Eni supports commercial fusion initiative

12 March 2018

A collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and private company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) is aiming for the rapid commercialisation of nuclear fusion energy, with support from Italian energy company Eni.

A visualisation of the SPARC tokamak (Image: Ken Filar, PSFC)

The MIT-CFS collaboration aims to build a compact device capable of generating 100 MW of fusion power, which will demonstrate "technical milestones" needed to achieve a full-scale prototype fusion power plant. The project was conceived by researchers from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), and aims within three years to develop superconducting electromagnets from a newly available material - a steel tape coated with an yttrium-barium-copper oxide compound. Use of this material drastically reduces cost, timeline and the organisational complexity required to build fusion energy devices, the researchers claim.

Once the superconducting magnets are available, MIT and CFS say they will design and build a "compact and powerful" 100 MW fusion experiment called SPARC. This will produce heat, but not electricity, and provide a demonstration for eventual establishment of a 200 MWe fusion power plant. Such power plants could then be demonstrated "within 15 years", according to the project's leaders.

Italian energy company Eni has now agreed to acquire an equity stake in MIT spin-out company CFS with an initial investment of USD50 million, and says it will support the company in its efforts to develop a commercial fusion power plant. It has also signed an agreement with MIT, through the institute's Energy Intiative, allowing the company to carry out jointly research programmes on plasma physics and advanced fusion and electromagnets technologies.

"Thanks to this agreement, Eni is taking a significant step forward towards the development of alternative energy sources with an ever lower environmental impact. Fusion is the true energy source of the future, as it is completely sustainable, does not release emissions or long-term waste, and is potentially inexhaustible," Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said. "It is a goal that we are increasingly determined to reach quickly," he added.

Eni's acquisition of its stake in CFS is to be completed by the second quarter of this year. 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News