Support for Fusion Energy in the House-passed Build Back Better Legislation
The FIA applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing HR5376, the Build Back Better Act, because it will make transformative investments into fusion energy research, development, and deployment as a part of the legislation’s climate and energy provisions.
The Build Back Better infrastructure package includes, among other sections, significant new investments into clean energy and climate change mitigation, with $555 billion set aside in the framework for these efforts. As fusion energy moves from the lab to the marketplace, it is poised to become a key part of the country’s efforts to meet aggressive decarbonization targets.
Details of Fusion Provision in Build Back Better
Within the bill, there is $885 million in fusion R&D spending. Of that, there is $325 million for a new milestone-based public private partnership program, $200 million for Fusion Materials Research and Development, $140 million for a new Inertial Fusion Research and Development program, $200 million for a new Alternative and Enabling Fusion Energy Concepts program, and $20 million to initiate Fusion Reactor System Design.
We are at a critical moment in fusion. Breakthrough results, substantial investment by the private sector, and the application of new technologies and new materials show that fusion could meet its promise as the perfect, firm energy source. These investments will, along with regular annual appropriations, accelerate progress in American fusion energy research and development.
A New Public Private Partnership
In particular, the FIA highlights the importance of the new public-private partnership program, funded at $325 million, that would incorporate best practices from other productive partnerships such as NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) and DOE’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Licensing Technical Support and Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARDP) cost-share programs. This program would support the development of a US-based fusion power industry by researching and developing technologies leading to the construction of new full-scale fusion demonstration facilities.
The goal of this program would be for private companies to build demonstration facilities in partnership with the government capable of making significant improvements in the performance of fusion systems and leading to the establishment of a new clean energy source for the nation.
This new performance-based program will directly reimburse private companies for the development of new US-based fusion capabilities over a fixed program period. Government dollars would be leveraged with substantial private sector cost share. Payments from the government would not be made until jointly established milestones throughout each company’s trajectory have been completed by industry and verified by DOE; if industry participants failed to reach these agreed-upon milestones, no government payments would be made, and the government would have the option to redirect those funds elsewhere in the program. A simple application process would encourage a broad range of applicants and result in a portfolio of many participants with diverse technologies through a competitive process.
Next Steps for the Legislation
As the bill passes the House, the Senate is expected to offer significant changes throughout. The FIA and the broader fusion community support the House-passed language on fusion energy research, as outlined in a September letter signed by the fusion community. There are opportunities in the Senate to increase overall funding for both U.S. National Lab infrastructure and Department of Energy R&D spending, but Senators should not reduce funding for fusion energy.
The FIA also appreciates the letter to the Senate, sent by Representative Don Beyer of Virginia and signed by other members of the House Fusion Energy Caucus in support of this language. The letter is embedded below.
Recent significant investments by the governments of China and the UK show their intent to be the first to commercialize fusion energy. These investments, if launched now and sustained over the next decade, will ensure the U.S. takes the global lead in fusion energy with the demonstration of multiple commercial fusion energy technologies, an advantage that will last decades and result in a clean, safe electric power grid for generations to come.