The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a technology assessment report on fusion energy, GAO-23-105813, on March 30, 2023. The assessment evaluated the status and potential benefits of fusion energy, challenges, and policy options that might help enhance benefits and mitigate challenges.
“Fusion, the process that powers the sun and other stars, could produce electric power without carbon emissions, long-lived nuclear waste, or risk of meltdowns.”
In addition to laying out the potential benefits of fusion energy commercialization, the report notes various technology, policy, and regulatory challenges and opportunities.
“Public and private sector misalignments, regulatory uncertainty, and other factors also present challenges to fusion energy development. One area of misalignment is research priorities. Public sector efforts prioritize basic science, but fusion energy development requires an additional emphasis on technology and engineering research. Another factor is regulatory uncertainty, which could slow development of fusion energy, although developing appropriate regulations to ensure safety without constraining development is difficult. Doing so may require significant public engagement, but little is known about public perception of fusion energy in the U.S.”
The report highlights four major policy opportunities for fusion energy acceleration:
- Sustain current efforts
- Align public and private efforts
- Build shared assets for fusion energy
- Engage the public in decision-making
The assessment aligns well with Fusion Industry Association (FIA) priorities, but would argue that current efforts must be accelerated. The FIA continues to advocate for an increase in public-private partnership programs, as well as regulatory certainty that is both risk-informed and fusion-specific.