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UT Researchers Help Influence Fusion Policy, Development

Student works in the plasma laboratory.

Fusion has held promise for a green, almost limitless power source for many generations but has been held up by a variety of technical issues that need to be overcome.

UT researchers have been hard at work answering those questions, from research into the materials required to build fusion reactors and the buildings that will house them, to finding the right materials to contain the plasma that they produce in such a way as to be economically feasible, both in their own right and when compared to other power sources.

Related: Wirth’s Modeling Focused on Fusion

Now, based in part on some of that work and input, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a report entitled “Bringing Fusion to the US Grid” on what will be required in order for the US to launch a fully-function fusion energy pilot plant.

NASEM’s report lays out the strategy that aims to have a fusion plant designed, built, and in operation in the 2035–40 time range.

Related: The Race to Harness Fusion

The new report took in recommendations of the US Department of Energy Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, of which UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering Brian Wirth is a member. UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Nuclear Materials Steve Zinkle, Associate Professor David Donovan, and Research Scientist Ane Lasa Esquisabel have also represented the department in various programs and reports related to making fusion power a reality.

Related: Fusion Thought Leaders Come to UT

That expertise is helping UT take on some of the biggest challenges facing fusion, which itself was deemed a challenge, a Grand Challenge of Engineering, in fact. Those 14 tasks were identified as the most serious issues to overcome, or issues that must be confronted during the 21st century by the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.