Greenlight for construction of world’s first fusion power plant

Article by Aniqah Majid

Longview Fusion Energy Systems
The plant is expected to deliver up to 1,600MW of energy to the US grid once at full capacity

FUSION energy startup Longview Fusion Energy Systems has officially contracted EPC firm Fluor to construct its world-first commercial laser fusion power plant.

Last April, Fluor, a global engineering firm which mainly provides services to the oil, gas, and power industries, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Longview to serve as its engineering and construction partner for its planned fusion energy facilities.

With its commercial fusion plant, Longview plans to deliver up to 1,600 MW of energy to the US grid once at full capacity. Longview has said that Fluor will finish the designs for the plant by late 2027, and that the plant will be operational five years afterward. 

The California-based company is working to a 15-year plan, with the aim of delivering a separate commercial fusion plant by the early 2030s that will deliver 50 MW(e) to the grid, with a scale up to 440 MW(e). Longview expects groundbreaking for this facility to occur within the next five years.

Recent breakthroughs in fusion energy

Talks of commercialising fusion in the US were kickstarted in December 2022 when the inertial confinement fusion (ICF) research device, National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), finally achieved fusion energy gain.

Built in 2009, the facility conducted an ICF experiment which involved 192 high-powered lasers firing heat of more than 3 million degrees Celsius into a metal cylinder called a hohlraum, which contained a peppercorn-sized mix of deuterium (D) and tritium (T).

With the heat fusing the atoms together, the reaction produced 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output from 2.05 MJ of laser energy, a 54% gain.

NIF broke this record again in July of last year, producing 3.88 MJ from 2.05 MJ of laser energy, an 89% gain.

Building the first commercial fusion plant

Building on NIF’s laser fusion breakthrough, the new plant will combine modern, efficient lasers and a patented design to replicate the conditions several hundred times a minute, delivering over one million horsepower.

Longview’s COO, and former NIF construction and project manager, Valerie Roberts, said: "We are building on the success of the NIF, but the Longview plant will use today's far more efficient and powerful lasers and utilise additive manufacturing and optimisation through AI."

Correction: this article stated that the groundbreaking of the 1,600MW fusion plant would occur within the next five years, and that Longview is planning to run a separate pilot plant. Upon clarification, Longview has stated that it plans to run two separate commercial plants, with the 50MW(e) expected to break ground in the next five years. 

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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