Granholm talks nuclear and other energy issues with WSJ

May 22, 2023, 9:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe


Secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm recently discussed the future of clean energy with Christopher M. Matthews, the U.S. energy editor for the Wall Street Journal. The May 15 live Q&A focused on Granholm’s perspective on the Biden administration’s policies for decarbonization and energy security. Granholm, who mentioned nuclear briefly at beginning of her remarks, returned to the issue at the end of the half-hour interview. In her answer to Matthews’s question, she addressed nuclear industry incentives, safety and waste concerns, next-generation technologies, and fusion.

Fossil fuels? Matthews opened the discussion by noting President Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year, allocating “billions of dollars in tax credits and federal loans to boost green energy, including electric vehicles, hydrogen production, and more.” He added, “At the same time, the administration has called on oil and gas producers to increase drilling to slow inflation and to tamp down energy prices.”

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.

Helion inks fusion energy purchase agreement with Microsoft

May 10, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Image: Helion

Helion Energy, based in Everett, Wash., today announced an agreement to use its first fusion power plant to provide electricity to Microsoft. Constellation, which operates 21 commercial nuclear reactors in the United States, will serve as the power marketer and will manage transmission for the project.

Jacobs awarded ITER diagnostics and maintenance contract

May 1, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
Inside the ITER tokamak assembly hall. (Photo: ITER Organization)

The engineering company Jacobs announced last week that it has been awarded a four-year contract to design and engineer remotely operated tools for the ITER fusion project in southern France. The contract, which includes a possible two-year extension, covers work on up to 25 diagnostic ports and systems used for operating and sustaining the ITER experimental machine, which is currently under construction.

LLNL’s Annie Kritcher named to TIME100 for her role in fusion breakthrough

April 26, 2023, 12:00PMEdited April 26, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
LLNL design physicist Annie Kritcher is honored as one of the TIME100 Most Influential People. (Photo: Blaise Douros/LLNL)

Physicist Andrea “Annie” Kritcher’s dedication to fusion target design has earned her a spot on the TIME100 Most Influential People list for 2023. Today, Kritcher and 99 other individuals on that list—among them Elon Musk, King Charles, Judy Blume, Patrick Mahomes, Beyoncé, Lionel Messi, Janet Yellen, and MrBeast—are being honored at the TIME100 Summit and Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Equipped with armor tiles, DIII-D takes “negative triangularity” plasma to new highs

April 26, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
A side-by-side comparison of a standard plasma configuration (at left) and the plasma created during the negative triangularity campaign at DIII-D, which was made possible by the installation of a temporary divertor region. (Image: General Atomics)

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, Calif., has completed a monthlong research campaign using a negative triangularity plasma configuration inside its fusion tokamak and produced initial data that “appear very encouraging,” according to an April 24 news release from General Atomics (GA), which operates the Office of Science user facility on behalf of the Department of Energy. Full experimental results on “the highest-powered negative triangularity experiments in the history of the U.S. fusion research program” are expected this summer, according to GA.

NRC rejects hybrid approach to fusion regulation in a vote for clarity

April 19, 2023, 9:34AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on April 14 that it will regulate fusion energy systems using a framework based on the agency’s 10 CFR Part 30 process for licensing byproduct material facilities—such as particle accelerators—rather than 10 CFR Parts 50 and 52, which are used to license utilization facilities like fission power reactors. The commission’s decision means that future fusion energy facilities could be regulated by Agreement States acting with guidance from the NRC.

The earliest DT nuclear fusion discoveries

April 13, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear NewsM. B. Chadwick, M. W. Paris, G. M. Hale, J. P. Lestone, C. Bates, and S. A. Andrews

Fusion energy research has seen exciting recent breakthroughs. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has achieved ignition,1,2 and in the United Kingdom, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy’s Joint European Torus (JET) has produced a record 59 megajoules of fusion energy.3 Against this backdrop of advances, we provide an account of the earliest fusion discoveries from the 1930s to the 1950s.* Some of this technical history has not been previously appreciated—most notably the first 1938 reporting of deuterium-tritium (DT) 14-MeV neutrons at the University of Michigan by Arthur Ruhlig.4 This experiment had a critical role in inspiring early thermonuclear fusion research directions. This article presents some unique insights from the extensive holdings within Los Alamos National Laboratory’s archives—including sources typically unavailable to a broad audience.

New GAO report focuses on fusion

April 7, 2023, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The latest advances in nuclear fusion, the remaining challenges, and proposals to overcome those challenges are the focus of a new report, Fusion Energy: Potentially Transformative Technology Still Faces Fundamental Challenges, published by the Government Accountability Office.

U.K. and U.S. national laboratories fuse interests in plasma partnership

March 21, 2023, 3:08PMNuclear News
The UKAEA will provide novel fusion materials to be irradiated in ORNL’s HFIR facility over the next four years. Pictured (from left) are Kathy McCarthy, director of the U.S. ITER Project; Jeremy Busby, ORNL’s associate lab director for fusion and fission energy and science; Mickey Wade, ONRL Fusion Energy Division director; Ian Chapman, chief executive officer of the UKAEA; Cynthia Jenks, ORNL’s associate lab director for physical sciences; and Yutai Kato, ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division interim director.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) have formed a strategic research partnership to investigate how different types of materials behave under the influence of high-energy neutron sources. The five-year partnership was announced by ORNL and by the UKAEA on March 13.

Fashion inspired by nuclear fusion and climate concerns

February 27, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Gabriela Hearst (Photo:

One doesn’t typically come across nuclear fusion in a fashion magazine, but a recent issue of Vanity Fair profiled the creative director of a famous luxury fashion house who has made nuclear fusion a conceptual focus of her clothing creations. According to the article, Gabriela Hearst, the creative director at the New York City office of Paris-based Chloé, has designed a spring-summer 2023 collection “inspired by site visits to labs in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and southern France, where hundreds of scientists and engineers are working to develop technology that will produce a net energy gain through fusion.”

SPARC fusion power demo construction is underway outside of Boston

February 16, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
CFS CEO Bob Mumgaard showing Sen. Warren (left) and Secretary Granholm (center) around the SPARC facility. (Photo: CFS)

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) hosted visiting officials for a tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open its new headquarters in Devens, Mass., on February 10. Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Sen. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) were among the national, state, and local leaders invited to celebrate what CFS heralded as a “fusion energy campus.”

Vital component delivered to NSTX-U fusion facility

February 13, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
The center stack casing staged horizontally at Holtec’s manufacturing division in East Pittsburgh. (Photo: Holtec)

A key component needed for the National Spherical Torus Experiment–Upgrade (NSTX-U), the flagship fusion facility currently under repair at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been delivered to the lab’s New Jersey campus.

Tokamak Energy builds super magnets for fusion plant testing

February 7, 2023, 9:55AMNuclear News
Tokamak Energy's high-temperature superconducting (HTS) tape is used in its HTS magnets. (Photo: Tokamak Energy)

Tokamak Energy announced on February 6 that it has built a world-first set of high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets, to be assembled and tested in fusion power plant–relevant scenarios.

First Light Fusion wants to operate a net gain inertial fusion machine in 2027

January 27, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nicholas Hawker of First Light Fusion and Ian Chapman of UKAEA. (Photo: UKAEA)

Ignition and net gain at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in December 2022 focused global attention on the prospects of inertial fusion energy (IFE). First Light Fusion and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) acknowledged the achievement as they announced plans on January 25 to design and build a demonstration facility known as Machine 4 at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxford, U.K., using First Light’s “projectile approach” to IFE. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, and operations are “likely to commence” in 2027.

From “never” to now: NIF through the lens of 60 Minutes

January 23, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
NIF in winter (Photo: LLNL)

“Star Power” is the name 60 Minutes producers gave their interpretation of the recent experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that achieved fusion ignition and net gain. Views from inside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory captured by TV cameras and aired Sunday, January 15—of some of NIF’s 192 lasers, banks of capacitors, target assembly labs, and even the remains of the target assembly blasted in the December 5 breakthrough—are well worth the watch for those of us who are unlikely to visit the site in person.

DOE awards cost-shared fusion energy research funds to seven companies

January 19, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $2.3 million in funding on January 17 for 10 fusion energy projects that will allow private companies to work with national laboratories to address specific challenges in fusion energy development. Seven private companies and seven national laboratories are represented in the 10 projects selected for funding, provided through the INFUSE (Innovation Network for Fusion Energy) program. The second-round fiscal year 2022 awards follow a first round of 18 project awards announced in July 2022.

General Fusion demo plant construction will begin this summer

January 16, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear News
A rendering of the planned demo plant. (Image: General Fusion)

The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) announced on January 12 that the South Oxfordshire District Council Planning Committee approved a planned fusion energy demonstration project at UKAEA’s Culham Campus. UKAEA and General Fusion, the magnetized target fusion company that designed the demo plant, announced that same day that construction will begin this summer, with commissioning planned for 2026 and full operations by early 2027.

Forward fusion: Building a nuclear future in Wisconsin

January 13, 2023, 3:27PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire
SHINE’s isotope production building, called the Chrysalis, under construction in October 2022.

In a former farm field just outside the historic town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, a large concrete-and-steel building is taking shape. Dubbed the Chrysalis, the building will eventually house eight accelerator-based neutron generators, which start-up company SHINE Technologies will use to produce molybdenum-99. As the precursor to the medical radioisotope technetium-99m, Mo-99 is used in tens of millions of diagnostic procedures every year, primarily as a radioactive tracer.

At the heart of the Chrysalis will be the high-flux neutron generators, being supplied by SHINE’s sister company, Phoenix. The compact accelerators use a deuterium-tritium fusion process to produce neutrons, which in turn induce a subcritical fission reaction in an aqueous low-enriched uranium target (19.75 percent uranium-235) to produce Mo-99.