Building a voice for fusion energy

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Good Clean Energy is a podcast that tackles one of the most existential questions of our time: how to build a world with abundant, affordable, carbon-free electricity. TAE’s Jim McNiel dives into deep conversations with experts ranging from scientists to innovators to changemakers about the challenges our current electricity systems face and updates on the race for game-changing, clean ways to power our lives.

On this episode, Jim is joined by Jane Hotchkiss, president and cofounder of Energy for the Common Good, a nonprofit organization that advocates for fusion energy as an integral part of a clean energy economy.

Hotchkiss is on a mission to educate the public about the promise of fusion and to support the buildout of the future fusion energy sector. Having dedicated her entire career to the renewable and clean energy space, she has a pretty good idea of what fusion energy’s obstacles will be.

“I always say the biggest hurdles are people. Every decision that gets made to move fusion, once those power devices exist, into use on an electric grid — every decision gets made by people,” she said. “And as much as we like to imagine that if we build it, they will come, history shows if we build it, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing.”

Getting the different fusion companies to think about themselves as one new energy sector is another challenge, Hotchkiss said. Still, fusion’s promise is worth it.

“I think that fusion offers the younger generations hope,” Hotchkiss said.

Covered in this episode:

  • [3:45] Jane’s background
  • [8:32] The mission of Energy for the Common Good
  • [10:10] Why fusion’s biggest obstacle is people
  • [11:29] Fusion’s major gold rush event
  • [12:18] Why TAE solves with the end in mind
  • [15:18] How to get nation states to seriously consider fusion
  • [20:18] Fusion plants can safely be in the middle of a dense city
  • [21:58] What the first showcase of fusion should look like
  • [27:09] The challenge of getting fusion companies to work together
  • [32:17] Fusion needs to be equitable across the planet
  • [33:56] Fusion offers the younger generations hope

The following transcript has been edited for clarity.


Jim McNiel: In 1999, I was approached by a colleague of mine in the venture capital space that told me that he had a company that was going to build a machine the size of a trash dumpster that was going to be able to power all of San Francisco. I thought, well, that’s intriguing. Let’s go take a look. I found this company in Foothill Ranch, California, that was a spin out of UC Irvine — this really brash startup that was focused on building a commercial power plant based on fusion energy. And not just any fusion energy, fusion energy that was going to use hydrogen and boron as a fuel. And not a tokamak, but a completely different device, something that no one else had ever really conceived of as a fusion reactor.

The only thing they had to show aside from their plastic chairs and tables in the conference room was this white culvert, or what is now affectionately referred to as the sewer pipe. And it’s got a little portal, a little window in it. And there’s all this buzz and electrical stuff going on and pps sucking and things. And then there’s this little flash and I’m like, what’s that? Well, that’s plasma. Plasma is superheated matter, and if you can get to a plasma and you can put certain types of elements in that plasma at certain temperatures, you can get them to fuse. And that’s what this is all about.

Can we fuse hydrogen isotopes together and create tremendous amounts of energy? Fusion has the potential of doing that. It’s not just a science experiment, This is practically the way we’re going to change the energy landscape for the planet for centuries to come.

So I invested in TAE. I believe in fusion as an investor, as an environmentalist, as a father. I want a planet that is going to survive, and the best way we’re going to make that happen is to deliver clean energy. And I happen to believe that’s going to come in the form of fusion.

There’s someone else who shares this view. It’s a person who has dedicated her career as an energy and climate warrior to delivering clean energy of all types, solar and wind. But she too has come to the conclusion that to solve this planet’s energy problem, we need the ultimate solution: carbon-free baseload power that’s always available. The answer to that is fusion energy. And our guest today is Jane Hotchkiss, the co-founder of Energy for the Common Good, an organization that’s dedicated to make this vision a reality by educating the population about the promise of fusion.

I’m Jim McNiel, and this is Good Clean Energy — a show where we tap into the minds of experts, innovators, scientists and doers who are working to make an electrified future a reality.

