Research & Development

Nuclear Fusion / US DOE Announces Strategy To Revolutionise Industry And Overcome Challenges

By David Dalton
10 June 2024

Commercial fusion ‘can achieve energy abundance and security’

US DOE Announces Strategy To Revolutionise Industry And Overcome Challenges
Fusion is the same process involved in powering the sun and other stars in our universe. Courtesy Lawrence LIvermoew National Laboratory.

The US Department of Energy has launched a fusion energy strategy that aims to resolve the scientific and technological gaps to a fusion pilot plant and pave the way for commercial deployment in a bid to potentially provide a “safe, abundant, zero-carbon-emitting source of reliable primary energy”.

The strategy comes two years after the DOE unveiled what it called a “bold decadal plan” for commercial fusion energy with plans for a department-wide initiative to develop a strategy for accelerating the viability of commercial fusion energy in partnership with the private sector.

The new strategy is organised around three pillars: closing the science and technology gaps to a commercial fusion pilot plant, preparing the path to commercial fusion deployment and building external partnerships.

DOE officials have said the development of fusion energy has become a global race and the US will stay in the lead with the government backing the sector’s plans to help achieve energy abundance and address technology gaps and potential risks.

The DOE said commercial fusion energy has the potential to revolutionise the energy industry, help to achieve energy abundance and security, and help meet growing clean energy needs of the US and the world.

It may also potentially provide a combined source of thermal energy and power for hydrogen production, industrial heat, carbon capture and desalination.

But the DOE warned that fusion has both technology gaps such as materials and fuel supply and potential risks that need to be managed, like potential proliferation issues and the generation of waste requiring short-term storage.

“The DOE stands ready to deliver innovations that not only bring fusion to technical and commercial viability but also help manage these risks,” the DOE said.

DOE Announces $180 Million ‘Fire’ Funding

In support of the new strategy, the DOE announced a $180m (€167m) funding opportunity for Fusion Innovative Research Engine (Fire) collaboratives. The collaboratives will be virtual “hubs of innovation” that will help bolster US-based manufacturing and supply chains.

The White House said it is kick-starting public-private partnerships for research and development to enable viable designs for fusion pilot plants by providing up to $46m for public-private partnerships between the DOE and eight fusion companies for the first 18 months of a five-year programme to advance designs and research and development for private-sector-led fusion pilot plants.

It is also releasing a request for information on a proposed fusion energy public-private consortium framework. The consortium will aim to generate funding by bringing together state and local government, private and philanthropic funding to accelerate fusion research, development, demonstration and deployment.

Fusion is the same process involved in powering the sun and other stars in our universe. Energy is produced by fusing together light atoms, such as hydrogen, at the extremely high pressures and temperatures. These particular conditions are present in the sun’s core, delivering temperatures of up to 15 million °C.

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