Traditional and Novel Supply Chain Constraints for the Growing Fusion Energy Industry

C.P.S. Swanson
Thea Energy,
United States

Keywords: fusion, supply chain


Thea Energy was founded in 2022 with a focus on leveraging recent breakthroughs in stellarator physics and engineering to create a faster, simpler approach to commercializing fusion energy. The growing but nascent private fusion industry faces supply chain constraints, both traditional and novel. Traditional supply chain constraints include the procurement of fusion-specific systems and components. Production of REBCO superconducting tape for high-field electromagnets is increasing, but supply is still not capable of supporting the deployment of fusion power plants at scale. While other fusion-specific technologies such as gyrotron tubes for microwave plasma heating are sold commercially by ITER suppliers, mass-manufacturing does not yet exist. Non-traditional supply chain constraints that fusion faces include workforce development and fusion-specific materials development. Workforce with expertise in fusion-specific areas is currently insufficient in both size and diversity. The fusion industry requires individuals with expertise in areas that until now were limited to experiment support systems. For example, commercial fusion facilities will require large scale cryogenic plants, high vacuum systems, superconducting magnet systems, radiofrequency plasma heating systems, hydrogen isotope handling systems, and systems to withstand high energy neutron flux and particle flux. Fusion-specific materials also pose unique supply chain challenges for the industry, as certain materials have not yet been developed. These materials utilized to withstand high heat flux and plasma particle flux are still in development, as are materials which retain their structural properties under high neutron fluence. Join Charles Swanson, PhD, of Thea Energy to discuss these constraints and insights as Director of Fusion Systems at a leading private fusion company working to scale and commercialize its planar coil stellarator technology.