CEO of TAE Technologies Says They Will Begin Commercialization of Fusion by 2023

TAE Technologies will bring a fusion-reactor technology to commercialization in the next five years, its CEO Michl Binderbauer announced recently at the University of California, Irvine.

UPDATE- I was emailed by TAE Technologies and they say they will begin commercialization in 2023.

TAE Technologies next fusion device will be called Copernicus and it is designed to demonstrate an energy gain. It will involve deuterium-tritium fusion. Binderbauer expects to pass the D-T fusion milestone over the next two years.

“What we’re really going to see in the next couple years is actually the ability to actually make net energy, and that’s going to happen in the machine we call Copernicus,” he said in a “fireside chat” at UC Irvine.

TAE plans to go to higher temperatures for safer hydrogen-boron reactions.

Notes From the Video and Binderbauer

TAE technology has raised $700 million and have a $3 billion valuation. They are fully privately funded.
They have the largest most modern fusion machine in the U.S.

Making money from spinoffs
Life sciences
Mobility (“revolutionary” electric vehicle drivetrain)
smarter control system 30% better range
Particle accelerators

They will also destroy nuclear waste. They can provide materials testing and cargo security.
They will license confinement technology for D-T and D-He3.

There is a staged return on investment

TAE forecasts the first boron fusion reactor in 2023 or so. Boron Fusion requires 3 billion degrees.
They are at 50 million degrees in early 2019.

They will not build power plants, which is low margin. They will license the technology.

They will keep the company small with a few hundred people.

They are performing 60 shots per day and get 10 gigabytes of data per shot.
Can process the data in 3-4 seconds.
Machine learning computers decide on next experiments and drive the science and development.
Humans like to stay near the center of parameter ranges.
The computer will experiment at the edges

President Obama is on their board and TAE Technologies told me via email that Obama is not on the board. Ernie Moniz who was Energy Secretary is on the board.

2015 achieved containing plasma at will in any configuration they wanted.
They have over 800 patents and the patents have worldwide coverage.

They are focused on end goal of competitive energy.
Academia goes low-hanging fruit without thinking about cost.
They want utility-scale electricity that is cost-competitive.
Proton-B11 fusion is the only answer.

The cost of the first plant will be 8 cents kWh.
They have carefully studied costs.
They have a lot of access to companies who build things this scale

The capital cost for energy is:
* Natural gas plant cost $2000 per kW
* Current nuclear in the USA costs $9000 per kW
* TAE Technologies will be at $4300/kW
U.S. has uniquely cheap gas but TAE will be competitive globally from the start of commercialization. They will have 350 MWe to 400 MWe plant size.

Over the last 20 years, TAE Technologies has been evolving an advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC) approach. The underlying science is being validated every day, and they are now rapidly approaching the reality of a commercially competitive fusion solution. This has resulted in an ever-increasing portfolio of over 800 patents, either granted or applied for globally.

TAE Technologies $700 million of investment has investors including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Venrock, and Wellcome Trust. Their shareholders include Google, as well as global technology firms and universities – all of whom believe that the private sector is best equipped to create this public good.

Competitor General Fusion Is Shooting for Power Generating 70% Scale Prototype by 2023

Nextbigfuture had reported on General Fusion in Canada. General Fusion does not need to demonstrate fusion containment because they are pulsed power systems like a diesel engine or steampunk fusion.

The pilot system will prove three things:
1. Fusion conditions will be repeatably produced
2. There will be a kill chain from neutrons to electrons
3. Economics will be validated.

Simulations will be used to validate the economics and design specifics to move to a 100% system.

The next system after the 70% scale system will be a full commercial system.

The Demo system will cost several hundred million dollars. General fusion is fundraising now.

46 thoughts on “CEO of TAE Technologies Says They Will Begin Commercialization of Fusion by 2023”

  1. They’re just keeping the forest fires going to score cheap political points against the climage-change-denying republicans and especially Trump. Politicians these days care more about their own interests than the interests of the people they are supposed to serve.

  2. Email a policy expert. Someone who knows NEPA and how BLM and USFS approvals work. Sure I agree that the state has the funds, but even if the state wants to pay for and do the work, you have to go to the feds for an approval to do work on their land (the majority of the land that has issues) and you have to lease or buy it from them, otherwise its a federal project where the state contributes and has to be initiated by them. With the USFS and BLM getting cuts of about 15% across the board in 2017, actually trying to project manage and get an approval for a project of this magnitude would take years, since both federal agencies that would need to be involved are seriously understaffed. Contact a project manager who specializes in NEPA and CEQA approvals, someone from AECOM or ICF should be able to explain to you how this stuff works. California could amend CEQA to help make the process more streamlined from their end, but you need the feds to make a change to NEPA, or deal with a roughly 2 year approval process to get any work done. There are plenty of ways to actually accomplish the work, but its getting the federal agencies to allow it to happen, that is the biggest hurdle.

  3. Who owns the land?

    Two words for ya: Sovereign Immunity

    The Feds don’t have to do a thing. Like they didn’t when the EPA polluted the Colorado River.

  4. Who owns the land? Can I go start cutting down trees in my neighbors yard ? California does not own the land so it is illegal for them to do anything on that land without permission (an approvals process) on federal land. So no California cannot do squat without the blessing of the USFS and BLM or whatever federal agency that controls the land.

  5. It’s a federal law they are waiting on. According to NEPA the state cannot do work on federal land without going through federal NEPA approvals . There are other laws like NHPA and the Endangered Species Act that also trigger a bunch of approvals being necessary from the federal gov. If the state just sent out crews to do work, they would be breaking federal laws and the contractors they hired and the state would be liable for any damage they caused. No contractor would take the contract without the approvals. So to do this work in California, with no excuses like you suggest, you have to destroy/break NEPA and CEQA and NHPA and a bunch of other laws then fight it out in the courts. Or the federal government could start funding the USFS and creating contracts that allow the state to get heavily involved. No matter what it starts with the federal government getting its act together, or transferring the land to California. You cannot preform work on a property without ownership or permission from the owner (and in this case the USFS owner requires a lengthy approval process), this is basic property and development law. The best way to handle it in the way you want would really be for the state or local governments to take a long term lease on large tracts and get a development approval that allows for tree and underbrush removal near population centers by allowing them to zone it as agricultural use. That would be that fastest way, but you still need the federal gov on-board.

  6. Why not cut the trees and burn them in boilers to make electricity. You could come close to break even on cost,create thousands of jobs and you could scrub the plant exhaust with old style baghouse’s reducing air pollution. If you wanted the thousand or so megawatts of new grid power could be used to power desalination plants, more water is always good. Curses to blessings its the way you look at things.

  7. My favorite part of this was being banned from Ars Technica for a day because I was arguing with a liberal who claimed to be a forest management professional, and they were implicitly claiming the fire triange wasn’t real and that California couldn’t get any where by removing fuel — it was really global warming, not bad land management.

    What really torqued them off was my posting a link to an greeni weenie group filing lawsuits to stop PG&E from trimming their tights-of-way, one filed days before the fires.

  8. Another thing to note: there is a strong correlation between the cost of lumber and the cost of construction for housing (minus land cost). More logging in CA would reduce the price of lumber and therefore make housing more affordable.

  9. I have tried to email some experts. Roger Bales, Distinguished Professor of Engineering, UC Merced gave a reply. I was thinking 2 -5 million acres need urgent action.

    Roger said more is needed. He mentioned $6-8 billion worth of work on the US federal lands part.

    Director, Sierra Nevada Research Institute
    Adjunct Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley

    Dear Brian,
    Good issues. The largest land manager in the state, USFS, estimates they have 6-8 million acres in need of restoration. Forest restoration is costing about $1000 per acre. There are other lands under other owners in need of restoration. 

    It’s going to be challenging to really ramp up controlled burns and mechanical thinning, but more can be done. We’re working on strategies.

    Managed wildfire is also an important tool.

    The wildland-urban interface is another issue.

    Hope this helps.

    Roger Bales, Distinguished Professor of Engineering, UC Merced
    Director, Sierra Nevada Research Institute
    Adjunct Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley
    Director, UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative
    Director, Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

  10. That’s a very good point. Places like Paradise CA are probably going to eventually burn no matter what anybody does.

    The result is stricter building codes for new relatively “unburnable” buildings (like Los Angeles has for new structures going up in certain areas – zero have burned so far) while the old ones become uninsurable. Probably about 3% of California’s population (over a million people) will eventually have to relocate or rebuild to the new standards.

  11. The holdup is federal funding that was perfectly adequate 20 years ago clearly isn’t today, and the federal government is too dysfunctional to avoid even a routine budget agreement that is leading to a shutdown.

    Combine that with a sitting president who has veto power and prefers to see California burn rather than admit that the climate has changed.

  12. So you’re admitting it’s waiting on federal action…which is actually a pretty big excuse, isn’t it?

  13. That’s not how it works.

    California could complain that federal court buildings are unsafe and/or dirty, but they’d need to have the U.S. Marshalls invite the state and local law enforcement in to help secure the buildings.

    The state police can’t just “invade” a federal building in the name of safety unless its a one time emergency. And even if they did and were tolerated for some reason, they would have no legal jurisdiction to actually arrest or detain anybody.

