The common trope about fusion is that it has always been – and will always be – a decade away. So is something different happening now?

Recently, we’ve seen technical achievements in fusion, like near ignition at the National Ignition Facility in August, yielding “a record 1.3 MJ in fusion energy, releasing, for the first time, more energy than the fuel capsule absorbed.”

Fusion startups have also enjoyed a recent barrage of mega-funding. First, General Fusion raised $130 million. Then Helion Energy raised $500 million with another $1.8 billion committed based on whether it hits milestones. And then Commonwealth Fusion Systems closed a $1.8 billion venture round. (Energy Impact Partners, where Shayle is a partner, has also invested in Zap Energy).

So what’s happening here? To find out, Shayle talks to Dr. Scott Hsu, ARPA-E’s program director for fusion R&D. 

Shayle asks: what role will fusion actually play in the future of our energy supply? 

Scott and Shayle cover technical advancements that have enabled rapid improvements in the size and cost of fusion systems. They also discuss key milestones, scaling to cost-competitiveness, and technical pathways. They also examine the economics and physics that will determine how rampable a fusion system might be and targets for the cost of a megawatt hour. 

They also discuss the tritium-breeding blanket Shayle is getting for Christmas.

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

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