Startup Raises $1.8 Billion in Bid to Generate Fusion Nuclear Energy

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) has raised more than $1.8 billion, the largest private investment in the nuclear fusion industry as more investors pour money into energy projects that claim limitless energy with no or minimal wastage.

Founded in 2017, CFS is based out of Cambridge, MA, and plans to deploy the capital to “construct, commission, and operate SPARC, the world’s first commercially relevant net energy fusion machine,” according to a company press release, and thereby, commercialize fusion energy. Besides SPARC, CFS will begin working on a nuclear fusion power plant using the funds.

The latest round was led by Tiger Global Management and other investors include Bill Gates, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Soros Fund Management, the Jameel Family, Italian energy company Eni, Temasek, and a variety of other partners keen on seeing the viability of the technology and the potential it holds to change global energy consumption.

This year, alongside partner MIT, CFS has built and successfully demonstrated high-temperature superconducting magnets which are key to unlocking fusion energy to be used for commercial purposes. SPARC is expected to be commercially viable in 2025 when net energy is derived from the revolutionary machine, that is, more energy output than what had been put in. The power plant, ARC, is scheduled to be completed in the early 2030s.

“From the very beginning, we have strongly believed that this technology could be a breakthrough on the path to producing net zero energy. Magnetic fusion can significantly increase the pace at which the world cuts its carbon emissions. We have worked with the CFS team for these last years because we recognized that their work could transform the energy landscape,” said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni.

Some of the company’s competitors, like Washington-based Helion Energy, have also secured significant funding. Helion had raised $500 million in early November, and investors have promised more funds as the company reaches specific performance milestones. Canada’s General Fusion raised around $130 million this week.

However, there are many skeptics of the technology. The main reason is that, despite claims, no one has actually been able to generate net energy through nuclear fusion. Startups must be able to produce more energy than what has been used to create the nuclear reaction, which is extremely difficult. And then, go on to the next step of building power plants to deliver the electricity through the grid.

“Everything is science fiction until someone does it and then all of a sudden it goes from impossible to inevitable,” said Bob Mumgaard, Co-Founder and CEO of Commonwealth Fusion, as reported in WSJ.

The technology is being touted by proponents as the ultimate solution to the global energy crisis. Fusion experts urged Congress at a recent House Science Committee hearing to invest in fusion-based power plants in the country. 

By Naveen Athrappully

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