Billionaire Jeff Bezos-backed nuclear fusion startup General Fusion has raised more than $100 million in new funding towards the design and construction of an experimental power plant to demonstrate its fusion power technology.
In addition to Bezos’ personal investment, Singapore-based Temesek Holdings is providing $65 million to the project and Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, is providing an additional $38 million, according to a December 16 press release from General Fusion.
General Fusion says the funding is needed to complete a prototype facility confirming the performance of the company’s magnetized target fusion technology as a step on the path of creating the first commercially-viable fusion power plant.
Prior investors in General Fusion included, Bezos Expeditions, Braemar Energy Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, the Cleantech Practice of Business Development Bank of Canada, Disruptive Technology Advisers, the DLF Group, Entrepreneurs Fund, Gimv, Global Ventures, Hatch, I2BF, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, and SET Ventures, giving the company more than $200 million in start-up funding.
Novel Approach to Fusion
General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion system uses a sphere filled with molten lead-lithium that is pumped to form a vortex. A pulse of magnetically-confined plasma fuel is then injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of pistons compress the plasma to create fusion conditions. The heat from the reaction is captured in the liquid metal and used to generate electricity through a steam turbine.
The company claims its design has a number of advantages over past fusion reactor designs, among them being, the steam-driven pistons used to compress the plasma to fusion conditions obviate the need for exotic lasers or giant magnets found in other designs.
The new investment validates the company’s fusion technology as a source of energy that does not emit carbon dioxide, said Christofer Mowry, General Fusion’s CEO, in a press release announcing the new funding.
“The world is pivoting toward fusion as the necessary complement to other technologies which, collectively, will enable the carbon-free energy future we all need,” said Mowry. “The success of our financing is further evidence that the global stakeholders in this endeavor are leaning into this challenge with action.
Not Ready for Primetime
While nuclear fusion sounds good in theory, it is decades from usefulness, if ever, and is not necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., senior policy analyst with The International Climate Science Coalition.
“Carbon dioxide is not toxic to humans or the environment at any foreseeable levels, and emissions are declining already in the United States due to improved efficiencies and the use of natural gas so developing a new, expensive source of energy with the primary goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in is unnecessary,” Lehr said. “I actually had a nodding acquaintance with Albert Einstein while a student at Princeton in 1953 and 1954 and he said then commercial nuclear fusion energy was 50 years away.
“In 2003, 50 years later, nuclear physicists again estimated nuclear fusion was still 50 years away,” said Lehr. “I believe it will always be 50 years away which is to say it will never be commercially available to our nation, while, by contrast nuclear fission, already in operation, will become more efficient, safer, and widespread in the centuries ahead.”
Kevin Stone ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas