USA: Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy
On Wednesday 17th March the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a White House Summit entitled “Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy” where fusion energy leaders from government, industry, academia, and other stakeholder groups set out their proposal for an updated fusion strategy.
You can watch the replay of the event on YouTube.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm addresses the White House summit
What have they done?
The White House Summit set out a ten-year vision for accelerating fusion energy development.
Jennifer Granholm, United States Secretary of Energy, announced two initial actions:
- DOE is launching an agency-wide fusion initiative, coordinating all fusion energy activity under one umbrella. This coordinated effort will integrate fusion energy RD&D activities across multiple programme offices, including the Office of Science, ARPA E, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Office of Nuclear Energy. Scott Hsu, currently Program Director at ARPA-E, will lead the effort as Senior Advisor for Fusion Energy at DOE.
- A funding opportunity of $50m to fund research to support the design of a fusion pilot plant.
Granholm stated that the effort will be focussed on more than just innovation. They will be building out the fusion energy workforce and working on building public trust, emphasising that fusion has a high threshold for safety and that they will be listening to the public’s concerns.
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor at the White House, said that fusion presents tremendous opportunities and America wants to lead the world on energy technology. The summit acknowledged the potential of fusion to help the world get to net zero whilst also providing US energy security and good jobs. They want to launch another American clean energy game-changer, and they propose to heavily engage a broad set of stakeholders from the very beginning so people understand the benefits as well as the risks and challenges of fusion.
There is a strong commitment to energy justice—ensuring all communities benefit from the transformational change that fusion will create—as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fusion workforce and leadership.
There’s also an acknowledgement of the importance of public-private partnerships. In her closing remarks, Geraldine Richmond, Under Secretary for Science and Innovation at the US Department of Energy, said “We will continue to rely upon the top scientific and engineering minds at the DOE laboratories and universities as a source of ideas and innovation for the future. And our work with the private sector will take on new urgency so we can find a synergy between the exciting developments in the fusion industry and the unique capabilities supported by DOE.”
Additionally she said, “This approach will allow us to pursue multiple pathways to get there.”
Note that this summit was a kick-off of the updated fusion strategy and not yet a firm commitment from government.
Why is it important?
This sets out a clear vision of what is needed to commercialise fusion energy in the US. It brings together broad stakeholders ranging from academic researchers to the end customers (the utilities), guided by the Fusion Energy Sciences advisory committees long range plan “Powering the Future”, as well as engaging the public and a future diverse workforce.
Additionally, Jennifer Granholm noted that Democrat congressman Beyer and Republican congressman Fleischmann were both in attendance and commented on how the bipartisan support for fusion is so important because they are asking for continued congressional investment.
She noted also that the international landscape of fusion is shifting and so their strategy has to shift too. Following the UK announcement of their UK fusion strategy last year, it’s good to see increasing calls for government commitments to accelerate fusion development. Currently a key difference to the UK is the aim to increase partnerships with privately funded fusion companies to pursue multiple promising paths toward a fusion pilot plant.
Fusion leaders will be continuing to engage US government to get a firm commitment to fusion energy for America’s future.
Andrew Holland, CEO of the Fusion Industry Association (FIA): “It was a great day to see the leaders across the broad and diverse fusion community come together to support a new, aggressive vision of commercialisation in a decade. I’m more convinced now that the private sector, represented at the event by many FIA members, will have a strong partner in the US government to move fast and build a fusion-powered future.”
More details about the event: https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/events-webinars/