Tag Archives: Greg Twinney

Japan inaugurates world’s biggest experimental operating nuclear fusion reactor

Andrew Paul’s December 4, 2023 article for Popular Science attempts to give readers a sense of the scale and this is one of those times when words are better than pictures, Note: Links have been removed,

Japan and the European Union have officially inaugurated testing at the world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion plant. Located roughly 85 miles north of Tokyo, the six-story, JT-60SA “tokamak” facility heats plasma to 200 million degrees Celsius (around 360 million Fahrenheit) within its circular, magnetically insulated reactor. Although JT-60SA first powered up during a test run back in October [2023], the partner governments’ December 1 announcement marks the official start of operations at the world’s biggest fusion center, reaffirming a “long-standing cooperation in the field of fusion energy.”

The tokamak—an acronym of the Russian-language designation of “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”—has led researchers’ push towards achieving the “Holy Grail” of sustainable green energy production for decades. …

Speaking at the inauguration event, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson referred to the JT-60SA as “the most advanced tokamak in the world,” representing “a milestone for fusion history.”

But even if such a revolutionary milestone is crossed, it likely won’t be at JT-60SA. Along with its still-in-construction sibling, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Europe, the projects are intended solely to demonstrate scalable fusion’s feasibility. Current hopes estimate ITER’s operational start for sometime in 2025, although the undertaking has been fraught with financial, logistical, and construction issues since its groundbreaking back in 2011.

See what I mean about a picture not really conveying the scale,

Until ITER turns on, Japan’s JT-60SA fusion reactor will be the largest in the world.National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology

Dennis Normile’s October 31, 2023 article for Science magazine describes the facility’s (Japan’s JT-60SA fusion reactor) test run and future implications for the EU’s ITER project,

The long trek toward practical fusion energy passed a milestone last week when the world’s newest and largest fusion reactor fired up. Japan’s JT-60SA uses magnetic fields from superconducting coils to contain a blazingly hot cloud of ionized gas, or plasma, within a doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel, in hope of coaxing hydrogen nuclei to fuse and release energy. The four-story-high machine is designed to hold a plasma heated to 200 million degrees Celsius for about 100 seconds, far longer than previous large tokamaks.

Last week’s achievement “proves to the world that the machine fulfills its basic function,” says Sam Davis, a project manager at Fusion for Energy, an EU organization working with Japan’s National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) on JT-60SA and related programs. It will take another 2 years before JT-60SA produces the long-lasting plasmas needed for meaningful physics experiments, says Hiroshi Shirai, leader of the project for QST.

JT-60SA will also help ITER, the mammoth international fusion reactor under construction in France that’s intended to demonstrate how fusion can generate more energy than goes into producing it. ITER will rely on technologies and operating know-how that JT-60SA will test.

Japan got to host JT-60SA and two other small fusion research facilities as a consolation prize for agreeing to let ITER go to France. …

As Normile notes, the ITER project has had a long and rocky road so far.

The Canadians

As it turns out, there’s a company in British Columbia, Canada that is also on the road to fusion energy. Not so imaginatively, it’s called General Fusion but it has a different approach to developing this ‘clean energy’. (See my October 28, 2022 posting, “Overview of fusion energy scene,” which includes information about the international scene and some of the approaches, including General Fusion’s, to developing the technology and my October 11, 2023 posting offers an update to the General Fusion situation.) Since my October 2023 posting, there have been a few developments at General Fusion.

This December 4, 2023 General Fusion news release celebrates a new infusion of cash from the Canadian government and take special note of the first item in the ‘Quick Facts’ of the advantage this technology offers,

Today [December 4, 2023], General Fusion announced that Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) has awarded CA$5 million to support research and development to advance the company’s Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) demonstration at its Richmond headquarters. Called LM26, this ground-breaking machine will progress major technical milestones required to commercialize zero-carbon fusion power by the early to mid-2030s. The funds are an addition to the existing contribution agreement with SIF, to support the development of General Fusion’s transformational technology.

Fusion energy is the ultimate clean energy solution. It is what powers the sun and stars. It’s the process by which two light nuclei merge to form a heavier one, emitting a massive amount of energy. By 2100, the production and export of the Canadian industry’s fusion energy technology could provide up to $1.26 trillion in economic benefits to Canada. Additionally, fusion could completely offset 600 MT CO2-e emissions, the equivalent of over 160 coal-fired power plants for a single year. When commercialized, a single General Fusion power plant will be designed to provide zero-carbon power to approximately 150,000 Canadian homes, with the ability to be placed close to energy demand at a cost competitive with other energy sources such as coal and natural gas.1


“For more than 20 years, General Fusion has advanced its uniquely practical Magnetized Target Fusion technology and IP at its Canadian headquarters. LM26 will significantly de-risk our commercialization program and puts us on track to bring our game-changing, zero-emissions energy solution to Canada, and the world, in the next decade,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion.

