U.S. Dept. of Energy Awards $46 Million to Advance Fusion Commercialization

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $46 million to eight U.S. companies working to advance the development of commercial fusion energy technology (including our client Commonwealth Fusion Systems), furthering the Biden administration’s goal of developing a pilot-scale fusion facility within the next decade. According to the announcement, “within the next five to ten years, the eight awardees will resolve scientific and technological challenges to create designs for a fusion pilot plant that will help bring fusion to both technical and commercial viability,” and solidify the U.S. as a global leader in fusion commercialization.

As we noted recently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted in April to establish a regulatory pathway that would accelerate the commercialization of fusion energy. The funding announcement furthers that goal, and aligns with a previously released fact sheet from the White House, indicating the Biden-Harris Administration is working to develop a “bold decadal vision to accelerate fusion” to “provide abundant, reliable, carbon-free energy to advance President Biden’s goal to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, while increasing energy security and enhancing America’s technological competitive edge.”

Fusion commercialization has also gained bipartisan Congressional support. In the DOE’s award announcement, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (WV), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said that the funding is a direct result of the Energy Act of 2020 and the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 where “Congress provided clear bipartisan direction and support for the Department of Energy to undertake an ambitious program to develop fusion technologies to be commercially deployable in the next ten years.”

Award Recipients

The DOE’s Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program will distribute the funding over a period of 18 months. The awardees include:

Why Fusion?

Fusion technology has made considerable advancements in recent years. Fusion has the potential to offer a safe and abundant energy source that does not produce greenhouse gases nor the radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission. In December of last year, researchers at the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved fusion ignition and generated more energy from fusion than the energy input to the fuel target, indicating that fusion science has reached a sufficient level of maturity to justify accelerated efforts in the development of fusion pilot plants. Once developed, fusion will not only provide electricity, but can also provide a source of thermal energy and power for hydrogen production, industrial heat, carbon capture, and desalination. Commercial fusion energy technology has the potential to revolutionize the clean energy industry, bringing the country – and the world – one-step closer to a net-zero future.

Summer Weidman is an undergraduate environmental studies student from Northeastern University. Summer is completing a six-month co-op at Foley Hoag.

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