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U.S. Department of Energy Directs $46 million in Funds to 8 Nuclear Fusion Companies

U.S. Department of Energy Directs $46 million in Funds to 8 Nuclear Fusion Companies

Meanwhile, Microsoft is betting one startup can deliver on nuclear fusion by 2028.

Eight U.S. companies developing nuclear fusion energy will receive $46 million in taxpayer funding to pursue pilot plants.

Generating more energy from a fusion reaction than goes into the fusion plant to heat fuel to temperatures of more than 100 million Celsius has eluded scientists for decades.

But more than 30 companies around the world are trying to generate power from fusion, which could one day help the world slash emissions linked to climate change, without producing long-lasting radioactive waste.

Fusion occurs when the nuclei of two light atoms such as hydrogen, heated to extreme temperatures, fuse into one heavier nucleus releasing vast amounts of energy.

The Energy Department’s Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program hopes to help develop pilot-scale demonstration of fusion within a decade.

This is an interesting move, which hopefully signals there is a reality check going on about the efficiency and practicalities associated with solar power and wind farms.

Compared to fission reactions within traditional nuclear power plants that split atoms apart, fusion occurs when atoms are forced together within extremely high temperatures to produce a new, smaller mass atom. The energy generated in this process is massive.

Scientists have achieved a few key advancements in recent research.

On December 21, 2021 a group of researchers saw a nuclear fusion reaction take place that generated a record-breaking 59 megajoules of energy in just a mere five seconds through using sustained fusion energy.

This discovery is one of several major developments over the past year or so that is shaping nuclear fusion technology into a stronger potential candidate for fossil fuel-free energy.

And while many don’t expect a viable fission reactor soon, Microsoft recently announced it has entered into a power purchase agreement with a startup company called Helion Energy that is slated to go into effect in 2028.

Helion was founded in 2013, and received a $375 million investment from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in 2021, shortly after it became the first private company to build a reactor component capable of reaching 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit). The optimum temperature for fusion, however, is roughly double that temperature. Meanwhile, Altman’s OpenAI itself garnered a massive partnership with Microsoft earlier this year, and has since integrated its high-profile generative artificial intelligence programming into its products, albeit not without its own controversy.

Helion aims to have its first fusion generator online in 2028. This generator would theoretically provide at least 50 megawatts following a one-year ramp up period—enough energy to power roughly 40,000 homes near a yet-to-be-determined facility location in Washington state. From there, Microsoft plans to pay Helion for its electricity generation as part of its roadmap to match its entire energy consumption with zero-carbon energy purchases by the end of the decade. As CNBC notes, because it’s a power purchase agreement, Helion could face financial penalties for not delivering on its aggressive goal.

In 2015, Helion’s CEO David Kirtley estimated their company would achieve “scientific net energy gain” in nuclear fusion within three years.

And while Germany has shuttered its nuclear fission plants, one German firm is moving forward on a fusion project.

Proxima Fusion draws on the W7-X stellarator, both originate from the Max Planck Institute. Credit: Wolfgang Filser via Max Planck Institute.

Munich-based Proxima Fusion has completed its pre-seed fundraising of €7m ($7.5m) for the manufacture of a revolutionary fusion energy machine.

The company will deploy a nuclear fusion device known as a stellarator over the coming years with the power plant due to come online within in 2030s.

I wish these firms a ton of good luck and much success. Hopefully, their projects will mean that wind farms and fields of solar panels kill fewer whales and eagles.

In a somewhat related aside, I am hearing good things about the new movie coming out in July entitled “Oppenheimer.” It sounds like a gripping account of when American science was serious about science and not about supporting the latest woke narrative.


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“And while many don’t expect a viable fission reactor soon, Microsoft recently…”


The Gentle Grizzly | June 2, 2023 at 7:14 am

Another drain on the taxpayers, just like tax credits for electric cars.

Edison didn’t receive federal funding for those first generators in New York; Al Bell didn’t get any federal funds for his telephone network, and Hank Ford didn’t get subsidies to bring cars to the common man.

    The Manhattan Project cracked the fission nut. The potential payoff in terms of dirt-cheap energy is so profound, I think this is a rare example of a project that is worthy of federal funding. Now, let’s figure a way to inject that funding without bastardizing the scientific process or enriching Biden Inc.

      gibbie in reply to Paul. | June 2, 2023 at 9:20 pm

      You’re assuming that our elites want dirt-cheap energy. Watch “The Man in the White Suit”.

      henrybowman in reply to Paul. | June 3, 2023 at 1:02 am

      Here’s Solyndra all over again.

      “On December 21, 2021 a group of researchers saw a nuclear fusion reaction take place that generated a record-breaking 59 megajoules of energy in just a mere five seconds through using sustained fusion energy.”

      The hard part is to eliminate the burst. Otherwise, this is no improvement on the H-bomb we had 60 years ago.

UnCivilServant | June 2, 2023 at 7:15 am

The moment it becomes commercially viable, the Greenies will ban it.

Suburban Farm Guy | June 2, 2023 at 7:40 am

Buncha pikers.

September 14, 2009

FREMONT, CA – Vice President Joe Biden, appearing via satellite from Washington D.C., today announced the Department of Energy has finalized a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, Inc.,…

E Howard Hunt | June 2, 2023 at 7:54 am

If only we could harness the power of Love said AOC and Kamala when discussing energy funding.

