U.S. Aims to Advance International Nuclear Fusion Strategy

U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry, speaking at a UN climate meeting

(Credit: U.S. Mission to the UN)

by | Dec 8, 2023

United States Climate Envoy John Kerry unveiled plans at COP28 to work alongside international governments to accelerate the commercialization of nuclear fusion energy.

After decades of research toward generating the clean energy source, scientists at the Department of Energy National Laboratory achieved fusion ignition in 2022. Since then, the U.S. has released an outline for the development of the technology and also recently announced a partnership with the United Kingdom to work toward commercialization.

During the COP28 announcement, Kerry emphasized the need for additional international partnership and cooperation in order to eventually make the energy source commercially available. Private investment in fusion has reached about $6 billion, which reportedly reinforces the need for global engagement in addressing research and supply chain challenges for the technology going forward.

Kerry also explained the U.S. international engagement plan for fusion, which includes five pillars: research and development, supply chains, regulation, workforce, and education.

Fusion energy is created through a thermonuclear reaction, a process similar to those in the sun and stars, and it may generate an abundance of energy without producing radioactive waste. The Department of Energy estimates that a pickup truck of fusion fuel contains the same amount of energy as 10 million barrels of oil. Further, the technology does not require long-term storage and is completely carbon-free.

White House Details Nuclear Fusion Plan

Along with Kerry’s announcement, the White House released a fact sheet with specific information about the country’s five-part plan for nuclear fusion.

The statement reiterates the need for international cooperation, including open access to costly experimental fusion and test facilities and the adoption of technology protection to safeguard against predatory economic practices. It also features the goal of expanding the technology for worldwide use, including the creation of a workforce to support such expansion. In order to build public understanding of the new technology, public engagement activities will also be reportedly essential. The last pillar includes the creation of regulatory frameworks to create a secure environment for fusion energy development.

Nuclear fusion may represent an exciting opportunity as a major clean energy source for the future, but the technology may reportedly take decades to bring to the commercial market. Kerry said that the process may be sped up with concerted, international effort.

“We are edging ever-closer to a fusion-powered reality,” Kerry said at COP28. “And at the same time, yes, significant scientific and engineering challenges exist. Careful thought and thoughtful policy is going to be critical to navigate this.”

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