Jim McNiel: Hello, Jane. I’m so delighted to have you here. And in particular, I’m inspired by your location. You guys are in Concord, Mass., which was the birthplace of the American Revolution. You know, 248 years ago we had a couple minute men meet 700 British soldiers and fire the shot heard around the world. And I’m thinking that that was a pretty big initiative in this country to sell Americans, future Americans on breaking from Britain. And today, you are on a mission. You’re a bit of a rebel, if you will, because you’re promoting fusion.

Jane Hotchkiss: Actually, now that you’ve put it that way, I’m listening to the description and thinking yeah. Well, I am a bit of a rebel. I’m usually a bit ahead of where markets and humans are. And at this point, we’re all a little bit ahead of where our new technology is. So I think some of the ideals at play are very similar. It’s the security and freedom from both the pollution of fossil fuel technologies that we’re working towards with renewables today and, ideally fusion coming soon. And likewise, it was the freedom of religion and freedom of government at that point, because there wasn’t much of one, that the colonists saw in this new country.

McNiel: Yeah. Well, you bring up an interesting point where I think there is a parallel, and it also coincides with what you’re doing. You’re talking about educating the next generation about the possibilities of fusion. And so when you speak about the Revolution, you’re saying so many of the people that were behind independence were born in this country and had a different mindset than a traditional Englishman. The kids that are coming up today and the young people that are entering the fusion market, I think they have a very, very different attitude about the future of energy than, say, people of our generation or before us do.

Hotchkiss: Absolutely. It’s fascinating. I mean, fascinating and somewhat as a parent, disturbing. And it makes me feel great guilt, not necessarily for my actions, but for what I have been part of. A history of creating, in terms of climate change and an infrastructure that on its own will continue forward in towards a further heating of the atmosphere. And you look at the, not only our own children, but the children that are younger than they are alive today, and the children that have not yet been born. And you have to pause a moment and think about what’s our legacy. And I have spent most of my career working on ways to make our legacy one to be proud of, one that is ideally a little bit closer to leaving the earth a better place for having been there.

McNiel: Well you talk about guilt. I don’t know if that’s really appropriately placed. You’ve committed your entire career to clean energy. You’ve been an environmentalist from the get-go. I noticed that you worked on a wind project in Nantucket that didn’t happen because obviously they weren’t being forward-thinking. They didn’t want to put the turbines at the dump. You worked on a major solar project that almost got funded but didn’t. And now you’re chasing an even bigger — we’re tilting it to an even bigger wind windmill, which is making fusion a reality. So what’s your best fusion pitch?

Hotchkiss: My best fusion pitch. OK. Well, my best fusion pitch is that of all of the steady state dispatchable resources that I have seen and heard of and investigated, I don’t see anything out there that is comparable to the sort of dense energy that fusion will be capable of producing. Now, that dense energy may be produced by a very small fusion device, or it may be produced by a device that looks the size of a combined cycle gas plant. Either way, it serves to balance the loads that we’re building with intermittent resources, a.k.a. wind and solar and other forms of renewable energy. And it is also a dense form of energy that, at this point, most of the resources would be derived from seawater. So it’s a renewable resource in the sense of, if we run out of seawater, we’re probably going to be in a different state anyway.

McNiel: That’s a bigger problem.

Hotchkiss: A much bigger problem.

McNiel: So it’s baseload power, it’s environmentally friendly, it has unlimited amounts of fuel and once we get there, we no longer have an electrical environment which is going to be costly and scarce, but one that’s going to be super cheap and super abundant.

Hotchkiss: That’s the goal.

Energy for the Common Good’s mission

McNiel: What’s the challenge of getting there? In terms of your mission at the Energy for the Common Good, what are the key points that you’re trying to drive home and accomplish to make this a reality?

