On February 17, 2021, The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, released a new report, Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid. This report was motivated by a combination of increased scientific progress in fusion and the changing electrical landscape in the United States, and builds off of previous work done by NASEM in their report on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research.
This NASEM report “presents a strategic plan for the scientific and technical innovations that will lead to the design, construction, and operation of a fusion pilot plant with the goal of producing electricity in the 2035-2040 timeframe and paving the way for commercial development.”
It claims that the U.S. is in prime position to begin planning for its first fusion pilot plant due to scientific results from ITER, a strong foundation in research funded by the Department of Energy, and increased growth of the private sector. In addition, the need to decarbonize and modernize the U.S. electric grid has created a desire to accelerate fusion development so that it can contribute to this important process.
The report makes two primary recommendations:
For the United States to be a leader in fusion and to make an impact on the transition to a low-carbon emission electrical system by 2050, the Department of Energy and the private sector should produce net electricity in a fusion pilot plant in the United States in the 2035-2040 timeframe.
The Department of Energy should move forward now to foster the creation of national teams, including public-private partnerships, that will develop conceptual pilot plant designs and technology roadmaps and lead to an engineering design of a pilot plant that will bring fusion to commercial viability.
This report could be a key resource for FIA Member Companies, as most of them share a similar goal of bringing fusion-generated electricity to the grid within this stated timeframe. In addition, the increased push for public-private partnerships will result in beneficial new opportunities for many of these companies. With an entire chapter focused on the possibilities of these partnerships, this report states:
“The development of a low-cost fusion pilot plant will require not only scientific and technical innovation but also innovation in public policy areas to facilitate the licensing of a fusion pilot plant and the structuring of public-private partnerships to pursue this goal.”
The full report, Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid, can be accessed through the NASEM website.