Now FIA calls on Congress and the new Administration to support and fund the ambition, including new public-private partnerships
On December 10, the U.S. Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee unanimously approved a new report that amounts to an ambitious new mandate to prioritize fusion energy development, leading to a fusion power plant. Although the final text has not yet been released, the report will not be substantially changed from the draft. The members of the Fusion Industry Association are particularly excited about plans for new public-private partnerships that would support this new program. As the culmination of 2 years of work by the American fusion community, done at the request of Congress and charged by Undersecretary of Energy for Science, Paul Dabbar, this is an extraordinary plan that should set strategy for the next decade.
The FIA commends the committee for calling for a transition of government fusion research from a science goal, towards an energy goal. Now, the government should move this direction with urgency. The members of the FIA, all private fusion companies, already share this goal.
The report states: "now is the time to move aggressively toward the deployment of fusion energy, which could substantially power modern society while mitigating climate change” is as clear a call to action as you’ll get from a government report. To be relevant to solving the climate crisis, fusion must reach the grid in the decades of the 2030s and '40s. This report sets the government towards a goal of supporting that timeframe.
Importantly, this report explicitly recognizes the Fusion Industry Association and its 22 member companies and nearly $2 billion in private investment. A key part of the report stresses the importance of leveraging public-private partnerships to propel fusion development, saying: “The US is poised to take the lead globally in the development of a private sector fusion energy industry, but this opportunity will be lost without strong support."
The FIA will work to ensure that there is the will to take up the call from the report to implement a milestone-based cost share program. The FIA has called for such a public-private partnership program, and has supported efforts in Congress to create it.
The report describes such a program as one “aimed at the demonstration of integrated facilities with the potential to more rapidly and cost-effectively close technological gaps to achieving fusion energy.” This mirrors the recommendations of the Fusion Industry Association proposed program modeled after the NASA Commercial Orbit Transportation Services (COTS) which enabled the commercial space industry.
There is an opportunity for US leadership in an emerging global race for commercial fusion power. International competitors are not waiting. China, Canada, South Korea, and the UK have made significant investments in their domestic fusion programs. Although American companies are the majority of FIA members, there is no guarantee the industry will develop in the U.S.
For the first time, this FESAC report lays out clear steps for the US government funding agencies to seize a leadership role, but it will take a commitment by the new administration and Congress to provide the leadership and funding needed to implement the aggressive strategy this report details.