Hotchkiss: We created Energy for the Common Good — I have spent my life in and around promoting new markets to open for largely renewable energy. But what really was a change and a challenge to a system that knew how to run on very dispatchable, very understood baseload power coming from fossil fuel and a few large-scale fission plants. When we started, it was a vertically integrated monopoly. And now we have three decision making teams often within what we call a utility system. We’ve got the generation owners, we’ve got the transmission owners, and we’ve got the distribution or the local energy providers that most people know of.

We created Energy for the Common Good to think through what are all the points and barriers that people don’t think about when they are appropriately working very hard to build a new form of energy to bring it to the grids and bring it to other ways of using energy. And I think that’s also important to point out because fusion will undoubtedly be important to our electric grids, but it will also be important to any high-heat-needing industrial resource. And it may produce a lot of liquid fuels.

McNiel: What do you think are the greatest obstacles for a fusion future right now? What are the hurdles?

“And as much as we like to imagine that if we build it, they will come, history shows if we build it, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing.”

Hotchkiss: I always say the biggest hurdles are people. Every decision that gets made to move fusion once those power devices exist into use on an electric grid. Every decision gets made by people. And as much as we like to imagine that if we build it, they will come, history shows if we build it, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing.

McNiel: If we build it, they’ll break into the building and they’ll destroy the mills. That’s what they’ll do.

Hotchkiss: Well, that’s also our history. And I agree. If we build it and it threatens many, many, many, many people’s belief systems, theoretical understanding of the world, and/or personal wealth, yeah, they’ll break down and throw away the device. Or more likely what they’ll do as we’re already seeing is they’ll start to cast doubt into the public mind space.

McNiel: From a pure technology standpoint, from where we sit, I’m rather convinced that this is not a science problem right now. I’m fairly confident in the next couple years we’re going to achieve net-energy out. And once that net-energy out event takes place, it’s kind of that Kitty Hawk moment.

Hotchkiss: 100 percent.

McNiel: It’s that heavier than air flight that’s not a commercial aircraft carrying people across the country, but it’s one crazy bicycle repairman hurtling down a hill.

Hotchkiss: None of you have ever experienced the kind of proportionate scaling that could happen.

McNiel: I do believe you’re right. I think it’s going to be a major gold rush event. I think not just billions of dollars, but globally, trillions of dollars are going to come into this space. Bloomberg has forecasted that the near future fusion energy business could be $40 trillion. I happen to think that’s conservative.

Hotchkiss: I would agree. I know that when we started conversations, we as a small cohort, having been convinced that fusion was worthy of time and energy to invest in. And when I say convinced, keep in mind, TAE was one of the only places, in fact, it was the only commercial space in the country working on fusion in 2012.

Solving with the end in mind

McNiel: Yeah. For many years. TAE’s motto from day one has always been to solve with the end in mind. And the end that we have been pursuing is delivering commercial fusion electricity. And when you start with that goal in mind, it changes everything you do. I mean, it’s one of the reasons why we use a field reverse configuration architecture. It’s one of the reasons why our ultimate end goal is boron, p-B11, and hydrogen. The machine we’re building right now is targeted to achieve about 150 million degrees C. Now that’s not hot enough to burn boron, but it’s certainly hot enough to fuse deuterium and tritium.

Hotchkiss: Right, and that’s why deuterium and tritium are being used by so many.

McNiel: And we believe that p-B11 and hydrogen are the perfect power because it’s aneutronic. There’s just minimal neutrons produced. There’s very, very little waste that’s radioactive in nature. Whatever it is can fit in a paint can and be buried in the earth and be done in a year. So that’s really the cleanest possible environmental footprint we could hope for. But to get this net-energy event, which hopefully is going to open up the capital floodgates, we’re fully OK and committed to proving that DT is viable and being the first company to net energy. So we’re going to do that with Copernicus, and then hopefully that’ll change the kind of the capital outlook for the rest of the world. That’s my goal.

Hotchkiss: And I completely support that goal as I’ve said to many. And it’s funny you said something there in your point, which is you build to the end goal, correct?

McNiel: Yes.

