Fluor to design laser fusion power plant

11 March 2024

California-based Longview Fusion Energy Systems has contracted US engineering and construction firm Fluor Corporation to design the world's first commercial laser fusion power plant.

A rendering of a laser fusion power plant (Image: Longview)

"Fluor will leverage its global experience in developing and constructing complex, large-scale facilities to provide preliminary design and engineering to support the development of Longview's fusion-powered plant," Longview said.

The company noted that, unlike other approaches, it does not need to build a physics demonstration facility, and, with its partner Fluor, "can focus on designing and building the world's first laser fusion energy plant to power communities and businesses".

This is enabled, it says, by the historic breakthroughs in fusion energy gain at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been pursuing the use of lasers to induce fusion in a laboratory setting since the 1960s, building a series of increasingly powerful laser systems at the California lab and leading to the creation of National Ignition Facility, described as the world's largest and most energetic laser system. The facility uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures similar to those found in the cores of stars and giant planets - and inside nuclear explosions.

On 5 December 2022, the National Ignition Facility achieved the first ever controlled experiment to produce more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. The experiment used 192 laser beams to deliver more than 2 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet energy to a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to create so-called fusion ignition - also referred to as scientific energy breakeven. In achieving an output of 3.15 MJ of fusion energy from the delivery of 2.05 MJ to the fuel target, the experiment demonstrated the fundamental science basis for inertial confinement fusion energy - or IFE - for the first time.

Longview says it is the only fusion energy company using this proven approach. Its power plant designs incorporate commercially available technologies from the semiconductor and other industries to ensure the delivery of carbon-free, safe, and economical laser fusion energy to the marketplace within a decade.

"We are building on the success of the NIF, but the Longview plant will use today's far more efficient and powerful lasers and utilise additive manufacturing and optimization through AI," said Valerie Roberts, Longview's Chief Operating Officer and former National Ignition Facility construction/project manager.

Edward Moses, Longview's CEO and former director of the National Ignition Facility, added: "Laser fusion energy gain has been demonstrated many times over the last 15 months, and the scientific community has verified these successes. Now is the time to focus on making this new carbon-free, safe, and abundant energy source available to the nation as soon as possible."

In April last year, Fluor signed a memorandum of understanding with Longview to be its engineering and construction partner in designing and planning laser fusion energy commercialisation.

Longview's plan is for laser fusion power plants, with capacity of up to 1600 MW to provide electricity or industrial production of hydrogen fuel and other materials that can help to decarbonise heavy industry.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News