“Fusion technology has the potential to completely revolutionize the energy sector by giving us access to an affordable unlimited renewable power source. Since General Fusion is at the forefront of this technology, our decision to keep supporting the company will give us the tools we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach our climate goals. Our government is proud to invest in this innovative project to drive the creation of hundreds of middle-class jobs and position Canada as a world leader in fusion energy technology,” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“British Columbia has a thriving innovation economy. In August, the B.C. Government announced CA$5 million in provincial support for General Fusion’s homegrown technology, and we’re pleased to see the Federal government has now provided funds to support General Fusion. These investments will help General Fusion as they continue to develop their core technology right here in B.C.,” said Brenda Bailey, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation.

Quick Facts:

*Magnetized Target Fusion uniquely sidesteps challenges to commercialization that other technologies face. The game-changer is a proprietary liquid metal liner in the commercial fusion machine that is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction. General Fusion’s design does not require large superconducting magnets or an expensive array of lasers.

*LM26 aims to achieve two of the most significant technical milestones required to commercialize fusion energy, targeting fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025, and progressing toward scientific breakeven equivalent by 2026.

*LM26’s plasmas will be approximately 50 per cent scale of a commercial fusion machine. It aims to achieve deuterium-tritium breakeven equivalent using deuterium fuel.

*The Canadian government is investing an additional CA$5 million for a total of CA$54.3 million to support the development of General Fusion’s energy technology through the Strategic Innovation Fund program.

*As a result of the government’s ongoing support, General Fusion has advanced its technology, building more than 24 plasma prototypes, filing over 170 patents, and conducting more than 200,000 experiments at its Canadian labs.

This January 11, 2024 General Fusion news release highlights some of the company’s latest research,

General Fusion has published new, peer-reviewed scientific results that validate the company has achieved the smooth, rapid, and symmetric compression of a liquid cavity that is key to the design of a commercial Magnetized Target Fusion power plant. The results, published in one of the foremost scientific journals in fusion, Fusion Engineering and Design [open access paper], validate the performance of General Fusion’s proprietary liquid compression technology for Magnetized Target Fusion and are scalable to a commercial machine.

General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion technology uses mechanical compression of a plasma to achieve fusion conditions. High-speed drivers rapidly power a precisely shaped, symmetrical collapse of a liquid metal cavity that envelopes the plasma. In three years, General Fusion commissioned a prototype of its liquid compression system and completed over 1,000 shots, validating the compression technology. In addition, this scale model of General Fusion’s commercial compression system verified the company’s open-source computational fluid dynamics simulation. The paper confirms General Fusion’s concept for the compression system of a commercial machine.

“General Fusion has proven success scaling individual technologies, creating the pathway to integrate, deploy, and commercialize practical fusion energy,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “The publication of these results demonstrates General Fusion has the science and engineering capabilities to progress the design of our proprietary liquid compression system to commercialization.”

General Fusion’s approach to compressing plasma to create fusion energy is unique. Its Magnetized Target Fusion technology is designed to address the barriers to commercialization that other fusion technologies still face. The game-changer is the proprietary liquid metal liner in the fusion vessel that is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This allows General Fusion to create fusion conditions in short pulses, rather than creating a sustained reaction, while protecting the machine’s vessel, extracting heat, and re-breeding fuel.

Today [January 11, 2024] at its Canadian labs, General Fusion is building a ground-breaking Magnetized Target Fusion demonstration called Lawson Machine 26 (LM26). Designed to reach fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and progress towards scientific breakeven equivalent by 2026, LM26 fast-tracks General Fusion’s technical progress to provide commercial fusion energy to the grid by the early to mid-2030s.

Exciting times for us all and I wish good luck to all of the clean energy efforts wherever they are being pursued.

General Fusion: update to October 10, 2023

It seems that Canadian nuclear energy company General Fusion has finally moved from Burnaby to Richmond (both are part of the Metro Vancouver Region). The move first announced in 2021 (see my November 3, 2021 posting for the news and a description of fusion energy; Note: fission is a different form of nuclear energy, fusion is considered clean/green).

I found confirmation of the move in an August 9, 2023 article by Kenneth Chan for the dailyhive.com

If all goes as planned, a major hurdle in fusion-based, zero-emission clean energy innovation could be produced on Sea Island in Richmond in just three years from now.

BC-based General Fusion announced today it has plans to build a new magnetized target fusion (MTF) machine at the company’s global headquarters at 6020-6082 Russ Baker Way [emphasis mine] near the South Terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR). [Note: YVR is located in Richmond, BC]

Chan goes on to note (from his August 9, 2023 article), Note: A link has been removed,

This machine will be designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100,000,000°C by 2025, with “scientific breakeven” conditions by 2026. This will “fast-track” the company’s technical progress.

More specifically, this further proof-of-concept will show General Fusion’s ability to “symmetrically compress magnetized plasmas in a repeatable manner and achieve fusion conditions at scale.”