Hotchkiss: Well, and that’s really what ECG is. We look at the end goal, meaning megawatts or heat production. In other words, the action of TAE or CFS [Commonwealth Fusion Systems] or we can keep going down the line of fusion device developing companies. But your goal is to produce it. My goal is to actually see it built and put into, ideally on the grids’ brown fields, replacing the fossil that exists there today and building to meet new need that will undoubtedly be created as we expand our renewable infrastructure and replace our grid infrastructure with a more modern system.

But my point is we have focused on all of the things that happen that are driven by decisions people have to make in that intervening space. So we are thinking about, we want to be there. But there are so many things, so many moments of decision making that happen once you’ve proven that you can do something before you can actually build it and place it on a site and, in the case of the grid, interconnect it to the transmission system.

How to get nation states to seriously consider fusion

McNiel: You were fortunate enough to play a part in moderating a panel at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh last year. And you were obviously exposed to people from all over the world and representatives of different nations and governments. What do you think it’s going to take to get nation states to really take fusions seriously and start investing in it?

Hotchkiss: I mean, they’re nation states who have a huge economic investment in their own native resources. And by that, I mean fossil resources. Those decisions and that engagement’s going to be different from, let’s say, the commissioner for energy of the United African Nations. I think that the biggest hurdle in front of fusion continues to be to distinguish itself from fission. And that’s where the use of the word “nuclear” as an umbrella term is something I’ve encouraged fusion to stop. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t discuss the atomic or nuclear aspects of your technology. But that if you enter a conversation with “nuclear, blah, blah, blah,” there’s only one image that most humans and certainly most negotiating humans, and by the way, very sophisticated people have for nuclear. And so usually what we start with is we discuss fusion as the opposite of fission. Because in fusion, you’re fusing two very, very light atomic particles. And in fission you’re breaking apart very, very heavy ones. But once you get to that place, it’s really the familiarity of what fusion is. And other than it’s use as a descriptor in cooking or cars or many other ways that we’ve used that term. As an energy source, very, very few people have ever even considered it. And when you say, “Well, it’s the source of the stars and the sun,” I mean, it’s fabulous and inspiring, but it doesn’t capture an image in anybody’s mind.

McNiel: Oh come on, you really believe that when you point at the sun and you say, “Hey, that’s a fusion reactor.” People don’t think about it?

Hotchkiss: They think about it, but it doesn’t translate into something humans could do and that it would be safe here. In other words, they can say, “Wow.” But unless you’ve got the science background, you don’t understand necessarily how that would ever be possible as a compact, usable energy source other than the way we collect it in solar panels. I think it’s both the understanding of what it is and then the next big hurdle, and I think this is something you touched on earlier Jim, is making it relevant quickly to all parts of the world. Because I think that there is also a concern — I don’t think I know because I’ve had people approach me about this — that, yeah, well the rich nations will get another form of clean energy and the rest of us will be left to fend for ourselves. To find out what we have left over here. Or if you are the commissioner of energy for the United African Nations, you’re going to use the oil which is in great supply within Africa. And you’re going to use something that is there and that has a known approach to producing electricity or any other energy products.

McNiel: Yeah. But what people need to understand is that a power plant that’s designed to burn natural gas, coal, or oil is going to cost you money just as a power plant that is going to fuse boron and hydrogen. The difference is that the fuel cost of the fusion plant is de minimis.

Hotchkiss: Yes.

McNiel: The rules on boron is a pound of boron is a megawatt a year. So 400 pounds or 500 pounds of boron a year is going to give you a 500 megawatt power plant. So that’s about $250 worth of boron versus how many million barrels of oil. I mean, you need 10 million times more oil than you do boron for the same amount of power out.

Hotchkiss: And that’s a perfect discussion point for those who are within the energy conversation. But those outside of the energy conversation are trying to picture, “Well, when are you going to do that? And who’s producing your power plants? Where do we see it? Where can I go and buy that?” There’s no market developed for what we call the balance of plant, for all of the pieces that will come together quickly to build fusion power plants. And I truly do hope many of them will be fusion power plants that sit on either old coal or oil or–

McNiel: Without question. It makes perfect sense to go and retrofit an existing plant.

