ANS Annual Meeting: A new outlook for fusion

June 16, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
Session moderator Scott Hsu (left) led a discussion with (from left) Troy Carter, Kathy McCarthy, Artem Smirnov, Satoshi Konishi, and Jane Hotchkiss during an ANS Annual Meeting executive session on “The New Fusion Outlook.”

A “bold decadal plan” to accelerate fusion research, development, and demonstration in partnership with the private sector emerged from a March 2022 White House Fusion Summit and inspired the June 14 ANS Annual Meeting executive session titled “The New Fusion Outlook.” Moderator Scott Hsu, who is leaving a role as a program director for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to become a senior adviser to the DOE’s undersecretary for science and innovation as well as lead fusion coordinator for the DOE, ably led a panel of fusion stakeholders representing universities, national laboratories, private fusion companies, and public policy and communication. The discussion intended to bring attendees with fission experience up to speed on the rapidly accelerating area of fusion energy and explore how the fusion energy community can work toward a unique path for fusion energy regulation and public engagement.

ANS Annual Meeting: Nuclear power innovation for decarbonization

June 15, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Panelists (from left) Adam Stein, Jon Ball, Mike Laufer, and Michl Binderbauer during the Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize session at the ANS Annual Meeting.

If nuclear innovators are in a race to decarbonize, it is a race with one finish line—affordable, clean, and reliable power—and many ways to get there. Over 40 fission developers and 20 fusion developers are in the running, and while attendees of the June 13 ANS Annual Meeting executive session on Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize heard from representatives of just three of those companies, they presented very different designs and deployment approaches, aptly reflecting the broader diversity of nuclear power innovation.

Session chair Adam Stein, director of nuclear energy innovation at the Breakthrough Institute, welcomed representatives from an advanced non–light water reactor developer (Mike Laufer, Kairos Power), a small modular light water reactor developer (Jon Ball, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy), and a fusion power developer (Michl Binderbauer, TAE Technologies). Together they explored the challenge of engineering a significant commercial scale-up of advanced nuclear technology by the end of the decade, tackling questions of cost, schedule, supply chain, regulation, and more.

Basic fusion research accelerates with infusion of DOE funds

July 7, 2021, 9:28AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science has named seven companies as the recipients of cost-shared funding granted through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE). A total of $2.1 million in first-round fiscal year 2021 funding was awarded on July 1 across nine collaborative projects between DOE national laboratories and private industry aimed at overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

TAE records plasma temperature milestone

April 12, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Construction of Norman was completed in 2017. Photo: TAE Technologies

TAE Technologies has announced that it has produced a stable plasma of over 50 million degrees celsius inside a fusion device using a beam-driven, field-reversed configuration. “By generating such stable high-temperature plasmas, TAE has now validated that the company’s unique approach can scale to the conditions necessary for an economically viable commercial fusion power plant by the end of the decade,” the company declared in its April 8 press release. The company added that the results indicate the design’s linear configuration improves plasma confinement as temperatures rise.

Notes on fusion

January 22, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear NewsDavid Kingham and Josh Kennedy-White

The ST25-HTS tokamak.

Governments around the world have been interested in fusion for more than 70 years. Fusion research was largely secret until 1968, when the Soviets unveiled exciting results from their tokamak (a magnetic confinement fusion device with a particular configuration that produces a toroidal plasma). The Soviets realized that tokamaks were not useful as weapons but could produce plasma in the million-degree temperature range to demonstrate Soviet scientific and technical prowess to the world.

Following this breakthrough, government laboratories around the world continued to pursue various methods of confining hot plasma to understand plasma physics under extreme conditions, getting closer and closer to the conditions necessary for fusion energy production. Tokamaks have been by far the most successful configuration. In the 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory produced 10 MW of fusion power using deuterium-tritium fusion. A few years later, the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom increased that to 16 MW, getting close to breakeven using 24 MW of power to heat the plasma.