General Fusion’s technology is designed to be lower cost by avoiding other approaches that require expensive superconducting magnets or high-powered lasers.

The YVR machine is intended to support further work and investment and reduce the risk of General Fusion’s commercial-scale demonstration test plan in Culham Campus of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) — located just outside of Oxford, west of London. The UK plant has effectively been delayed, [emphasis mine] with the goal now to provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.

“Our updated three-year Fusion Demonstration Program puts us on the best path forward to commercialize our technology by the 2030s,” said Greg Twinney, CEO of General Fusion, in a statement. “We’re harnessing our team’s existing strengths right here in Canada and delivering high-value, industry-leading technical milestones in the near term.”

Canada, always a colony

I wonder what happened to the UKAEA deal. In my October 28, 2022 posting (Overview of fusion energy scene) General Fusion was downright effusive in its enthusiasm about the joint path to commercialization with a demonstration machine to be built in the UK. Scroll down to my ‘Fusion energy explanation (2)’ subhead for more details.

It now looks as if the first demonstration will be build and tested in Canada, from an August 9, 2023 General Fusion news release,

General Fusion announced a new Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) machine that will fast-track the company’s technical progress. To be built at the company’s new Richmond headquarters, this ground-breaking machine is designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025, [emphasis mine] and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026. In addition, the company completed the first close of its Series F raise for a combined $25 million USD (approximately $33.5 million CAD) of funding. The round was anchored by existing investors, BDC Capital and GIC. It also included new grant funding from the Government of British Columbia, which builds upon the Canadian government’s ongoing support through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). 

This machine represents a significant new pillar to accelerate and de-risk [emphasis mine] General Fusion’s Demonstration Program, designed to leverage the company’s recent technological advancements and provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.  

Over the next two to three years, General Fusion will work closely with the UK Atomic Energy Authority [UKAEA] to validate the data gathered from [Lawson Machine 26] LM26 and incorporate it into the design of the company’s planned commercial scale demonstration in the UK.

So, the machine is being ‘de-risked’ in Canada first, eh?

September 2023

There was an interesting UK addition to General Fusion’s board of directors according to a September 6, 2023 news release,

Today [September 6, 2023], General Fusion announced the appointment of Norman Harrison to its Board of Directors. Norman is a world-class executive in the energy sector, with 40 years of unique experience providing leadership to both the fusion energy and nuclear fission communities.

His experience includes serving as the CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) from 2006 to 2010 [emphasis mine], when he oversaw the groundbreaking research being conducted by the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest fusion experiment and the only one operating using deuterium-tritium fuel, as it pushed the frontiers of fusion science. Norman’s expertise will support General Fusion as the company completes its Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) demonstration, LM26 [scroll up to August 9, 2023 news release in the above for details] , at its Canadian headquarters. LM26 is targeting fusion conditions of 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and is charting a path to scientific breakeven equivalent by 2026. The results achieved by LM26 will be validated by the UKAEA and incorporated into the design of the company’s near-commercial machine, which is planned to be built at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus. 

Norman’s background also includes leading the construction and operations of large-scale power plants. As a result, his guidance will benefit General Fusion as it progresses to commercializing its MTF technology by the early to mid-2030s.

“I’ve been a part of the fusion energy industry for many years now. General Fusion’s unique technology stands out and has exciting promise to put fusion energy onto the electricity grid,” said Norman Harrison. “I am thrilled to join the General Fusion team and be a part of the company’s progress.”

“Norman’s wealth of expertise in advancing fusion technology and operating large electricity infrastructure provides us with meaningful insight into what is required to effectively bring Magnetized Target Fusion to the energy grid in a cost-effective, practical way,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “We look forward to working with him as General Fusion transforms the commercial power industry with reliable fusion power.”

About General Fusion

General Fusion is pursuing a fast and practical approach to commercial fusion energy and is headquartered in Richmond, B.C. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders and technology pioneers. …

So, after postponing plans to build a build a demonstration plant with UKAEA and deciding to build it in Canada where it can be ‘de-risked’ here first, General Fusion adds a former UKAEA CEO to their company board. This seems a little strategic to me.

October 2023

Here’s the latest from an October 10, 2023 news release,

Today [October 11, 2023], General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate the commercialization of General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, aiming for grid integration in the early to mid-2030s. The companies will collaborate to advance critical systems for MTF commercialization, including the tritium fuel cycle, liquid metal balance of plant, and power conversion cycle.

Tritium, a hydrogen isotope and key fusion fuel, does not occur naturally and must be produced or “bred” in the fusion process. General Fusion’s game-changing commercial power plant design features a proprietary liquid metal wall that compresses plasma to fusion conditions, protects the fusion machine’s vessel components, and breeds tritium upon interacting with the fusion products. This design allows the machine to be self-sustaining, generating fuel for the life of the power plant while facilitating efficient energy extraction from the fusion reaction through a liquid metal loop to a heat exchanger.

Kyoto Fusioneering specializes in fusion power plant systems that complement the plasma confinement core, are applicable to various fusion confinement concepts, such as MTF, and are on the critical path for fusion commercialization. The complementary capabilities of both organizations will enable parallel development of key systems supporting MTF commercialization. Initial collaboration under this MOU will focus on liquid metal experimentation and fuel cycle system development at both the General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering facilities, such as establishment of balance of plant and power conversion test facilities, liquid metal loops, and vacuum systems.


“Currently, our new machine, LM26, is on-track to achieve fusion conditions by 2025, and progress towards scientific breakeven by 2026,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “Harnessing the unique technological and engineering expertise of Kyoto Fusioneering will be instrumental as we translate LM26’s groundbreaking results into the world’s first Magnetized Target Fusion power plant.”

“We’re thrilled to join forces with General Fusion. Our combined expertise will accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy, a critical step toward a sustainable, decarbonized future,” said Satoshi Konishi, Co-founder and Chief Fusioneer, Kyoto Fusioneering.

Quick Facts:

Magnetized Target Fusion [prepare yourself for 1 min. 21 secs. of an enthusiastic Michel Laberge, company founder and chief science officer] uniquely sidesteps challenges to commercialization that other technologies face. The proprietary liquid metal liner in the commercial fusion machine is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction. General Fusion’s design does not require large superconducting magnets or an expensive array of lasers.

General Fusion’s design will use deuterium-tritium fuel for its commercial power plant. Both are isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium occurs naturally and can be derived from seawater. Tritium needs to be produced, which is why General Fusion’s unique and proprietary technology that breeds tritium as a byproduct of the fusion reaction is a game-changer.

Kyoto Fusioneering was spun out of Kyoto University. It is home to world-class R&D facilities, and its team has a combined total of approximately 800 years of experience [emphasis mine].

About Kyoto Fusioneering

Kyoto Fusioneering, established in 2019 [emphasis mine], is a privately funded technology startup with facilities in Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Reading (UK), and Seattle (USA). The company specialises in developing advanced technologies for commercial fusion power plants, such as gyrotron systems, tritium fuel cycle technologies, and breeding blankets for tritium production and power generation. Working collaboratively with public and private fusion developers around the world, Kyoto Fusioneering’s mission is to make fusion energy the ultimate sustainable solution for humanity’s energy needs.

800 years of experience seems to be a bit of a stretch for a company established four years ago with 96 employees as of July 1, 2023 (see Kyoto Fusioneering’s Company Profile webpage) but hat’s off for the sheer gutsiness of it.

US announces fusion energy breakthrough

Nice to learn of this news, which is on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news online website. From a December 13, 2022 news item provided by Associated Press (Note: the news item was updated to include general description and some Canadian content at about 12 pm PT) ,

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it, [emphasis mine] something called net energy gain, the Energy Department said.

Peter Behr’s December 13, 2022 article on Politico.com about the US Department of Energy’s big announcement also breaks the news,

The Department of Energy announced Tuesday [December 12, 2022] that its scientists have produced the first ever fusion reaction that yielded more energy than the reaction required, an essential step in the long path toward commercial fusion power, officials said.

The experiment Dec. 5 [2022], at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, took a few billionths of second. But laboratory leaders said today that it demonstrated for the first time that sustained fusion power is possible.

Behr explains what nuclear fusion is but first he touches on why scientists are so interested in the process, from his December 13, 2022 article,

In theory, nuclear fusion could produce massive amounts of energy without producing lost-lasting radioactive waste, or posing the risk of meltdowns. That’s unlike nuclear fission, which powers today’s reactors.

Fission results when radioactive atoms — most commonly uranium — are split by neutrons in controlled chain reactions, creating lighter atoms and large amounts of radiation and energy to produce electric power.

Fusion is the opposite process. In the most common approach, swirling hydrogen isotopes are forced together under tremendous heat to create helium and energy for power generation. This is the same process that powers the sun and other stars. But scientists have been trying since the mid-20th century to find a way to use it to generate power on Earth.

There are two main approaches to making fusion happen and I found a description for them in an October 2022 article about local company, General Fusion, by Nelson Bennett for Business in Vancouver magazine (paper version),

Most fusion companies are pursuing one of two approaches: Magnet [sic] or inertial confinement. General fusion is one of the few that is taking a more hybrid approach ¬ magnetic confinement with pulse compression.

Fusion occurs when smaller nuclei are fused together under tremendous force into larger nuclei, with a release of energy occurring in the form of neutrons. It’s what happens to stars when gravitational force creates extreme heat that turns on the fusion engine.

Replicating that in a machine requires some form of confinement to squeeze plasma ¬ a kind of super-hot fog of unbound positive and negative particles ¬ to the point where nuclei fuse.

One approach is inertial confinement, in which lasers are focused on a small capsule of heavy hydrogen fuel (deuterium and tritium) to create ignition. This takes a tremendous amount of energy, and the challenge for all fusion efforts is to get a sustained ignition that produces more energy than it takes to get ignition ¬ called net energy gain.

The other main approach is magnetic confinement, using powerful magnets in a machine called a tokomak to contain and squeeze plasma into a donut-shaped form called a torus.

General Fusion uses magnets to confine the plasma, but to get ignition it uses pistons arrayed around a spherical chamber to fire synchronously to essentially collapse the plasma on itself and spark ignition.

General Fusion’s machine uses liquid metal spinning inside a chamber that acts as a protective barrier between the hot plasma and the machine ¬ basically a sphere of plasma contained within a sphere of liquid metal. This protects the machine from damage.

The temperatures generated in fusion ¬ up to to 150 million degrees Celsius ¬ are five to six times hotter than the core of the sun, and can destroy machines that produce them. This makes durability a big challenge in any machine.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) issued a December 13, 2022 news release, which provides more detail about their pioneering work, Note: I have changed the order of the paragraphs but all of this is from the news release,

Fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL hypothesized that lasers could be used to induce fusion in a laboratory setting. Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as LLNL director from 1988 to 1994, this revolutionary idea became inertial confinement fusion, kicking off more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation and experimental design.

To pursue this concept, LLNL built a series of increasingly powerful laser systems, leading to the creation of NIF [National Ignition Facility], the world’s largest and most energetic laser system. NIF — located at LLNL in Livermore, California — is the size of a sports stadium and uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures like those in the cores of stars and giant planets, and inside exploding nuclear weapons.

LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time a most fundamental science basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE). Many advanced science and technology developments are still needed to achieve simple, affordable IFE to power homes and businesses, and DOE is currently restarting a broad-based, coordinated IFE program in the United States. Combined with private-sector investment, there is a lot of momentum to drive rapid progress toward fusion commercialization.

If you want to see some really excited comments from scientists just read the LLNL’s December 13, 2022 news release. Even the news release’s banner is exuberant,

Behr peers into the future of fusion energy, from his December 13, 2022 article,

Fearful that China might wind up dominating fusion energy in the second half of this century, Congress in 2020 told DOE [Department of Energy] to begin funding development of a utility-scale fusion pilot plant that could deliver at least 50 megawatts of power to the U.S. grid.

In September [2022], DOE invited private companies to apply for an initial $50 million in research grants to help fund development of detailed pilot plant plans.

“We’re seeking strong partnerships between DOE and the private sector,” a senior DOE official told POLITICO’s E&E News recently. The official was not willing to speak on the record, saying the grant process is ongoing and confidential.

As the competition proceeds, DOE will set technical milestones or requirements, challenging the teams to show how critical engineering challenges will be overcome. DOE’s goal is “hopefully to enable a fusion pilot to operate in the early 2030s,” the official added.

At least 15 U.S. and foreign fusion companies have submitted requests for an initial total of $50 million in pilot plant grants, and some of them are pursuing the laser-ignition fusion process that Lawrence Livermore has pioneered, said Holland. He did not name the companies because the competition is confidential.

I wonder if General Fusion whose CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Greg Twinney declared, “Commercializing fusion energy is within reach, and General Fusion is ready to deliver it to the grid by the 2030s …” (in a December 12, 2022 company press release) is part of the US competition.

I noticed that General Fusion lists this at the end of the press release,

… Founded in 2002, we are headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, with additional centers co-located with internationally recognized fusion research laboratories near London, U.K., and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), like the LLNL, is a US Department of Energy research facility.

As for General Fusion’s London connection, I have more about that in my October 28, 2022 posting “Overview of fusion energy scene,” which includes General Fusion’s then latest news about a commercialization agreement with the UKAEA (UK Atomic Energy Authority) and a ‘fusion’ video by rapper Baba Brinkman along with the overview.

Overview of fusion energy scene

It’s funny how you think you know something and then realize you don’t. I’ve been hearing about cold fusion/fusion energy for years but never really understood what the term meant. So, this post includes an explanation, as well as, an overview, and a Cold Fusion Rap to ‘wrap’ it all up. (Sometimes I cannot resist a pun.)

Fusion energy explanation (1)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a Climate Portal where fusion energy is explained,

Fusion energy is the source of energy at the center of stars, including our own sun. Stars, like most of the universe, are made up of hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant element in the universe, created during the big bang. The center of a star is so hot and so dense that the immense pressure forces hydrogen atoms together. These atoms are forced together so strongly that they create new atoms entirely—helium atoms—and release a staggering amount of energy in the process. This energy is called fusion energy.

