Nucor eyes zero-carbon fusion power for steelmaking

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Sources: Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; CMCM staff

Nucor recently announced a $35 million investment in Everett, Wash. fusion process technology developer Helion Energy Inc., coupled with a collaboration aimed at deploying by 2030 a 500-megawatt power plant offering baseload, zero-carbon electricity directly to a steel production line. Mimicking the sun, fusion occurs when two atoms combine into one and release energy. A power unit scaled to steelmaking electricity loads would mark a world first in fusion energy and pave the way to decarbonizing the entire industrial sector. Helion Energy has built six working fusion prototypes and is the lone private fusion technology player to achieve the requisite 100-million°C plasma temperatures. Its seventh prototype, Polaris, is expected to be the first device to yield electricity generated from fusion. 


The Helion Energy approach to zero-carbon electricity (1) Heats helium-3 and the heavy element Deuterium to plasma conditions, with magnets confining the plasma in Field Reversed Configurations; (2) Magnets accelerate FRCs until they collide in the center of the assembly; (3) Merged plasma is compressed until it reaches 100-million°C, where fusion occurs and plasma expands; (4) Expanding plasma pushes back on the magnetic field, inducing current that is directly recaptured as electricity.

“This agreement with Helion can change the entire energy landscape and forever change the world, embracing a clean energy future we could have hardly imagined a few years ago,” says Nucor Chair Leon Topalian. “We believe in the technology Helion is building and are proud to make this investment.” 

“We’re passionate about helping the world reduce its dependence on carbon-based energy sources with abundant, clean fusion power,” adds Helion CEO David Kirtley. “[Nucor’s] commitment to providing customers with the lowest embodied carbon steel and steel products available makes them a great fit for deploying 500 MWe of fusion power.”

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