply chain issues.

DOE celebrates NIF ignition by funding R&D hubs for inertial fusion energy

May 16, 2023, 7:04AMNuclear News
Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm addresses an audience of lab staff, dignitaries, and media at LLNL. (Photo: LLNL)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory hosted current and former staff, government officials, and media on May 8 to celebrate the lab’s achievement of fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) on December 5, 2022. Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and undersecretary for nuclear security and National Nuclear Security Administration administrator Jill Hruby were in attendance, and Granholm took the opportunity to announce funding of up to $45 million to support inertial fusion energy (IFE) research and development. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) wants to establish multiple IFE Science and Technology Innovation Hubs (IFE S&T hubs), with total funding for 2023 of up to $9 million for projects lasting up to four years in duration.

Bill defining nuclear as clean energy passes N.C. Senate

April 28, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

The North Carolina Senate on April 26 unanimously (48–0) endorsed a measure that, if signed into law, would open the door to new nuclear development in the state—both fission and fusion.

The Promote Clean Energy bill (S.B. 678)—introduced just this month and now with the state’s House for consideration—replaces the term “renewable energy” in statutory language with “clean energy” and adds nuclear to the new term’s definition.