The JET tokamak. (Photo: European Consortium for the Development)
Nuclear fusion “might actually be on the cusp of commercial viability” today, says a recent article in Fortune magazine. The article offers a brief review of recent technical and entrepreneurial developments in fusion energy. It also places these developments in perspective regarding the hurdles that remain before commercialization can be realized.
The vacuum vessel of the WEST. (Photo: CEA)
Research by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and collaborating institutions has the potential to improve plasma performance in tokamak nuclear fusion reactors, according to a recent paper in Nuclear Fusion. The research focused on the use of a PPPL-developed dropper to apply coatings of boron powder to the tungsten components inside a tokamak, thereby helping protect the tungsten against the intensely hot plasma. According to lead author Grant Bodner, this process offers “a way to deposit boron coatings without turning off the tokamaks’ magnetic field.”
Government policies and innovative technologies are the key to fusion energy economics
Artist’s rendering of the U.K.'s STEP fusion reactor. (Image: U.K. Atomic Energy Authority)
Fusion energy is attracting significant interest from governments and private capital markets. The deployment of fusion energy on a timeline that will affect climate change and offer another tool for energy security will require support from stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers around the world. Without broad support, fusion may fail to reach its potential as a “game-changing” technology to make a meaningful difference in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and geopolitical energy security.
The process of developing the necessary policy and regulatory support is already underway around the world. Leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, and elsewhere are engaging with the key issues and will lead the way in setting the foundation for a global fusion industry.