As our “System Overload” cover in April explained, every energy source is tainted right now, with oil and nuclear at the top of the list. It’s interesting, then, to see some new money going into the great white hope for clean energy, nuclear fusion—from an oil company, no less.
General Fusion today announced a new round of financing worth $19.5 million from existing investors, oilsands giant Cenovus Energy’s Environmental Opportunity Fund and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment vehicle of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. That brings the Burnaby, B.C. company’s total money raised to more than $54 million, enough to complete its four-year project to demonstrate “net gain” from fusion—a reaction that produces more energy than it consumes. Assuming GF succeeds (a big assumption; it is now about halfway along its timeline), that’s still a long way from generating energy usable to humans. More a proof of principle. But this at least shows some people in the oilpatch are looking ahead.
I’ve toured GF’s plant and it’s a fascinating workshop for mad scientists. They are operating on a fraction of the budget of the big public-sector fusion experiments (see my briefing from last August), yet the consensus among scientists who’ve reviewed its design for “magnetized target fusion” is that, to borrow a phrase from Captain James T. Kirk, it just might work. Thanks to Cenovus and Bezos, within two years we’re going to find out.