  14. The plasma arc pyrolysis of biowaste doesn’t require a substantial amount of water. And any water associated with the cooling system could be recycled. However, water could be added to the system to produce more methanol through the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen but that insignificant relative to the needs of California. 50% of the water used in California is for the protection of wetland areas, 40% for agriculture, and 10% for urban use. But California’s agricultural industry only produces about 2% of California’s GDP.


  15. So what is the hold up if California is willing to spend the money. I see the hold up as neither side is spending the money. I only see California spending about $750 million and the laws are still not streamlined enough.

  16. Not all its own but with money and pushing to make it happen this year. So they get a lot more done on their own land and and step up with a lot of money and talk to the federal side to get it done. But with less of a get federal done with most or all federal money but with California doing more. California hiring and staffing up fire crews permanently. Getting the logging laws changed and brush work funded.

  17. To put it more simply, the work order has to be issued by the government entity that owns the land, if it’s federal, then the federal government needs to submit the call for bids.

  18. It would take some serious legislative changes. The state has to seek approval from the USFS or Department of the Interior before they are allowed to do anything on the federal land, which then triggers a substantial review process. Then for the state to do it it actually has to do it’s own review as well. Ever here of CEQA, or NEPA ? All of these projects are subject to those laws. SO from a jurisdictional standpoint having California preform the work is impossible without federal involvement and approval and a huge review process. It’s significantly simplified if either the federal government engages in the project and the state helps with the funds or they turn the land over to state control as state forests and such. I have written portions of the approvals for more than a dozen fuels reduction projects and I can tell you to have the state preform the work on federal land is a huge headache, it never ever happens except for major infrastructure that takes years of planning. The approvals from the federal government would take years before they ever cut down a single tree. Several very big laws would need to be reworked, the state government of California is not allowed to do what you say on it’s own.

  19. I do not blame California for the 2017 fires. I am saying somewhat for 2018 and definitely for 2019 and onwards now that the situation is clearly known and the money is there, then there should be hiring and action to clear out brush, dead trees etc… The excuse has been well CalfFire does not have the money. There is $21 billion more. There is $1.5 billion for cap and trade. 50 million tons of CO2 per year from the wildfires.

  20. Brush clearing and getting of grassland or shrubs is part of it. Paradise and other places needed a one to two mile wide fuel break. That means nothing that could burn in that area.

  21. if California stepped up with billions of dollars for brush clearing and controlled burns they would be able to get the federal lands managed too. This is part of the no excuses part of the title. It is California that burns and not DC. If California needs to sue or negotiate later to try to recover then do that.

  22. Harvesting trees on public land or other land can be used to help pay for brush clearing. California’s wildfires may have emitted up to 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

    If California was stepping up with money, they could pay the staffing and the burns on federal lands too. This is the no excuses part of the title. There is money and a massive program of controlled burns and brush clearing would then be met with permission from the federal forest and matching funds.
    Cal Fire is responsible for state lands. They are primarily firefighters but do some brush clearance. Again, not enough money. Yet, Cal Fire has been collecting a property tax fire fee from homeowners in high risk lands and and in adjacent wildland—urban interface areas. However, this money does not go to brush clearance or fire fighting. It goes to “education.” Bottom line, it does nothing for fire fighting and prevention efforts.

  23. Good article. I think the majority of blame always falls on the location or the problem. The federal government of course gets some blame, but a small portion. Whether its a fire in California or a hurricane in Florida or a flood in Louisiana.

  24. So this site is full MAGA now or what? I can’t wait for the next hurricane in some red state so we Californians can blame them for building too much along the coasts, not having sufficient building standards, not building flood walls, etc, etc.

  25. Don’t let the facts get in the way of conservatives pushing their Trumpish “blame it all on California” narrative. Clearly its the state of California’s fault for their being a historic drought and record high temperatures and low humidity, etc. Not nature, not god, its all California’s fault.

  26. The deadly Paradise Fire was on what they call the wildland urban interface. This was mostly on grassland mixed with shrubs and sparse pines. All the forest management in the world wouldn’t have stopped or prevented this fire Brian.

  27. California has been following US forest service management guidelines since the 1950’s. That policy was to put out any forest fires regardless of size or were they were. Those guidelines didn’t include any controlled burns or forest thinning.. The forest service started experimenting with controlled burns and thinning about 30 years ago. Despite the success of controlled burns they are still mostly and experiment . Mainly because it cost a lot of money for these programs. The number of acres burned each year is increasing but still way below the amount that currently burns each years. Most of the land in the western US is also owned by the US government.

