US awards USD46 million funding, aiming for fusion pilot plant

02 June 2023

The Department of Energy is sharing USD46 million funding from the Milestone-based Fusion Development Program among eight companies, with the aim that "within five to 10 years" they "will resolve scientific and technological challenges to create designs for a fusion pilot plant".

DOE seal (Image: @energy-gov)

The funding is for the first 18 months, and projects may last up to five years in duration, with "outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations, and continued participation from the teams contingent on satisfactory progress in meeting the negotiated milestones". The awards, covering various different routes to commercial fusion power, have been made to:

  • Commonwealth Fusion Systems
  • Focused Energy Inc
  • Princeton Stellarators Inc
  • Realta Fusion Inc
  • Tokamak Energy Inc
  • Type One Energy Group
  • Xcimer Energy Inc
  • Zap Energy Inc

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said: "We have generated energy by drawing power from the sun above us. Fusion offers the potential to create the power of the sun right here on Earth. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to partnering with innovative researchers and companies across the country to take fusion energy past the lab and toward the grid."

Commonwealth Fusion Systems CEO Bob Mumgaard said companies had submitted their proposed paths to commercial fusion energy for the selection process and, after the initial 18 months, subsequent reimbursement funding is being based on milestones being achieved. He said the company was honoured to be selected and said it "leverages the strengths of the private and public sectors and encourages collaboration to accelerate progress".

Tokamak Energy Inc is the West Virginian-based US subsidiary of the UK's Tokamak Energy Ltd, whose Managing Director Warrick Matthews said: "It’s a fantastic endorsement of the strength of our team, technology and path to commercial fusion energy, combining the spherical tokamak with high temperature superconducting magnets. We look forward to working with the DOE on the next steps towards delivering clean, secure, affordable fusion power to the world, addressing the twin challenges of energy security and climate change."

Zap Energy, based near Seattle, said its share of the funding was USD5 million, with CEO and cofounder Benj Conway saying: "Zap’s selection reflects our tangible progress toward an achievable, grid-ready power source. This programme aligns with our aggressive milestones and bolsters our ability to succeed as quickly as possible."

Xcimer Energy said it had been awarded USD9 million, with CEO Connor Galloway saying: "Fusion energy has the potential to provide abundant, carbon-free baseload power at low cost, and will be a cornerstone technology of the global fight against climate change and for energy justice. Xcimer’s innovations directly address the remaining challenges in deploying laser-driven inertial fusion energy and enable the fastest and lowest-risk path to put fusion power on the grid."

Princeton Stellerators, in a tweet, said they were "thrilled" to be recognised by the DOE and "we look forward to continued collaboration through this programme while reinventing the #stellarator to be simpler and more practicalm, paving a path to a #FusionEnergy pilot plant".

Realta Fusion, spun out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, announced a combined USD12 million of funding: USD9 million from Khosla Ventures and USD3 million from the DOE. CEO Kieran Furlong said: "We are applying next-generation superconducting magnets and major advances in plasma stability to the relatively mature concept of the magnetic mirror. This funding will enable us to build out our team and complete the physics design for our break-even class device, BEAM, which will be our last experimental step before designing industrial fusion energy systems."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News