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Microsoft to buy energy from fusion power plant

24/5/2023

Fusion equipment Photo: Helion
The planned operational date of its new fusion power plant is ‘significantly sooner’ than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power, Helion says

Photo: Helion

Helion has announced it will provide electricity to Microsoft through a fusion power plant.

The plant, in Washington state, US, is expected to be online by 2028 and will target power generation of 50 MW or greater after a one-year ramp up period.

 

The planned operational date for this facility is ‘significantly sooner’ than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power, Helion says. According to the company, fusion power plant will provide ‘flexible, scalable, baseload power that is affordable, providing the world a new path to full decarbonisation of electricity generation’.

 

Helion says its approach to fusion energy differs in three main ways from other approaches. Firstly, it uses a pulsed fusion system, which helps overcome the hardest physics challenges, keeps its fusion device smaller than other approaches, and allows it to adjust the power output based on need. Secondly, its system is built to directly recover electricity, while other fusion systems heat water to create steam to turn a turbine which loses energy in the process. Thirdly, it uses deuterium and helium-3 as fuel, which helps keep its system small and efficient.

 

Helion has previously built six working prototypes and claims to have been the first private fusion company to reach 100mn degree plasma temperatures with its sixth prototype. The company is currently building its seventh prototype, which is expected to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity in 2024.

 

‘This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,’ says David Kirtley, Chief Executive Officer at Helion. ‘We are grateful for the support of a visionary company like Microsoft. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.’

 

Uranium legacy sites
Elsewhere, Mailuu-Suu, one of the largest and most heavily contaminated uranium legacy sites in Central Asia, will be remediated thanks to the allocation of grant funding from the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA).

 

The €23mn grant, thought to be the largest since the establishment of the ERA, will help to stabilise and cover more than 2mn m3 of radioactive tailings located along the Mailuu-Suu River in the Kyrgyz Republic. Approximately 350,000 m3 tailings need to be relocated to a safe disposal site. This will prevent toxic material from dispersing the river system into the Fergana Valley, home to more than 15mn people.

 

The project will also finance the rehabilitation of contaminated land and water resources in the area. This is the third such site to be remediated in the Kyrgyz Republic following the successful completion of similar work at former uranium-mining locations in Shekaftar and Min-Kush in 2022.