Nuclear fusion is the sun’s ignition process to release energy. In simple terms, but still hard to comprehend if you’re not a nuclear physicist, this is the release of energy when two atoms merge. Scientists are developing this type of energy, but their work is still in its infancy; the energy expended to produce fusion is still greater than the energy released.
But China’s ‘artificial sun’ reached a breakthrough as recently as mid-April this year. They produced, sustained and restrained superhot fusion plasma for 403 seconds, bringing commercial-scale fusion energy within reach.
Investing in Safety
Despite the negative impression of nuclear power (weapons, Chernobyl, Fukushima etc.) it’s at the bottom of the list which measures deaths per unit of electricity produced by different types of energy. Coal is the most dangerous energy source, largely owing to the pollution it produces, leading to substantial deaths and diseases.
As such, some very high-profile tech billionaires are investing in nuclear fusion. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Peter Thiel are all spending heavily on research to develop cost-effective reactors, with companies such as General Fusion and TAE Technologies doing the heavy lifting.
CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk wrote in a tweet that nuclear power is critical to national security, while venture capitalist Marc Andreessen asked for “1,000 new state-of-the-art nuclear power plants in the U.S. and Europe, right now.”
Support is Gaining Momentum
This new iteration of nuclear power is getting the support of Silicon Valley and other key tech regions. As long as tech companies continue to financially fuel the nuclear industry, greater innovation will seen in the development of nuclear hubs for the first time in decades.
Investment in nuclear energy grew around 3,642 percent by dollar value and 325 percent by volume, between 2015 and 2021, according to Pitchbook. And venture investors dedicated a record $3.4 billion to nuclear startups this year. While this is meaningfully lower than the investment in other renewable energy sources, it displays significant confidence.
More and bigger investments in the sector will be supported by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which offers companies tax breaks and other financial incentives for supporting green energy, including nuclear power. Also, the U.S. Congress approved record funding for a public-private partnership program to build new fusion devices, encouraging private companies to invest more in the sector.
The Biggest Challenge
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, fusion needs vast amounts of initial energy for usable energy to be released. It will take the brightest scientific minds of our time to solve this riddle.
Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our Tech sections to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.