On Wednesday May 13th the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on “Nuclear Energy Innovation and the National Labs.” The focus of the hearing was the government’s role in coordinating and funding national labs advancement of nuclear energy technology. Fusion research was featured, with Nathan Gilliland of General Fusion discussing advances in fusion. Members of the committee expressed great interest in fusion’s potential role in U.S. energy security.
Despite its infancy as an energy technology, Ranking Member Alan Grayson, and Representative Eric Swalwell expressed strong support for its potential as an energy source that could produce endless clean energy. Swalwell asked if the U.S. was investing enough into fusion, and Representative Grayson even went so far as to say, “now is the time to build and operate fusion experiments that will demonstrate more energy output than in.” Other Congressmen expressed their confidence in the future of fusion as a developing technolog.
Gilliland spoke on the importance of fusion as a safe, clean, and abundant source of energy. He expressed confidence in its advancement, noting that there are multiple ways of pursuing it, not all of which are necessarily reliant on high-cost cutting edge technologies such as the utilization of lasers or superconductors. General Fusion in particular focuses on Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF), a hybrid of existing fusion technology focused on bringing costs down, though Gilliland stressed that this is just one avenue to fusion in a “basket of options” that should be invested in.
While Gilliland explained the progress of fusion and that we are as close as 5-10 years away from the break-even point in the fusion program, he urged the Congressmen to understand that there was much more that the U.S. government could be doing to advance fusion development. Similar to ASP’s position that the government should be providing more coordination on fusion research, Gilliland spoke on the lack of information sharing among national labs,
“…initiatives to support greater information sharing and greater exchange of human capital, is warranted. Rapid information sharing and open innovation will all lead us more rapidly to the ultimate goal: commercial fusion energy. The faster the better.”
Uniformity and sharing in fusion simulation codes, as well as exchanges of physicists in academia and private organizations would benefit the advancement of fusion immensely. There is a barrier of access to information—the information physicists need to advance their research is out there, they just don’t always have an easy way to obtain it. This is an area where the U.S. government can promote fusion advancement at no cost to itself.
Fusion is a more promising avenue of energy security every day, and there is growing congressional support. The U.S. government should be doing more to accelerate the development of fusion, and not all of these necessitate a huge investment. The next step is for the U.S. to begin seriously considering fusion as an energy program that it wants to develop.
Further reading on fusion:
Full Video of the Hearing below: