US Administration shares vision for commercial fusion

21 March 2022

As the US Administration unveiled its "bold decadal vision" to accelerate fusion energy, the Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to USD50 million of federal funding to support US scientists conducting experimental research in fusion energy science at tokamak and spherical tokamak facilities at home and overseas.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm addresses the White House summit

Up to USD20 million will support research at spherical tokamak facilities to improve the modelling and scientific understanding of plasmas. This funding will support teams of US scientists conducting research on domestic as well as international spherical tokamak facilities with complementary capabilities to US facilities, including the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak Upgrade in the UK.

Up to USD30 million will support research to improve fusion performance and increase the duration of burning plasma scenarios. These efforts will address "urgent research topics" including refining strategies for handling extreme levels of heat and plasma particles exhausted from tokamak plasmas, understanding the processes that couple the plasma to material structures, and validating burning plasma models and pilot plant design tools.

Together these efforts will build upon ongoing R&D efforts in magnetic fusion, materials science, and fusion nuclear science and investment in the DOE's Office of Science user facilities, it said.

The funding opportunity announcements were unveiled during a White House summit on fusion energy which was held on 17 March, at which Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke of creating a "bold vision" for a decade of effort towards the goal of viable commercial fusion energy under an agencywide fusion initiative. "The landscape around fusion research and development is shifting, and strategy has to change with it," Granholm said.

"Going forward, DOE is going to be coordinating all fusion energy research under one umbrella to seize the opportunity to advance the technology," she said. This effort will be led by Scott Hsu, currently leader of fusion programmes at the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA‑E).

The two funding opportunities would support the "basic design" of a pilot fusion plant, Granholm said. "It's not enough. It's a start - but we just want to make sure we're putting our money where our mouth is," she acknowledged.

"Our effort with OSTP (the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) is going to be focused on more than just innovation. It's about building out a fusion energy workforce that is diverse, that is equitable, that's inclusive … and we want to make sure that we are establishing trust in this technology among the public," Granholm said.

"The Biden-Harris Administration views fusion as a potential game-changing clean energy technology," the White House said in a fact sheet issued ahead of the summit.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News