    Also this isn’t a California only issue. All western states are affected. Some people have also commented that Florida and other south east states do a lot of controlled burns. But controlled burns can only be done under wetter cooler weather to insure the fires don’t become uncontrolled. That means California needs to do most of its controlled burns in 2 to 3 month period in the fall and early winter. Doing it during the spring and summer when it almost never rains and the temperature is in the 90’s is not a good idea. In the Southeast There is rain most months of the year with each month getting at least some rain and high humidity levels so Southeast states have a lot more time during the year to do controlled burns.

  28. who insist on underfunding forest management so the rich can get a tax break

    The vast majority of the ‘underfunding’ of forest management in modern times occurred in the Obama years.

    Europe isn’t ‘smarter’ than the US. Macron and Merkel have exhibited Class A moronity in their decision-making, for example.

  29. CA revenues are sensitive to wild swings in range because of California’s idiotic overdependency upon income taxes and, specifically, income taxes levied on the top 10%.

    Other states have a balance of property, sales and income taxes or no income taxes at all. Yes, even high pop states like Florida and Texas.

  30. The Camp Fire started on federal land.

    Yet PG&E just filed Chapter 11 because of its culpability in those fires that occurred on federal land?

  31. How Can There Be a $21 Billion Budget Surplus and a $20+ Billion Forest Problem at the Same Time?

    The exact same way that there can be a $21 Billion surplus and $450 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (with real actuarial math, more like $1.2 trillion).

    The politicians have that surplus all planned out and it isn’t for roads, forestry, etc. It’s all gonna be for new pork and graft and programs (single-payer-that-doesn’t-actually-treat-anybody, anyone?) to spread around. Period.

    Why pay forward for the future when the corrupt Democrats (GOP has NO CONTROL in Sacramento: FACT) can splurge grasshopper-style today?

  32. In CA building is a local matter, so unincorporated areas in the hills have these sprawling, unplanned, unzoned, extremely low-density rural developments. Firetrucks physically cannot get up these steep one-lane gravel roads. In the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, there are more forest fires, and more people, than in California’s mountains, but the damage that fires cause is negligible. Part of the reason is the medieval tradition of living in high-density towns surrounded not by forest but by a firebreak of large fields, on the other side of which lies the forest. Another reason for the low damages is there is no PG&E in France or Spain.

    Another big part of the problem is that the EU is, to put it bluntly, smarter than the US. Its people and institutions are smarter and more science-oriented. They do not have a Republican Party, or a Trump, or the idiots who vote for these people, who insist on underfunding forest management so the rich can get a tax break. The EU does not have a paralyzed government unable to take any action on forest management. The EU is not trying to take advantage of the situation to profiteer from logging. Forest management involves not just the inconvenience of fire and low air quality; deforestation, and the drying of the climate, and soil erosion are all existential threats that have caused the collapse of other societies. Oversimplification of the subject as “solvable” by “raking” is, frankly, fucking stupid.

  33. I like that– especially the deposition of ashes in the forest for fertilizer.

    But its better to convert the bio-fuel into methanol rather than methane, IMO. Methanol can be used to make electricity in natural gas power plants converted to use methanol (relatively cheap and easy to do) and methanol can also be converted into gasoline– giving California a renewable source of gasoline that won’t add excess CO2 to the atmosphere.


  34. The problem is not mismanagement by the state, but by the federal government. California also pays federal taxes and the land that needs management is mostly federal. Gov. Brown set up a task force when this became a big problem after bark beetles and the drought killed over 100 million trees during the last drought that was going on about 3-7 years ago, the problem has really only been around since then. Ultimately, either the federal government needs to increase funding for fuels reduction projects in CA, or they need to turn the land over to the state so it will have jurisdiction over it and can thus handle it themselves. At the moment the state has to negotiate with the federal government to be able to engage in fuels reduction projects and that seriously slows the process. Brian should stick to writing about science and tech, he does not know at all how these types of projects work and seems to have no clue to how the bureaucracy that surrounds this stuff functions.

  35. The Camp Fire started on federal land.

    Federal land is 46 percent of California’s total area. It’s easy to say “don’t wait for federal money” but 57% of the forest in California is federal land, and it is impossible for California agencies to manage the federal property unless the federal government invites them to do it.

    So perhaps the federal government should gift this land to the state of California first?

  36. No need to burn, forest management with a massive bioenergy industry from the cut trees. There were news about a company few years ago that was developing trucks that could move in the forest, cut trees and turn them to natural gas on the spot with plasma high temperature lasers. The ashes should be kept in the forests as fertilizers, the same as it happens in fires.

  37. Given that CA’s revenues are highly sensitive to the well-to-do doing very well in the stock market I wonder how our budget will really work out given the recent slump in stocks.

    Translation: A projected $21 billion surplus might only be a $4 billion surplus.

  38. Good rant.

    We could also use our “surplus” on desalination plants.
    We could also use our “surplus” on more classroom instruction instead of having minimum days once a week.

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