According to two anonymous sources, John Kerry, the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, will announce at the upcoming UN climate summit in Dubai that the United States will present the first global plan for utilizing nuclear fusion power for commercial purposes.
Fusion, unlike current nuclear fission plants which separate atoms, may have a significant benefit as it does not generate persistent radioactive waste. If it is effectively implemented, fusion has the potential to eventually offer an affordable and environmentally friendly solution for electricity generation.
On Monday, during a visit to fusion company Commonwealth Fusion Systems in the vicinity of Boston, the ex-secretary of state will unveil his strategy for the future, predicting that commercialization will occur within a matter of years, rather than decades.
The process of fusion, which is responsible for generating electricity in the sun and stars, can be recreated on Earth by utilizing heat and pressure. This can be achieved through the utilization of lasers or magnets to forcefully combine two light atoms into a denser atom, resulting in the release of a significant amount of energy.
In August, researchers at a California national laboratory accomplished a fusion breakthrough known as ignition. By utilizing laser beams, they temporarily achieved a fusion reaction that produced a greater amount of energy than was initially concentrated on the target.
Kerry, who supported legislation over ten years ago as a U.S. senator, to provide funding for fusion research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be visiting Commonwealth alongside Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian energy company Eni. Eni is currently involved in four pilot projects related to fusion.
Kerry stated that he will provide additional details regarding the United States’ perspective on global alliances for an all-encompassing fusion energy future during COP28.
He further mentioned that fusion, through years of financial support from the government, is undergoing a significant change from being a mere experiment to becoming a promising solution to combat climate change.
However, there are obstacles to fusion’s ability to generate electricity for commercial use. Several scientists believe that the energy generated in last year’s fusion experiment at the U.S. National Ignition Facility was only around 0.5% of the energy used to activate the lasers.
Up until now, scientists have only been able to achieve isolated cases of ignition, rather than the numerous and frequent ignitions required to produce enough electricity for residential and industrial purposes.
The process of establishing new sets of power plants to replace certain components of existing energy systems is impeded by various regulatory, construction, and location-related obstacles.
In the foreseeable future, according to certain critics, fusion is deemed as an impractical solution in the battle against climate change due to its high costs and lengthy development process.
Someone knowledgeable about the upcoming announcement revealed that the fusion strategy will serve as a structure to outline the plans for worldwide implementation of the technology, which has the potential to receive backing from international collaborators.
According to the source, COP28, taking place from November 30 to December 12, will mark the beginning of global collaboration on nuclear fusion. Kerry will emphasize that nuclear fusion is a climate solution rather than a mere scientific experiment.
Investment in various sectors of the clean energy industry has declined this year due to economic uncertainty and inflation, even though scientists emphasize the pressing importance of transitioning to renewable energy to combat climate change.
The Fusion Industry Association stated that in 2023, fusion companies from different countries received approximately $1.4 billion in investments, leading to a total funding of around $6.21 billion, primarily sourced from private investors. This amount reflects a decrease compared to the previous year, which saw approximately $2.83 billion in new investment.
According to FIA, the number of companies receiving investments increased from 33 to 43 across twelve countries. These countries include the United States, where Commonwealth is among approximately 25 companies. Additionally, other countries like the UK, Germany, Japan, China, and Australia are also pursuing fusion technology.
One type of fusion involves the use of lasers to focus energy onto a gold pellet that contains hydrogen.
Many companies, including Commonwealth, are directing their attention towards another method that involves the utilization of strong magnets to confine plasma, or heated gaseous hydrogen, at temperatures as high as 100 million degrees Fahrenheit (55 million degrees Celsius), until atomic fusion occurs.