Invigorated Federal Interest in Fusion Energy Presents Opportunities and Questions for Growing Private Fusion Energy Sector

Source:  Tim L. PeckinpaughMichael L. O’NeillR. Paul Stimers, K&L Gates, October 12, 2018.

K&L GatesSignificant investment is flowing into private companies seeking long-sought-after breakthroughs to develop practical power generation solutions based on nuclear fusion reactions.  Fusion reactions have become relatively commonplace in the laboratory setting, but no one has developed a nuclear fusion reactor yet that produces more energy than the device uses to operate and maintain the reaction. Numerous private companies, in the United States and around the world, are attacking this challenge with a variety of approaches, with the goal of making the technology sustainable, practical, and commercial. These companies are receiving significant investment from backers who believe a solution is within reach.

The U.S. Congress and the executive agencies (like the Department of Energy) have shown that they remain committed to developing the underpinnings of a more complete fusion energy ecosystem. Indeed, they may even be more interested in fusion energy now than in years past. For example, Congress’s latest appropriations legislation increases funding for fusion energy science at the Department of Energy (“DOE”) and increased funding for the United States’ contribution to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (“ITER”) under construction in France. Other recent legislation has directed DOE and other agencies to take a more active role in understanding fusion energy issues.

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