Hotchkiss: Right. Well, we want to use the brown fields.

McNiel: I think people have to appreciate that a fusion power plant done correctly can be put right in the middle of Nairobi. It can be put in the center of New Deli.

Hotchkiss: And that’s one of the most beautiful parts about fusion, is that it could be built and operated in proximity safely with people.

McNiel: And, if you do it right, it doesn’t have to be sitting on a 300 hectare facility. It could be sitting in a 100,000-square-foot building in the center of a densely populated city. You don’t need pipelines, you don’t need railcars, you don’t need all the things that you need with traditional power plants.

Hotchkiss: I mean, it could be located at an important switching area for electric trains. It could be located in the middle of a densely populated city, and it could also produce district heating and cooling. I mean, in other words, there’s so many other uses for fusion that could be both coterminous with its energy values or separate.

“That’s one of the most beautiful parts about fusion, is that it could be built and operated in proximity safely with people.”

McNiel: Yeah. So I think that you bring up one of the first challenges is getting people to understand that fusion’s not fission, right? So here are the three planks of our platform. Number one: Fusion is safe. It doesn’t run away, it doesn’t melt down. It’s not highly radioactive like uranium or plutonium. Even DT has a half life of 12 years, right? So even if you go with DT, it’s really, really safe. The second thing is, and this is probably the biggest challenge, is to prove to people that it’s inevitable that we’re going to get there. And then the third thing they need to understand is what happens when we deliver it. That it’s scalable, that it’s modular. It’s scalable, it could be used in all corners of the planet from Antarctica to Ecuador.

How to showcase early fusion

Hotchkiss: Right. And that’s where I’ve thought about, is it in a perfect world? Because that’s what we’re building right now. We’re building in our minds, what would be the best way to showcase early fusion?

McNiel: What do you think would be the best way to showcase early fusion? Where should I put my first fusion plant? How should I showcase it?

Hotchkiss: Well, that has so many options. But what I would like to see in that first showcase of fusion is a place where, one, there’s a community of excitement welcoming it there. Two, it’s operating on a brown field, so you’re showing that it’s sort of the old principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. So you’re recycling as much of that space as you can and you are providing the system support that whatever was there provided previously. But also, In a perfect world, you would show a green grid around it. So you might right now be building some solar or some wind, and you might be modernizing the actual transmission lines with, for instance, a new superconducting magnetic tape-based transmission system, which is actually already happening. And that’s one of the many, what I call, parts of the fusion sector. And TAE is one of the leaders here in having utilized the technologies that are built alongside of the actual device to deliver value to humans today. So, in other words, you’d showcase it incorporating all of the benefits of clean energy. The largest of which is its steady state, it supports grid, it has efficiency numbers that are much higher than any of our current options. And that the people within the system nearby and perhaps within that small grid are benefiting from the energy, but they’re going about their business showing other things that can be done right there.

McNiel: And they haven’t a care in the world that there’s a fusion plant operating down the road, right.

Hotchkiss: Exactly. Further on that, I would like to see the first fusion plants — the NRC just offered a fairly significant decision when they determined that fusion would be regulated akin to some of the medical waste devices and other smaller amounts of radioactive material release as part of Chapter 30. I would like to see that also free up the kind of materials that can be used to build a fusion plant. There’s a lot of green concrete. In other words, there’s a lot of other really great climate thinking in other sectors or in other sources that’ll be important both to fusion, but to building the future that are not capable of being used by existing fission, but could be by fusion. Because fusion won’t need the same level of support or security that the regulations on fission do.

A vision of an electrified future

McNiel: I think it’s important for everyone around the globe to understand that just about every one of the contemplated fusion power plants, whether it’s magnetic or inertial, whether it’s DT or boron, have a much cleaner environmental footprint by far than anything in addition to solar and wind, right? I mean, it’s better than wind. It doesn’t knock down birds. It’s better than solar. It doesn’t take up acres and acres of real estate, right? It’s better than hydro because it doesn’t dam up rivers and hurt the environment. What’s your vision of the future? What does 2040 look like to you in an electrified world?

