Germany aims to build fusion power plant

14 March 2024

A new funding programme for nuclear fusion research has been announced by Germany's Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger aimed at paving the way for the first fusion power plant to be constructed in Germany by 2040.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger announcing the new fusion research funding programme (Image: BMBF)

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has long supported fusion research at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching and Greifswald, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and at the Research Center Jülich (FZJ).

"This institutional funding is supplemented by a second pillar with the new project funding programme," the ministry said. "The aim of the project funding is to advance the technologies, components and materials needed for a fusion power plant in a first phase by the early 2030s. In the second phase, the focus is on integration into a power plant design. The funding programme is open to technology and addresses both the technology of so-called magnetic confinement and laser fusion."

In order to achieve the construction of a fusion power plant as quickly as possible, the programme is essentially based on application-oriented collaborative research as a form of public-private partnership. Projects on specific sub-technologies are to be carried out jointly by research institutions, universities and industry. The ministry said this allows new findings from research to be taken up at an early stage and know-how to be transferred to the domestic industry for further use.

"The energy crisis has shown us how important a clean, reliable and affordable energy supply is," Stark-Watzinger said. "And fusion is a huge opportunity to solve all of our energy problems. Thanks to its excellent research landscape and strong industry, Germany offers excellent conditions for the construction of fusion power plants.

"This is where we come in with our new funding programme - named Fusion 2040 - Research on the way to a fusion power plant - and we want to pave the way to the first fusion power plant in Germany. We want to build a fusion ecosystem made up of industry, start-ups and science so that a fusion power plant in Germany becomes a reality as quickly as possible."

She said the government wants to "bundle Germany's existing strengths and create synergies between the different players".

"The global race is on. I would like us in Germany to be among the first to build a fusion power plant. We must not miss this huge opportunity, especially with a view to growth and prosperity," the minister said.

In September last year, Stark-Watzinger announced that Germany would significantly increase research funding for fusion with an additional EUR370 million (USD403 million) over the next five years. Together with funds already earmarked for research institutions, the ministry will provide more than EUR1 billion for fusion research by 2028.

In August 2011, the 13th amendment of the Nuclear Power Act came into effect, which underlined the political will to phase out fission nuclear power in Germany. As a result, eight units were closed down immediately: Biblis A and B, Brunsbüttel, Isar 1, Krümmel, Neckarwestheim 1, Phillipsburg 1 and Unterweser. The Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C plants were permanently shut down at the end of December 2021. The country's final three units - Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 - shut down in April last year.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News