Magnates pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into fusion energy startups.
A company named General fusion, backed by Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, is to build its first nuclear fusion plant in the UK in a bid to show how the technology can turn into a realistic source of clean energy.
The company will enter into a long-term lease with the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham campus, home of the country’s national fusion research program and the largest fusion experiment in the world.
The company’s proprietary magnetized target fusion (MTF) technology can create fusion conditions more practical and cost-effective and make it a reality. Rather than separating atoms, the process requires combining hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure in a reactor.
However, getting the fusion reaction started would take much more energy than what it’s actually efficient to produce.
The Fusion Demonstration Plant, which has an estimated cost of $400 million, is expected to begin construction in 2022. The company expects the plant to be fully operational as early as 2025. The company raised $100 million in its last round of funding and received funding from the UK government.
Walls of Liquid Metal
General Fusion’s technology uses a series of synchronized pistons to compress a chamber of liquid metal, which is then injected with hydrogen plasma. The plasma is then heated at 150 million degrees Celsius – 10 times hotter than the sun’s core – to create large quantities of carbon-free energy with no atomic waste. The heat is then transferred into the metal, which can channel through turbines to produce power.
According to the company, just 1 kilogram of fusion fuel can power 10,000 homes for one year and replace 55,000 barrels of oil, 6 million kilograms of natural gas, or 10 million kilograms of coal. General Fusion’s technology is expected to produce about 115 megawatts of fusion power.
The question, however, is whether such a huge investment will eventually reimburse itself or not? We all hope it does, as this plant would be a huge boost for plans to develop a fusion industry. Fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy.
“It is time to dispel the idea that fusion is an academic endeavor in pursuit of an energy unicorn,” said International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “We can see this is around the corner. We are approaching this moment fast.”