Hotchkiss: Wow. Well, I think that there’ll be less conflict. Not completely devoid of conflict because humans have never proven the ability to do that, talk about history. But so much of the world’s conflicts have been driven by resources and energy has been the single largest reason for conflict, being a wonderful euphemism for war. I would like to see conflict dropped, and ideally we’ll start to see with an abundance of clean energy sources and an abundance of dense energy sources, that some of the other technologies that will drive climate change tackling. We talk about direct-air capture, we talk about a lot of the other ways that we are going to have to scientifically level our impacts or change the projection of loading of greenhouse gasses on the atmosphere basically to make this planet livable for humans into the future. So I think we’ll get closer to that. That would be wonderful. I’m also a realist to say that’s going to take a long time and there’s going to be some things that happen that surprise us. And there are going to be some things that happen that disappoint us. That’s even the path of fusion. That’s why it’s so exciting to have so many different companies working in so many different ways because I don’t believe there’s going to be one shot on goal. I think there are going to be multiple shots on goal.

McNiel: Yeah. Which one, if you’re going to fill out your grid for the March Madness Fusion competition, who are your choices? What approaches to fusion do you think are most viable?

Hotchkiss: Well, I’m not going to name companies because as the only NGO advocacy organization for fusion, the last thing I wanna do is to pick a horse. No. And in fact, I’ve been asked whether there’d be investment options for me, or did I wanna be part of it? And I’m always saying, well, would I like to walk away a little bit richer for my 40 years in energy? Of course I would. But that path would be against the value systems that I hold, but also the role of, of ECG. So I would say that I think we’re going to see some of the more conventional, which is funny to say in fusion, but it’ll likely be a magnetically focused or — It’s very unlikely that some of the farthest out devices, some of the things that are using physics that are really pushing the envelope are going to be the first amongst the power devices. But it could be, as you’ve said, it could be TAE, it could be Commonwealth Fusion down the street from me. It could be the folks up in Seattle. You’ve got both Helion and Zap, and then you’ve got General Atomics.

The challenge of getting fusion companies to work together

McNiel: In the early days of TAE, so much of our work was really science focused. We’re out of University of California, Irvine. That’s where our original technology comes from. Norman Rostoker, who is really the father of our field reverse configuration architecture. We licensed that technology from UCI and we built the company based on that. And we’ve been very, very science oriented. We’ve published over 200 papers and it was a very kind of science-related culture and community up until just about five years ago. And now it’s kind of moving into more of a commercial space where the fusion companies are waving their own flags and talking about how they’re better than the others. And I wonder what you think about the challenge of getting the commercial fusion industry to kind of move as one and not snipe at each other, but basically promote fusion as a group. What do you think about that?

Hotchkiss: That is actually one of our biggest challenges. And it reminds me of the challenge that was placed in front of me in 2014. Again, long before there was competitive companies, just to get those who were touting the value of a private-public fusion effort to agree to speak together as one voice instead of sniping at each other. Because at that point, it’s hard to get congressional members to support one funding request if they’re hearing different things from different people. I think there’s a huge challenge in getting the fusion companies themselves to think about themselves as one new energy sector, because that’s how I talk about it. And there’s also the challenge of getting physicists, who are brilliant and have been treated for many, many millennium as some of the minds that we follow, to understand that that’s true in science, but it’s not necessarily translating into their ability to build every other piece of — and you may be a physicist, and I don’t mean to insult anybody — but there are other jobs out there that people are just as good at that we need to make sure we’re connecting to.

