December 2022 Update of Helion Fusion Progress

Helion Fusion CEO, David Kirtley, presented an update on the work as of December, 2022.

They are working on their seventh-generation prototype system and they have had over 10,000 shots with the sixth-generation system. They create and form plasmas and accelerate two plasmas to merge at supersonic speeds. They do not inject beams and operate in pulse mode. they do not hold the plasma for long times like the tokamak approaches.

The VC-funded seventh prototype should generate electricity. They have $500 million in funding and commitments of another $2 billion if the seventh prototype achieves its technical goals.

6th system is working at about 10 kEV (10 thousand electron volts). Over 10,000 shots.
7th system will work at 20 kEV. Want to have it operating by the end of 2023.
8th or 9th systems to get to the ideal operating levels of 100 kEV.

It is taking about 2-4 years to make and start operating each new prototype.

They have computational models of their science work and computationally modeled the scaling of the system.

Nextbigfuture has monitored all nuclear fusion programs and advanced nuclear fission systems. Helion Fusion is one of the programs that is the most promising based upon my comprehensive analysis.

The Operation of Helion Fusion Summarized

Scaling and Science Foundation

16 thoughts on “December 2022 Update of Helion Fusion Progress”

  1. I like to see the shotgun approach to fusion. There is plenty of billionaire money to go around and burn, or make a once in a century new energy discovery. If one succeeds, the implications will be incredible. Either way, we will still end up with boring Solar, Wind, … storage anyway with their economics bulldozing everything else.

  2. Theres an excellent video on Helion on the RealEngineering channel on Youtube. I’m starting to doubt fusion again, but this does seem like Helion at least might be feasible.

  3. Compact fusion is made for thermal propulsion of aircraft jet turbines without the need for fuel. There is the added attraction that a small reactor can produce enough electricity for at least a small town. Don’t assume lockheed skunkworks is not moving in a very amazing direction on this!!!

  4. General Fusion (GF)
    “GF targets prototype by 2015 and a working reactor by 2020,” from NBF 5/19/2012.
    “GF will demonstrate DD-equiv. net (energy) gain in 2016,” and “GF targeting commercial reactor for 2020,” from NBF 5/24/2013.
    GF will demonstrate net gain in 2018 and “GF targeting commercial reactor for 2023,” from NBF 8/18/2015.
    “GF Demo nuclear fusion plant around 2023”, quoting C. Mowry, CEO of GF, from NBF 5/23/2018.

    Helion Energy
    “The Helion Fusion Engine will enable profitable fusion energy in 2019,” from NBF 7/18/2014.
    “If our physics holds, we hope to reach that goal (net energy gain) in the next three years,” D. Kirtley, CEO of Helion, told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.
    “Helion will demonstrate net energy gain within 24 months, and 50-MWe pilot plant by 2019,” from NBF 8/18/2015.
    “Helion will attain net energy output within a couple of years and commercial power in 6 years,” Science News 1/27/2016.
    “Helion plans to reach breakeven energy generation in less than three years, nearly ten times faster than ITER,” from NBF 10/1/2018.

    Lockheed-Martin Compact Fusion
    “Lockheed will have a small fusion reactor prototype (power plant) in five years…and a commercial application within a decade,” from MIT Technology Review, 10/20/2014.
    “Net energy gain in 2020 and commercial power plant targeted for 2024,” from NBF May 3, 2016.

    Tri-Alpha Energy (now TAE Technologies)
    “Tri Alpha says it will produce a working commercial reactor between 2015 and 2020,” from NBF 8/16/2011.
    “Tri Alpha Energy now likely 2020 – 2025….. for commercial nuclear fusion,” from NBF 10/16/2015.
    “Tri-Alpha Fusion to develop commercial fusion by 2027,” from NBF 1/19/2017.
    ”The company will generate net energy from fusion…. in about five or six years,” from K. Bourzac [8], 8/6/2018.

    • Yes, I know the previously stated target dates. Fusion is insanely hard. Even making a skyscraper or other building or bridge dates slip by years.

      Notice: that the fusion doubters and anti-fusion people have to come mainly to my site to keep track of the stated dates because I did the work of writing and recording it.

      They did not track it over 20 years. I did.

      • The guy that wrote the criticism worked at PPPL. Many have been following fusion and fission developments as long [if not longer] than you – myself and Jassby included.

        It would be cool if ITER eventually made enough heat to support operation without the beam injectors, and micro/radio wave heating devices. Everybody’s jaws dropped when LM got into the game in 2014, thinking surely the world’s premier defense contractor (actually a sink of defense contractor mergers) would bring the sheer awesomeness of skunktwerks to bear on the issue!

        A reader can be pro-nuclear in all respects and still highlight that there are A LOT of scammers out there and they get a lot of funding. If their designs had merit, they would have the attention of the world’s best physicists, but these startups do not. You post a lot of scammy engineering. Last week Mr. Weed was back with a 200 ton aerogel space core.

        I appreciate being allowed to comment here. I wish Helion the best, but if their designs had merit, they could do more to convince the establishment labs. Things persist in the blogosphere (the meme reactor hero universe) that are actually wildly outlandish to those who know things (nuclear engineers, physicists at PPPL, etc.).

    • It’s a flaw of short thinking investment methods.
      The way it works, it will NEVER BE on time.

      If you are realistic:
      …you say “Net energy in 10 years and commercial powerplanet in 20 years”, no one will invest in you and then the timeline will be 40 to 80 years. So even though you were realistic when you said it, you will now be accused of being wrong because timeline was multiplied by 4.

      MAYBE it’s a question of comparing timelines vs funding?

      IF we get 1 billion per year, it will be ready in 3 to 5 years.
      At 500 million per year, 5 to 10 years. At 100 million, 8 to 20.

  5. Small correction Brian!
    The ideal temperature for their system is between 20 keV (for Deuterium- Deuterium) and 50 keV (for Deuterium- Helium3). They don’t need that high temperatures because of their excellent Ti:Te ratio and they can get away with a relatively low Q of <5 because of their energy recovery.

  6. Improved fusion reactor materials:

    “The Sandia National Laboratories scientists, currently working at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility (NFF), are involved in tests with materials they hope to use in the construction of future reactors capable of delivering such power sources.”

    “Right now, Coburn and the scientists involved with the research are doing experiments that involve physical and computational tests that aim to assess the amount of damage, gas retention, and recrystallization for samples of materials used in portions of the reactor that will have direct contact with plasmas. Such materials include carbon, beryllium, and tungsten, all of which have slightly different material reactions when exposed to extreme conditions within the reactor.”


    • They claim that this will start operation in 2024, and have net gain. And it isn’t just more thermal energy out than electrical energy in. It’s actually more electrical energy out than electrical energy in. That’s huge.

      It remains to be seen if they’re right. But if they actually get net electricity a year from now, that’s a game changer. And their 10,000 shots on the previous model suggests it will work.

      There’s still lots of room for something to go wrong. But I’m cautiously optimistic.

      Contrast this with a more traditional approach. I think Commonwealth Fusion has a higher probability of achieving a net gain of thermal out to electric in. But I’m not convinced they will ever be competitive on cost with coal or gas or whatever. Helion is a higher risk. But if Helion actually does what they claim next year, then it’s likely to change the entire power industry.

      • Also, it’s worth noting that Helion’s reactor will fit in a standard shipping container. And even now, they aren’t just building a fusion reactor; they’re building a fusion reactor factory.

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