Powerful momentum
G7 Summit

Powerful momentum

The World Fusion Energy Group is seizing the momentum towards abundant carbon-free energy by fostering global collaboration, accelerating research, development and deployment of fusion energy technologies, and setting the stage for a community working coherently towards this one common goal

From the very start, more than half a century ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been bringing the fusion community together.

Today, we are witnessing extraordinary change in the atmosphere surrounding the progress of fusion energy. Fuelled by the urgency of the quest for net zero carbon emissions and energy security, there has been immense public interest in the recent breakthroughs in fusion energy technology.

From visiting cutting-edge facilities to engaging in global forums, I have seen the passion and innovation driving the field forward.

While there is increasing industry participation and private investment, there is also a keen recognition of the importance of the public sector, home to valuable facilities and decades of accumulated knowledge. Both sectors need to be nurtured to ensure they are complementary and sustainable.

Collaboration will be key to the success of this new emerging ecosystem. This is the time to bring together stakeholders to help accelerate the fusion energy journey from the experimental stage towards demonstration and ultimately commercialisation.

It is why I established the World Fusion Energy Group, a global initiative to foster collaboration across the fusion energy spectrum. Its inaugural meeting will be hosted by the IAEA and the government of Italy in Rome on 6 November.

Its mission is ambitious and clear: to accelerate the research, development, demonstration and deployment of fusion energy technologies. By bringing together stakeholders from industry, government, academia and regulatory bodies, we are setting the stage for a cohesive fusion energy community working coherently towards common goals.

Into the broader energy market

The World Fusion Energy Group is not just about fostering dialogue; it is about creating a tangible impact, enhancing global cooperation, bridging technological gaps and helping to establish a regulatory approach conducive to the growth of fusion energy. For example, we are coordinating the development of fusion key elements that will provide a common understanding of the considerations essential to progress. Moreover, we are committed to raising public awareness and helping to integrate fusion energy into the broader energy market.

Fusion has been moved forward by advances in computational tools and scientific understanding, by the path paved by ITER in designing, fabricating and assembling components, and by recent breakthroughs, including achieving scientific energy gain. Recent progress in developing advanced superconducting magnets, in devising regulatory approaches, in getting new projects off the ground, and in the announcements of site locations has also provided momentum.

The vital role of governments is clear. Strategic public investments and support for public-private partnerships are crucial to shifting fusion energy from the laboratory to the grid. Sustained funding, policy support and international collaboration are key drivers to success because there are still serious challenges to overcome. To demonstrate long-lasting operation or high repetition rates, progress is needed in fusion plasma confinement technologies. Engineers and scientists still need to develop the materials able to withstand the extreme conditions inherent in the process. The fuel cycle must be closed, safely and efficiently. And, finally, we need to be able to extract and harness the enormous amount of energy produced.

The IAEA already plays a key role in hosting the Fusion Energy Conference and creating other forums for the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge and ideas. At the 2023 Fusion Energy Conference, we launched the first World Fusion Outlook, a global reference on the latest developments in fusion energy.

Our coordinated research projects bring together the public and private sectors on subjects of importance to the international fusion research and development programme. The IAEA supports research by providing and managing important atomic and plasma physics databases, and we serve researchers and operators by curating fusion data to make sure it is correct. We also publish the longest running academic journal on fusion.

Intensified involvement

Over recent years, we have intensified our involvement in the sector, resulting in the natural expansion of our activities. IAEA is now also active in the areas of fusion engineering and safety and in addressing environmental concerns, developing regulatory frameworks and examining socio-economic dimensions.

The next leg of that journey will require a concerted effort from many sectors. We need to prioritise the development of enabling technologies and materials, strengthen public-private partnerships, and harness private capital to drive commercial viability. The IAEA and the World Fusion Energy Group are committed to facilitating and supporting these endeavours.