More energy than chemical energy

Fusion energy, like fossil fuels, is a form of stored energy. But fusion can create 20 to 100 million times more energy than the chemical reaction of a fossil fuel. Most of the mass of an atom, 99.9 percent, is contained at an atom’s center—inside of its nucleus. The ratio of this matter to the empty space in an atom is almost exactly the same ratio of how much energy you release when you manipulate the nucleus. In contrast, a chemical reaction, such as burning coal, rearranges the atoms through heat, but doesn’t alter the atoms themselves, so we don’t get as much energy.

Making fusion energy

For scientists, making fusion energy means recreating the conditions of stars, starting with plasma. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, after solids, liquids and gases. Ice is an example of a solid. When heated up, it becomes a liquid. Place that liquid in a pot on the stove, and it becomes a gas (steam). If you take that gas and continue to make it hotter, at around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (~6,000 Kelvin), it will change from a gas to the next phase of matter: plasma. Ninety-nine percent of the mass in the universe is in the plasma state, since almost the entire mass of the universe is in super hot stars that exist as plasma.

To make fusion energy, scientists must first build a steel chamber and create a vacuum, like in outer space. The next step is to add hydrogen gas. The gas particles are charged to produce an electric current and then surrounded and contained with an electromagnetic force; the hydrogen is now a plasma. This plasma is then heated to about 100 million degrees and fusion energy is released.

Fusion energy explanation (2)

A Vancouver-based company, General Fusion, offers an explanation of how they have approached making fusion energy a reality,

How It Works: Plasma Injector Technology at General Fusion from General Fusion on Vimeo.

After announcing that a General Fusion demonstration plant would be built in the UK (see June 17, 2021 General Fusion news release), there’s a recent announcement about an agreement with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to commericialize the technology, from an October 17, 2022 General Fusion news release,

Today [October 17, 2022], General Fusion and the UKAEA kick off projects to advance the commercialization of magnetized target fusion energy as part of an important collaborative agreement. With these unique projects, General Fusion will benefit from the vast experience of the UKAEA’s team. The results will hone the design of General Fusion’s demonstration machine being built at the Culham Campus, part of the thriving UK fusion cluster. Ultimately, the company expects the projects will support its efforts to provide low-cost and low-carbon energy to the electricity grid.

General Fusion’s approach to fusion maximizes the reapplication of existing industrialized technologies, bypassing the need for expensive superconducting magnets, significant new materials, or high-power lasers. The demonstration machine will create fusion conditions in a power-plant-relevant environment, confirming the performance and economics of the company’s technology.

“The leading-edge fusion researchers at UKAEA have proven experience building, commissioning, and successfully operating large fusion machines,” said Greg Twinney, Chief Executive Officer, General Fusion. “Partnering with UKAEA’s incredible team will fast-track work to advance our technology and achieve our mission of delivering affordable commercial fusion power to the world.”

“Fusion energy is one of the greatest scientific and engineering quests of our time,” said Ian Chapman, UKAEA CEO. “This collaboration will enable General Fusion to benefit from the ground-breaking research being done in the UK and supports our shared aims of making fusion part of the world’s future energy mix for generations to come.”

I last wrote about General Fusion in a November 3, 2021 posting about the company’s move (?) to Sea Island, Richmond,

I first wrote about General Fusion in a December 2, 2011 posting titled: Burnaby-based company (Canada) challenges fossil fuel consumption with nuclear fusion. (For those unfamiliar with the Vancouver area, there’s the city of Vancouver and there’s Vancouver Metro, which includes the city of Vancouver and others in the region. Burnaby is part of Metro Vancouver; General Fusion is moving to Sea Island (near Vancouver Airport), in Richmond, which is also in Metro Vancouver.) Kenneth Chan’s October 20, 2021 article for the Daily Hive gives more detail about General Fusion’s new facilities (Note: A link has been removed),

The new facility will span two buildings at 6020 and 6082 Russ Baker Way, near YVR’s [Vancouver Airport] South Terminal. This includes a larger building previously used for aircraft engine maintenance and repair.

The relocation process could start before the end of 2021, allowing the company to more than quadruple its workforce over the coming years. Currently, it employs about 140 people.

The Sea Island [in Richmond] facility will house its corporate offices, primary fusion technology development division, and many of its engineering laboratories. This new facility provides General Fusion with the ability to build a new demonstration prototype to support the commercialization of its magnetized target fusion technology.

As of the date of this posting, I have not been able to confirm the move. The company’s Contact webpage lists an address in Burnaby, BC for its headquarters.

The overview

Alex **Pasternack** in an August 17, 2022 article (The frontrunners in the trillion-dollar race for limitless fusion power), **in Fast Company,** provides an overview of the international race with a very, very strong emphasis on the US scene (Note: Links have been removed),

With energy prices on the rise, along with demands for energy independence and an urgent need for carbon-free power, plans to walk away from nuclear energy are now being revised in Japan, South Korea, and even Germany. Last month, Europe announced green bonds for nuclear, and the U.S., thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, will soon devote millions to new nuclear designs, incentives for nuclear production and domestic uranium mining, and, after years of paucity in funding, cash for fusion.

