Washington, D.C. – The Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES), at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, announced the release of its vision, Building Bridges: A Vision for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, during the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee hearing on December 13, 2023. This FES vision enables DOE to establish the steps needed to help advance fusion energy, including addressing key science and technology gaps in the supply chain and industry, bringing the United States one step closer to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Fusion, the process that powers the Sun, is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of energy. The fusion process produces no harmful carbon emissions or greenhouse gases, offering the potential to provide abundant, reliable, and non-carbon-emitting energy. The new Building Bridges vision seeks to align FES program elements in support of the Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy—which requires aggressively addressing significant scientific and technological gaps to enable one or more viable fusion-pilot-plant designs as part of the effort to achieve the Administration’s ambitious climate and energy goals.
“DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences is poised to shape and execute a vision that will bring all stakeholders, both domestic and abroad, together as we work to engage and develop a fusion energy research, development, and demonstration ecosystem for the 21st century,” said Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “Our goal is to help establish a long-term sustainable and flourishing scientific research enterprise for fusion energy and plasma science that will help accelerate these technologies to commercialization.”
Fusion occurs when two light nuclei combine to form a new heavier nucleus. Creating conditions for fusion on Earth involves generating and sustaining a plasma, which are gases that are so hot that electrons are freed from atomic nuclei. Researchers use electric and magnetic fields to control the resulting collection of ions and electrons because they have electrical charges. At sufficiently high temperatures, ions can overcome repulsive electrostatic forces and fuse together. This process—fusion—releases energy. Generating controlled fusion on Earth, however, is a challenge due to various scientific and technological gaps. For example, it is difficult to obtain a high enough plasma temperature for a long enough time to produce meaningful amounts of fusion power.
The Building Bridges vision aims to build bridges that connect government, academia, and the private sector focused on a staged approach towards fusion energy development. Included in the vison are the following key elements:
- Workforce Development and Sustainment: Ensuring the establishment of sustainable and resilient pathways for diverse and exceptional talent.
- Bridging Gaps: Creating innovation engines with DOE national laboratories, universities, and industry to resolve research and development gaps and support domestic supply chains for fusion energy.
- Transformational Science: Nurturing plasma science and technology discovery translating to innovation impact.
“Our focus is to bring new talent to our fusion ecosystem and support our existing workforce with innovative programs including access to world-class fusion facilities. In addition, we want to build bridges with industry and develop new partnerships that leverage talent and infrastructure to accelerate the science and technology needed to realize fusion,” explained Jean Paul Allain, Associate Director, DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences. “As a part of these efforts, we will broaden and diversify program elements in FES, including emerging plasma concepts to reflect discovery plasma science and technology that could ultimately have a broad impact in society.”
Under the Building Bridges vision, FES will align resources to gain traction toward resolving fusion materials and technology gaps that connect the following three science drivers: (1) sustain a burning plasma, (2) engineer for extreme conditions, and (3) harness fusion energy.
Additionally, FES will develop a Fusion Science and Technology Roadmap that will guide priorities and investments in the coming decade. The development of this roadmap will include input from the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee along with community workshops hosted by DOE’s Office of Science and multiple relevant reports. FES will also work closely with public and private sector performers to prioritize investments in facilities and strategic initiatives, and the office will leverage international partnerships supported by the recently announced U.S. fusion international strategy, which was announced at COP28 by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
“The Office of Science and this program have an incredibly important role in helping to advance fusion energy and make it competitive in future energy markets, but we cannot do it alone,” said Associate Director Allain. “We have established a valuable vision that will guide our engagement with offices across DOE, our national laboratories, industry, universities, non-governmental organizations, communities, the interagency and international partners, as we work toward achieving a clean energy future.”
Visit the Office of Scientific and Technical Information website to view the presentation from the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee hearing to learn more about FES’ vision.