Path to Market for Compact Modular Fusion Power Cores
The benefits of an energy source whose reactants are plentiful and whose products are benign is hard to measure, but at no time in history has this energy source been more needed. Nuclear fusion continues to promise to be this energy source. However, the path to market for fusion systems is still regularly a matter for long-term (20 + year) plans. This white paper is intended to stimulate discussion of faster commercialization paths, distilling guidance from investors, utilities, and the wider energy research community (including from ARPA-E). There is great interest in a small modular fusion system that can be developed quickly and inexpensively. A simple model shows how compact modular fusion can produce a low cost development path by optimizing traditional systems that burn deuterium and tritium, operating not only at high magnetic field strength, but also by omitting some components that allow for the core to become more compact and easier to maintain. The dominant hurdles to the development of low cost, practical fusion systems are discussed, primarily in terms of the constraints placed on the cost of development stages in the private sector. The main finding presented here is that the bridge from DOE Office of Science to the energy market can come at the Proof of Principle development stage, providing the concept is sufficiently compact and inexpensive that its development allows for a normal technology commercialization path.