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Bruce Power and NII sign fusion power venture

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Bruce Power and the Nuclear Innovation Institute have signed a memorandum of understanding that could eventually see a fusion power plant built in Ontario, perhaps even locally.

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On Wednesday, the organizations announced the memorandum of understanding with British Columbia-based General Fusion to assess the potential deployment of a fusion power plant in the province, including in the Grey-Bruce-Huron region known as the name Clean Energy Frontier.

“In order to achieve a net zero future here in Ontario and Canada, we need to continue to expand clean electricity generation from our existing facilities and we will need innovation as part of the future,” said Mike Rencheck, President and CEO of Bruce Power. said in a press release. “Our partnership will explore these innovations and leverage the capacity established in this region as a hotbed of new technologies that will contribute to a zero-carbon future.”

Fusion is the process of combining atoms to produce energy. Hydrogen isotopes called deuterium and tritium are heated to extreme temperatures, causing them to collide and fuse into a heavier nucleus, a process that releases a large amount of energy. But the challenge with fusion is how to create the conditions in a controlled way that can be used to deliver energy.

General Fusion, based in Burnaby, British Columbia, is working on the technology to do just that and announced last month that it had met certain performance targets in a prototype of its planned fusion demonstration plant.

The company’s Magnetized Target Fusion technology uses a collapsing cavity of liquid metal to create the fusion. It’s an approach that’s been around for decades, but the company has built on it with new technologies, including high-speed digital control systems, advanced composite materials and a 3D printing process.

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Late last year the company began building a smelting demonstration plant in the UK which should be operational by 2025. The plant will not produce electricity by design, but the company will take advantage of this machine to build a commercial smelting pilot plant which will be. General Fusion says it is on track to have fusion energy systems and produce clean energy fusion by the early 2030s.

A rendering of the interior of the General Fusion demonstration plant being built at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Culham Center for Fusion Energy near London, UK.
A rendering of the interior of the General Fusion demonstration plant being built at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Center for Fusion Energy near London, UK.

“Our unique technology, developed over two decades, solves the long-standing challenges of building practical fusion power plants for global energy markets struggling to move away from fossil fuels,” said General’s CEO. Merger, Christofer Mowry, in a statement. “The successful performance of this important prototype confirms that we are on the path to success.”

Bruce Power spokesman John Peevers said via email Wednesday that they had been in conversation with General Fusion for some time to discuss potential partnerships and were excited about the technology’s potential to help Canada to achieve its net zero emissions goals.

There was no indication of when the technology might be operational at a facility in Ontario. Peevers said the design process continues to evolve and there are many variables, including establishing a regulatory framework, that would define the size of the operation.

The NII, Bruce Power, its suppliers and other community partners have worked on a number of projects involving new clean energy technologies.

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Last year, Bruce Power and Westario Power signed a memorandum of understanding to explore projects focused on removing and offsetting carbon emissions, such as incentives to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles and the installation of charging stations in the area.

Rencheck said in an interview last month that the company continues to pursue new clean energy projects, initiatives and advancements.

“He’s looking at isotopes, he’s looking at energy upgrades, he’s looking at new forms of production, but he’s also looking at things like hydrogen, can we make synthetic fuels on site, can we have carbon offset projects in the community, can we look at other forms of power generation,” Rencheck said. “It’s really about taking what we’re doing here at the site and complementing it with other technologies so that we can expand our presence not just here in the region, but across Ontario.

NII President and CEO Bruce Wallace said Bruce, Gray and Huron counties are well positioned to leverage its strengths to develop clean energy initiatives.

“NII’s Clean Energy Frontier program has a network of more than 60 clean energy companies in the tri-county region that are committed to advancing Canada’s net zero emissions goals,” said Wallace.

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