Enabling Timely and Commercially Viable Fusion Energy


August 13-14 2019

San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront

Controlled fusion has long been regarded as the holy grail of energy–safe, clean, and abundant–and now stands on the cusp of achieving energy breakeven. The multi-national ITER project now under construction in France aims to reach the energy breakeven milestone with arguably the lowest scientific risk among all fusion approaches.  While ITER’s focus is on demonstrating the scientific feasibility of controlled fusion with a cost of tens of billions of dollars and schedule spanning three decades, a growing number of privately funded fusion efforts (e.g., member companies of the Fusion Industry Association) are pursuing higher-scientific-risk paths directly toward timely, commercially viable fusion energy. The private companies recognize that fusion approaches with reduced cost, size, complexity, and eventual nameplate generation capacity are needed to both accelerate development and, eventually, allow for market penetration. This view was encapsulated in the recent U.S. National Academies report A Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research in the second of its two main recommendations: “the U.S. should start a national program of accompanying research and technology leading to the construction of a compact pilot plant that produces electricity from fusion at the lowest possible capital cost.”

Building on the ARPA-E ALPHA program and synergies with the Fusion Industry Association and the National Academies recommendation, ARPA-E is exploring opportunities for a potential new fusion program that is broader in R&D scope than ALPHA while pursuing the same vision as ALPHA: catalyze R&D pathways to lower the cost and accelerate the development time scale for commercially viable fusion energy.  In addition, the potential new program may place emphasis on achieving tech-to-market (T2M) outcomes that can help provide ARPA-E fusion awardees, private fusion ventures, and the larger fusion-energy R&D community a smoother and more sustainable development pathway toward commercially viable fusion energy that includes public, private, and philanthropic support and engagement.

The purpose of this workshop was to address the following questions to help inform and frame the proposed new program:

  • What are the most compelling examples of transformative and off-roadmap R&D opportunities to enable commercially viable fusion energy, especially in two key areas:
    • Advancing the performance of innovative fusion concepts with a plausible path toward timely, commercially viable fusion energy
    • Catalyzing new efforts to develop enabling technologies for fusion power plants with reduced size and nameplate generation capacity (see RFI), leveraging the expertise and experience of R&D communities both within and beyond mainstream fusion
  • What programmatic mechanisms can incentivize more cooperation and mutual benefit between the public and private sectors, and maximize cost-effectiveness of fusion development?
  • What T2M and/or TEA (techno-economic analysis) activities can ARPA-E and its awardees pursue to build the runway for fusion-energy development?  Examples could include (but are not limited to) conducting market analysis, serving as a technical resource for eventual regulatory decision-making, and educating/engaging the full energy ecosystem in appropriate ways (especially private investors, philanthropic foundations, and public-interest advocacy groups)? 

The meeting's output will help direct the actions of ARPA-E towards the most promising and appropriate high risk, high return R&D funding opportunities and management strategies.

Day 1 Agenda

Time Event

Registration; Breakfast on your Own

Bayside Room Foyer (2nd Floor)

Chanette Armstrong, Principal Deputy Director, ARPA-E

Bayside Room, Salons 2-3 (2nd Floor)
9:10-9:35 Goals of Workshop
Scott Hsu, Program Director, ARPA-E
9:35-9:50 Tech-to-market (T2M) perspectives
Malcolm Handley, T2M Advisor, ARPA-E 
9:50-10:00 Q&A
10:00-10:15 Break

Public-private-philanthropic partnerships (P4)

Speakers:  Phil LaRochelle (Breakthrough Energy Ventures), John Jackson (INL/GAIN), Steven Cowley (PPPL)Jane Hotchkiss (Pegasus)
11:35-11:50 Breakout 1 Overview:  Role of P4 in building the runway for fusion-energy development and commercialization
Scott Hsu, ARPA-E 
11:50-1:15 Lunch (provided)
12:30:  Brief remarks by Kurt Heckman (DOE Office of Science), Andrew Holland (Fusion Industry Association), Matt Miller (Stellar Energy Foundation)

Breakout Session 1

Group 1: Bayside 2-3 (same room as General Session)

Group 2: Bayside 1

Group 3: Grand Ballroom Salon I

Group 4: Grand Ballroom Salon J

Report out from breakout session #1

Bayside 2-3
2:50-3:00 Introduction to Networking Activity
3:00-4:00 Networking with “fusion ecosystem” representatives (including investors, regulatory, lab resource teams, and others)

Break and Poster Set-up

Grand Ballroom Salon G-H
4:15-6:00 Poster session/Networking (Cash bar)
Presentations by ARPA-E performers and non-ARPA-E teams
6:00 Adjourn

Day 2 Agenda

Time Event

Breakfast & Registration

Bayside Foyer
8:30-8:40 Day 1 Summary/Readout and Day 2 Objectives
Scott Hsu, ARPA-E
8:40-10:00 Technical R&D perspectives and opportunities
Michael Mauel (Columbia University), Michael Delage (General Fusion), Uri Shumlak (Univ. Washington), Brenda Garcia-Diaz (Savannah River National Laboratory)
10:00-10:10 ARPA-E: Join the team that’s changing what’s possible
Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E
10:10-10:25 Break/networking
10:25-10:45 Breakout 2 Overview:  Transformative R&D opportunities including fusion core and enabling technologies
Scott Hsu, ARPA-E

Breakout Session 2:
Group 1: Bayside 2-3 (same room as General Session)

Group 2: Bayside 1

Group 3: Grand Ballroom Salon I

Group 4: Grand Ballroom Salon J
11:45-12:00 Break/networking

Report out from breakout session #2

Bayside 2-3
12:15-12:30 Next Steps
Scott Hsu, ARPA-E
12:30 Adjourn

By appointment
One-on-one meetings with Dr. Scott Hsu, Program Director

Bayside 1


Presenter Affiliation
Forest, Cary University of Wisconsin
Hitchcock, Dale Savannah River National Laboratory
Langendorf, Samuel Los Alamos National Laboratory

Menard, Jonathan

- Compact Tokamak Pilot

- Liquid Metals

- Structured Cable-in-Conduit

- Superconducting Cables

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Nelson, Brian Zap Energy
Obenschain, Steve Naval Research Laboratory
Paluszek, Michael Princeton Fusion Systems
Schenkel, Thomas Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Sorensen, Caroline Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sutherland, Derek CTFusion, Inc.
Wolden, Colin Colorado School of Mines
Zarnstorff, Michael Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory