Fusion holds the potential to revolutionize energy generation around the globe, and innovators in the private sector have been working hard to make this potential a reality.  Public-private partnerships to develop and deploy this critical technology will be instrumental to its long-term success.  To this end, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is exploring cost-sharing and public-private partnerships in an effort to expedite fusion commercialization, with comments due May 15—we encourage any interested persons to comment!

On April 20, 2020, DOE Office of Science Fusion Energy Sciences program published a Request for Information, asking interested stakeholders to provide input about the topical areas, program objectives, eligibility requirements, program organization and structure, public and private roles and responsibilities, funding modalities, and assessment criteria” of a fusion cost-sharing or public-private partnership initiative.  The partnership will be modeled after other similar undertakings, such as the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) program, the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program, and NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.  The funding will be granted through a “performance-based milestone-driven approach.”

Comments will be accepted through May 15, 2020.  More about this program can also be found on a post by the Fusion Industry Association, found here.  This is a major step for the fusion community and we would encourage any interested parties to submit comments.

This cost-sharing program will complement DOE’s 2019 Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program.  DOE launched INFUSE to provide private companies access to DOE national laboratories and other avenues of expertise for the purpose of assisting private companies in developing fusion technologies.  The INFUSE program provides support to DOE labs, but does not grant funds directly to private companies.

DOE right now is very actively seeking input from the atomic energy community on how best to support innovation in the broader fusion and fission fields.  Apart from the above-described RFI, for example, the newly formed National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) previously issued an Expression of Interest related to a potential Partnership for Advanced Construction Technologies program.   NRIC is interested in partnering with industry to develop and/or demonstrate advanced construction technologies and processes that would be transformative in nuclear energy system project economics and schedule success.  Comments related to this expression of interest are due May 16, 2020.

Please contact blog authors for more information or for assistance in drafting responses to the DOE requests.