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Private Investment Fuels Race for Nuclear Fusion Power

Private Investment Fuels Race for Nuclear Fusion Power

The United States’ nuclear fusion sector is experiencing a surge of optimism and investment, with industry players predicting that fusion power plants could be producing electricity within the next decade.

Driven by major technological breakthroughs and substantial private investment, companies are aiming to connect fusion power plants to the grid by the 2030s. This optimism is fueled by a significant increase in private sector investment, which has more than doubled in just two years, reaching a total of $5.9 billion by the end of 2023.

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Experts believe that the fusion sector is approaching a tipping point, where theoretical science will transition into practical applications. Start-ups from various countries, surveyed by the Fusion Industry Association (FIA), anticipate the first fusion power plant to be connected to the grid by 2035 at the latest.

Recent milestones, such as an experiment by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in December 2022, where more energy was released from fusion than was used to produce it, have fueled this optimism.

Most start-ups are focusing on magnetic confinement technology, with the tokamak reactor model being the most popular choice. However, some, like Helion Energy, are exploring alternative approaches that offer potential advantages in terms of efficiency and commercialization.

Recent studies have shown that fusion is possible with smaller magnets than previously thought, significantly reducing costs and increasing the viability of fusion as an energy source.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems, backed by $2 billion in private capital, plans to activate its demonstration reactor, SPARC, next year, with the aim of opening its first power plant in the early 2030s. If successful, this would make the United States the first country to produce commercial electricity through fusion.

The U.S. private sector’s strong track record in translating research into products, combined with a robust venture capital sector, positions the country well to lead in the fusion energy race.

Overall, the optimism and investment in the U.S. nuclear fusion sector signal significant progress towards achieving practical fusion energy production in the near future.