The Feds Just Threw $50 Million at the ‘Holy Grail’ of Clean Energy


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Fusion power sounds like magic—and it’s often portrayed as such in science fiction stories like Star Wars and The Simpsons—but the reality of nuclear fusion energy remains just out of reach. Now, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $50 million to two private companies that are hoping to make nuclear fusion the holy grail of clean energy with new projects based on decades-old ideas. But why do we need nuclear fusion, and what are these private companies doing? Find out more below!

In the most recent indication that momentum is growing behind the “holy grail” of clean energy, the US government is investing a large sum of money in private sector nuclear fusion enterprises.

The Department of Energy formally announced $50 million in public-private partnerships will go toward private fusion businesses on Thursday at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh.

According to Andrew Holland, CEO of the industry trade group Fusion Industry Association, “this money shows that the U.S. government is becoming serious about developing a fusion programme that will have commercial importance on an expedited timescale.”

A revolutionary new energy source might be introduced to the United States if the American government fully supports speeding the introduction of fusion energy into the grid.

Nuclear fission, which occurs when a neutron collides with a massive atom and divides it, is the basis for conventional nuclear reactors. The process by which stars are fueled, known as nuclear fusion, involves the collision of two heavier atoms to create a heavier atom. Because it provides almost limitless energy, emits no greenhouse gases, and produces no radioactive waste over an extended period of time, it is sometimes referred to as the holy grail of clean energy. However, scaling and commercialising the technique’ safe replication has proven to be quite challenging.

Since the 1950s, the American government has invested federal funds in fusion research; presently, that amount is around $700 million annually. Holland spoke with CNBC. The main international research project in France, ITER, as well as national laboratories and universities have received the majority of this funding.

However, the $50 million announced in Pittsburgh for private fusion businesses “marks the first significant investment by the U.S. government towards private sector fusion.”-Energy businesses

“This is not a pure scientific application. It is a programme for commercial development and deployment.

The $50 million will aid businesses in developing thorough plans, but it won’t provide enough money to build pricey fusion power facilities. However, it will support and boost the reputation of American fusion enterprises.

Fusion power is a risky but essential technology for the United States and our joint battle against climate change, therefore this is crucial. We want a U.S. company to achieve net power first. Consultant for nuclear fusion Matthew Moynihan

The term “net power” describes a critical point in the fusion industry where more energy is produced than is required to accelerate the reaction. Winning this financing would offer businesses the government’s seal of approval, something investors will want to see when they contemplate committing additional money to the industry, so this is more than simply a paycheck.

According to the Fusion Business Association, the private sector fusion industry has drawn close to $5 billion in venture capital and other financing.

Some notable recent fundraisers include $1.8 billion from a bevvy of powerful investors, including Bill Gates, John Doerr, Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff’s Time Ventures, and Google, for Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a spinoff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology research. Helion, a different private fusion business, disclosed a $500 million fundraising sponsored by Silicon Valley insider Sam Altman, with a further $1.7 billion in investment potentially available if certain funding objectives are met.

Congress has approved spending up to $415 million in future budgets, even though the programme is presently funded at $50 million for the next 18 months. The Energy Act of 2020 initially authorised the public-private finance scheme.


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