The new investment comes as fusion—long considered a pipe dream—has attracted real money from big venture capital and big companies, who are increasingly betting that abundant, cheap, clean nuclear will be a multi-trillion dollar industry. Last year, investors like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos injected a record $3.4 billion into firms working on the technology, according to Pitchbook. One fusion firm, Seattle-based Helion, raised a record $500 million from Sam Altman and Peter Thiel. That money has certainly supercharged the nuclear sector: The Fusion Industry Association says that at least 33 different companies were now pursuing nuclear fusion, and predicted that fusion would be connected to the energy grid sometime in the 2030s.

… What’s not a joke is that we have about zero years to stop powering our civilization with earth-warming energy. The challenge with fusion is to achieve net energy gain, where the energy produced by a fusion reaction exceeds the energy used to make it. One milestone came quietly this month, when a team of researchers at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California announced that an experiment last year had yielded over 1.3 megajoules (MJ) of energy, setting a new world record for energy yield for a nuclear fusion experiment. The experiment also achieved scientific ignition for the first time in history: after applying enough heat using an arsenal of lasers, the plasma became self-heating. (Researchers have since been trying to replicate the result, so far without success.)

On a growing campus an hour outside of Boston, the MIT spinoff Commonwealth Fusion Systems is building their first machine, SPARC, with a goal of producing power by 2025. “You’ll push a button,” CEO and cofounder Bob Mumgaard told the Khosla Ventures CEO Summit this summer, “and for the first time on earth you will make more power out than in from a fusion plasma. That’s about 200 million degrees—you know, cooling towers will have a bunch of steam go out of them—and you let your finger off the button and it will stop, and you push the button again and it will go.” With an explosion in funding from investors including Khosla, Bill Gates, George Soros, Emerson Collective and Google to name a few—they raised $1.8 billion last year alone—CFS hopes to start operating a prototype in 2025.

Like the three-decade-old ITER project in France, set for operation in 2025, Commonwealth and many other companies will try to reach net energy gain using a machine called a tokamak, a bagel-shaped device filled with super-hot plasma, heated to about 150 million degrees, within which hydrogen atoms can fuse and release energy. To control that hot plasma, you need to build a very powerful magnetic field. Commonwealth’s breakthrough was tape—specifically, a high-temperature-superconducting steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide. When a prototype was first made commercially available in 2009, Dennis Whyte, director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, ordered as much as he could. With Mumgaard and a team of students, his lab used coils of the stuff to build a new kind of superconducting magnet, and a prototype reactor named ARC, after Tony Stark’s energy source. Commonwealth was born in 2015.

Southern California-based TAE Technologies has raised a whopping $1.2 billion since it was founded in 1998, and $250 million in its latest round. The round, announced in July, was led by Chevron’s venture arm, Google, and Sumitomo, a Tokyo-based holding company that aims to deploy fusion power in the Asia-Pacific market. TAE’s approach, which involves creating a fusion reaction at incredibly high heat, has a key advantage. Whereas ITER uses the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, an extremely rare element that must be specially created from lithium—and that produces as a byproduct radioactive-free neutrons—TAE’s linear reactor is completely non-radioactive, because it relies on hydrogen and boron, two abundant, naturally-occurring elements that react to produce only helium.

General Atomics, of San Diego, California, has the largest tokamak in the U.S. Its powerful magnetic chamber, called the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, or just “D-three-D,” now features a Toroidal Field Reversing Switch, which allows for the redirection of 120,000 amps of the current that power the primary magnetic field. It’s the only tokamak in the world that allows researchers to switch directions of the magnetic fields in minutes rather than hours. Another new upgrade, a traveling-wave antenna, allows physicists to inject high-powered “helicon” radio waves into DIII-D plasmas so fusion reactions occur much more powerfully and efficiently.

“We’ve got new tools for flexibility and new tools to help us figure out how to make that fusion plasma just keep going,” Richard Buttery, director of the project, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in January. The company is also behind eight of the magnet modules at the heart of the ITER facility, including its wild Central Solenoid — the world’s most powerful magnet — in a kind of scaled up version of the California machine.

But like an awful lot in fusion, ITER has been hampered by cost overruns and delays, with “first plasma” not expected to occur in 2025 as previously expected due to global pandemic-related disruptions. Some have complained that the money going to ITER has distracted from other more practical energy projects—the latest price tag is $22 billion—and others doubt if the project can ever produce net energy gain.

Based in Canada, General Fusion is backed by Jeff Bezos and building on technology originally developed by the U.S. Navy and explored by Russian scientists for potential use in weapons. Inside the machine, molten metal is spun to create a cavity, and pumped with pistons that push the metal inward to form a sphere. Hydrogen, heated to super-hot temperatures and held in place by a magnetic field, fills the sphere to create the reaction. Heat transferred to the metal can be turned into steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity. As former CEO Christofer Mowry told Fast Company last year, “to re-create a piece of the sun on Earth, as you can imagine, is very, very challenging.” Like many fusion companies, GF depends on modern supercomputers and advanced modeling and computational techniques to understand the science of plasma physics, as well as modern manufacturing technologies and materials.

“That’s really opened the door not just to being able to make fusion work but to make it work in a practical way,” Mowry said. This has been difficult to make work, but with a demonstration center it announced last year in Culham, England, GF isn’t aiming to generate electricity but to gather the data needed to later build a commercial pilot plant that could—and to generate more interest in fusion.

Magneto-Intertial Fusion Technologies, or MIFTI, of Tustin, Calif., founded by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, is developing a reactor that uses what’s known as a Staged Z-Pinch approach. A Z-Pinch design heats, confines, and compresses plasma using an intense, pulsed electrical current to generate a magnetic field that could reduce instabilities in the plasma, allowing fusion to persist for longer periods of time. But only recently have MIFTI’s scientists been able to overcome the instability problems, the company says, thanks to software made available to them at UC-Irvine by the U.S. Air Force. …

Princeton Fusion Systems of Plainsboro, New Jersey, is a small business focused on developing small, clean fusion reactors for both terrestrial and space applications. A spinoff of Princeton Satellite Systems, which specializes in spacecraft control, the company’s Princeton FRC reactor is built upon 15 years of research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, funded primarily by the U.S. DOE and NASA, and is designed to eventually provide between 1 and 10 megawatts of power in off-grid locations and in modular power plants, “from remote industrial applications to emergency power after natural disasters to off-world bases on the moon or Mars.” The concept uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to generates and sustain a plasma formation called a Field-Reversed Configuration (FRC) inside a strong magnetic bottle. …

Tokamak Energy, a U.K.-based company named after the popular fusion device, announced in July that its ST-40 tokamak reactor had reached the 100 million Celsius threshold for commercially viable nuclear fusion. The achievement was made possible by a proprietary design built on a spherical, rather than donut, shape. This means that the magnets are closer to the plasma stream, allowing for smaller and cheaper magnets to create even stronger magnetic fields. …

Based in Pasadena, California, Helicity Space is developing a propulsion and power technology based on a specialized magneto inertial fusion concept. The system, a spin on what fellow fusion engineer, Seattle-based Helion is doing, appears to use twisted compression coils, like a braided rope, to achieve a known phenomenon called the Magnetic Helicity. … According to ZoomInfo and Linkedin, Helicity has over $4 million in funding and up to 10 employees, all aimed, the company says, at “enabling humanity’s access to the solar system, with a Helicity Drive-powered flight to Mars expected to take two months, without planetary alignment.”

ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), meaning “the way” or “the path” in Latin and mentioned in Pasternak’s article, dates its history with *fusion back to about 1978 when cold fusion was the ‘hot’ topic*. (You can read more here in the ITER Wikipedia entry.)

For more about the various approaches to fusion energy, read Pasternack’s August 17, 2022 article (The frontrunners in the trillion-dollar race for limitless fusion power) provides details. I wish there had been a little more about efforts in Japan and South Korea and other parts of the world. Pasternak’s singular focus on the US with a little of Canada and the UK seemingly thrown into the mix to provide an international flavour seems a little myopic.

Fusion rap

In an August 30, 2022 Baba Brinkman announcement (received via email) which gave an extensive update of Brinkman’s activities, there was this,

And the other new topic, which was surprisingly fun to explore, is cold fusion also known as “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions” which you may or may not have a strong opinion about, but if you do I imagine you probably think the technology is either bunk or destined to save the world.

That makes for an interesting topic to explore in rap songs! And fortunately last month I had the pleasure of performing for the cream of the LENR crop at the 24th International Conference on Cold Fusion, including rap ups and two new songs about the field, one very celebratory (for the insiders), and one cautiously optimistic (as an outreach tool).

You can watch “Cold Fusion Renaissance” and “You Must LENR” [L ow E nergy N uclear R eactions or sometimes L attice E nabled N anoscale R eactions or Cold Fusion or CANR (C hemically A ssisted N uclear R eactions)] for yourself to determine which video is which, and also enjoy this article in Infinite Energy Magazine which chronicles my whole cold fusion rap saga.

Here’s one of the rap videos mentioned in Brinkman’s email,


*December 13, 2022: Sentence changed from “ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), meaning “the way” or “the path” in Latin and mentioned in Pasternak’s article, dates its history with fusion back to about 1978 when cold fusion was the ‘hot’ topic.” to “ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), meaning “the way” or “the path” in Latin and mentioned in Pasternak’s article, dates its history with fusion back to about 1978 when cold fusion was the ‘hot’ topic.”

** ‘Pasternak’ corrected to ‘Pasternack” and ‘in Fast Company’ added on December 29, 2022