Initiatives aim to speed fusion deployment

03 February 2022

Two newly announced North American initiatives aim to accelerate the deployment of fusion technologies for power generation. In Canada, Bruce Power, General Fusion, and the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) will work together to evaluate potential deployment of a fusion power plant in Ontario. Meanwhile, scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are teaming up with Renaissance Fusion America as part of a US programme to speed the development of fusion energy.

(Image: Bruce Power/General Fusion/NII)

Bruce Power, General Fusion and the NII yesterday announced that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on accelerating the delivery of clean fusion power in Canada. The partners said they will build on existing clean energy technologies, skills, and expertise in the so-called Clean Energy Frontier region of Ontario to develop a "go-forward strategy", and will also lead stakeholder and public outreach activities to raise awareness of the "transformative potential" of fusion energy for powering Canadian homes, businesses, and industry.

Vancouver-based General Fusion is a private company which aims to build a commercial fusion power plant based on Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) technology, which involves injecting hydrogen plasma into a liquid metal sphere, where it is compressed and heated so that fusion occurs. A Fusion Demonstration Plant at the Culham Campus near Oxford in the UK is scheduled to be operational in 2025, and the company says it aims to bring clean fusion energy to the world's energy systems by the early 2030s.

General Fusion CEO Christofer Mowry described the MOU as a "landmark", providing a framework under which Canada's energy leaders can benefit from each other's technology innovations and expertise to lead the way in adopting fusion power in Ontario and across Canada. "We look forward to advancing this partnership to help meet Canada's climate targets and the increasing electricity needs of Canadians," he said.

Fostering innovation in new energy technologies including fusion is one of the five pillars in Bruce Power's NZ-2050 strategy to contribute to a net-zero Canada while growing the economy and supporting innovation. The MOU represents one way the company is looking to advance new clean energy technologies, the company said.
"In order to achieve a net-zero future here in Ontario, and Canada, we need to continue expanding the clean electricity production of our existing facilities and will need innovation as part of the future," said Mike Rencheck, President and CEO, Bruce Power. "Our partnership will explore these innovations and leverage the established capability in this region as a home to new technologies that will contribute to a carbon-free future."

PPPL collaboration

Grenoble, France-based Renaissance Fusion aims to put fusion energy from stellarator-based devices on the grid in the next 13 years. A newly announced public-private partnership between the company's US affiliate, Renaissance Fusion America, and three scientists at PPPL aims to further speed the development of the technology by generating an open-source dataset of stellarator configurations that scientists around the world can use to train their own models and advance artificial intelligence research in stellarators.

Stellarators, like tokamaks, are devices for the magnetic confinement of fusion plasmas. Unlike tokamaks, they have no toroidal plasma current, meaning that they offer increased plasma stability compared with tokamaks. Because the burning plasma can be more easily controlled and monitored, stellarators have an intrinsic potential for steady-state, continuous operation. This makes stellarators potentially easier to operate than tokamaks, but their greater complexity makes them more difficult and expensive to design and build.  

Developing machine-learning software to speed up predictions of the loss of alpha particles from fusion reactions should enable designers to quickly enhance the shape, or geometry, of stellarator magnetic fields to improve alpha particle confinement, PPPL said.

The year-long collaboration is sponsored by the US Department of Energy's Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) programme, launched in 2015 to accelerate fusion energy development in the private sector by reducing impediments to collaboration involving the expertise and unique resources available at DOE laboratories and universities.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News