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.
KeywordsCommercial fusion systems Compact fusion power cores Spheromak Compact torus Deuterium-tritium fusion
We acknowledge useful conversations with the WSI scientific advisory board. We acknowledge Ralph Moir, Paul Bellan (Caltech), John Galambos (ORNL), Bick Hooper (LLNL), Mike Brown (Swarthmore), John Sheffield (UTK), Uri Shumlak (UW), Brett Chapman (Uwisc), Glen Wurden (LANL) and Steve Dean (Fusion Power Associates) for reading drafts of this paper and giving comments. We acknowledge useful conversations with Lars Johansson (Co-chair of the NW Energy Angels), Kevin Doren (Advisor at Divergent ventures), Raymond Williams (active angel investor and serial entrepreneur), Dr Mark Bean (financial sector expert and entrepreneur), the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, in particular Rebecca Lovell and Mike O’Donnell and other organizers and mentors in the First Look Forum. We also acknowledge very useful conversations with a short list of prominent VCs in the USA and UK.
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