Whoever manages to develop a energy positive fusion reaction will make Untold fortunes off of it. That alone should be enough incentive to fund the research, we shouldn’t be stealing from the taxpayers to do it

    jb4 in reply to Ironclaw. | June 2, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    I disagree. We are massively distorting our economy for the false god of Climate Change, with very poor solutions. Anyone with half a brain knows that fossil fuel and EV use goals can’t possibly be met with wind and solar. Although it is arguable how good the mRNA Covid “vaccine” end result was, I think Trump had it right to throw huge amounts of money to all players, in order to get a critical national interest met ASAP. I would have rather seen 10-100X as much awarded here as the $46M, in return for minority equity interests in the recipients. Taxpayers get their money back from owning a piece of the “untold fortunes” made by the successful companies.

      CommoChief in reply to jb4. | June 2, 2023 at 12:20 pm

      Sure. Funding basic research is ok as long as the taxpayer gets a cut of the profits long-term.

        txvet2 in reply to CommoChief. | June 2, 2023 at 3:21 pm

        Socialism by any other name. The TAXPAYER won’t get anything.

          CommoChief in reply to txvet2. | June 3, 2023 at 12:40 pm

          Under current conditions that’s pretty week the case. What I would suggest is the Feds get a 1% royalty for any patent derived from the basic research with the presumption that the patent was derived from the basic research.

healthguyfsu | June 2, 2023 at 1:40 pm

Fusion is doable. Cold fusion is not.

It won’t be viable without at least another catalyst that brings the costs to create the reaction down.

We should be putting money into fission infrastructure and some R&D for this. Solar/Wind money should go to fission reactors.

Ms. Eastman – I disagree with your Oppenheimer comment, Oppenheimer politically sympathized with Stalin, and “shared” (nice word) U.S. nuclear info with Stalin to help create the subsequent cold-war stalemate that existed for decades. I suspect this video you mentioned is an attempt to paint Oppenheimer without the pro-commie colors he embraced at the time. It is the left airbrushing history to make one of its kind appear much better than was actually the case.

If they really want to generate electricity, build fission plants. If private companies want to invest their shareholders’ money chasing the impossible dream of fusion, that’s their business. Wasting taxpayer money (OR borrowed Chinese money) doing it is our business.

    henrybowman in reply to txvet2. | June 3, 2023 at 1:09 am

    Fusion isn’t impossible. But it’s the sort of business risk that capitalism is designed to manage wisely.
    I agree that government funding it is a bad idea for many reasons.

I’ve watched the development of fusion power for the past 50 years. The story has always been that fusion powerplants are 30 years in the future. While the physicists doing the work have made progress in other areas of physics, the progress toward practical powerplants has been nil.

There are several reasons why fission will never replace fusion for practical powerplants:
1. Fusion takes place at temperatures in the millions of degrees, and works best at high pressures. Since no materials can withstand these conditions, the plasma must be confined by magnetic fields. Magnetic fields can confine low-pressure plasmas well, but high-pressure plasmas tend to become unstable with disastrous results.
2. Fusion produces copious neutrons, which are absorbed by the chamber and shielding, making them radioactive. Although fusion does not produce waste from its fuel, it does produce large amounts of “nuclear waste” because of all the radioactive apparatus around the machine.
3. Fission is easier to initiate and control at normal temperatures. Also, we know how to design safe plants. Disposal of the waste is not a realistic scientific problem. It is simply a political problem. We have enough depleted uranium to fuel breeder reactors for over a thousand years.

    OldProf2 in reply to OldProf2. | June 2, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    I meant “why fusion will never replace fission.”

    healthguyfsu in reply to OldProf2. | June 4, 2023 at 12:01 am

    Yep, the other name for “copious neutrons” is gamma radiation…the most dangerous form. Fusion actually produces more than fission reactions that require much less energy input to produce an output.

    Re: the waste generation. Watch this guy’s Ted talk. It explains why nuclear is a better future than solar for large scale power generation. One of the best, concise presentations on the superiority of nuclear power I’ve ever seen (and it comes from a guy who worked on solar projects for years). Your waste comment reminded me of how he showed a pic of 40 years of nuclear waste from Switzerland being stored in a room of less than 1000 square feet from the looks of it.

broomhandle | June 2, 2023 at 7:17 pm

If the government were serious about new energy production technology it would be developing Gen IV fission. All these fusion startups are great but they are all high-risk research projects. And if I were them, I would be worried about the consequences inherent when taking government funding. And, besides, the best fusion companies already have good funding sources. If government wants to get more serious about fusion, national labs can be directed to so that in a serious way, instead of what they are actually doing.

Is the U.S. Dept of Energy sure that George Soros approved this? Do they understand that he has final approval authority?

Subotai Bahadur | June 2, 2023 at 9:09 pm

Actually, since I am a cynical type, I think Soros may be involved in the grants. If they accept government money, it means that the government can interfere with them at will. Which means if it looks like they are coming up with a workable, safe, energy source the government can shut them down.

Subotai Bahadur

Lucifer Morningstar | June 3, 2023 at 5:07 am

This is an interesting move, which hopefully signals there is a reality check going on about the efficiency and practicalities associated with solar power and wind farms.

If they were really serious about a “reality check” they’d be pushing money into developing the next generation of fission reactors and not some pie in the sky fusion nonsense that may or may not be viable in the next several decades.