So within the building of a fusion energy sector, I would like to see the ability to bring in grid experts. And by that, I do not mean in closed sessions. Because that’s the other piece that you alluded to, with all of these different fusion companies competing to bring their devices on, if not first, in that first pack, there’s a very closed door, each boat on its own. And we need to start thinking of this as a fleet that will use similar pieces. Because otherwise how do you build manufacturing to meet scale? Right? We need to have some demarcation line that below which, we’re building power plants and above which needed to be individualized to fit individual technologies, or as I would I often say individual boiler because in a conventional power plant setting, every fusion company ultimately is building the best boiler possible for that power plant.

Now, some may develop ways to deliver direct energy. In other words, AC and DC.

McNiel: Yeah, no, we certainly will. Well I think what the fusion industry needs to understand, because again, look, it is young. It’s extremely young. If you think about commercial fusion, I mean TAE is 25 years old.

Hotchkiss: It hasn’t been born yet. The fusion industry itself hasn’t been born yet.

McNiel: It hasn’t been born yet. Well, I mean maybe we’re still in gestation.

Hotchkiss: I would call us very close to delivery,

McNiel: We’re in the third trimester. What I’d like to say is that people need to appreciate — when I say people, I mean my peers in this industry, all my competitors — that we’re going to be building the largest economic market that’s ever been created on this planet. And a rising tide floats all boats. And when you’re talking about building an industry that is going to be possibly $100 to $200 trillion in the next 50 years, you got a lot to go around. We’re going to need every person who can spell fusion to pitch in, whether they’re a physicist or an engineer or a facilities person or an analyst. We’re going to need every single one of those people and then some to feed–

Hotchkiss: I couldn’t agree with you more.

McNiel: Energy for this planet, so there’s plenty of room to go around, right? What’s more inspirational than saving this planet for the next generations to come?

Fusion needs to be equitable across the planet

Hotchkiss: Energy production has not produced a society that necessarily treats all people equally and fairly, and it has not been distributed in that way. The beautiful thing about fusion, if we do it well versus if we concentrate it in the developed world and we restrict it or simply just put off its expansion and its value to the whole of the planet, that will be as much a part of its impact and that market development as anything else.

McNiel: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. We need to make it equitable across the planet because we have to lift everyone out of poverty, and there’s a direct correlation between access to energy and poverty. That’s something we can address globally.

“Fusion offers the younger generations hope.”

Hotchkiss: So I think that fusion offers the younger generations hope. It also offers them hope alongside something you can plug into. You may not become a fusion scientist, but it’s very likely you’re going to be affected by fusion energy.

McNiel: So Jane, let’s put you in the time machine, which we know is not possible because of Einstein. Damn him. But let’s put you up into the year 2035 and commercial fusion is being distributed around the globe and it’s economically competitive and viable. What’s changed? What’s the world look like?

Hotchkiss: Well, I think the first part of this dream for me is that the fear, the nihilistic unexplainable fear of climate change has started to lessen for certainly the current generation of children who are somewhat frozen in this space. So that we’ve started to show that that doesn’t have to be the endpoint. And I think that it won’t just be with fusion on the grid, it’ll be with the enormous changes in our transportation systems. I think we’re going to see and should see far more use of electric high speed rail. I think we’re going to see different forms of airplane fuels. And I think more than anything we’re going to see a lot of electric — the EV revolution will have become highly, highly visible. Now, that also means that that fusion will be incredibly important, creating the clean energy on the grids to plug in all those cars to. Now, what I’m not clear about is how many of the current generation — what I would call Generation Fusion — will actually even care about driving those cars. But someone will be, because people will be moving from place A to place B.

McNiel: Well, they won’t be driving them. They’ll be just riding in them because they’re going to be driven by robots.

Hotchkiss: Exactly.

McNiel: Great. Well, Jane, it’s wonderful that you’ve committed your career to not just the environment, but also Energy for the Common Good and advocating for fusion, which obviously I’m completely biased and in support of. It’s going to be the thing that really changes this planet for the better. And so thank you for all your hard work.

Hotchkiss: Well, thank you for including me in this podcast and, and for the work that TAE has done for so very long.

McNiel: Yeah. Thank you. It was lovely having you.


It’s clear that Jane is on a mission. She’s on a mission to educate the world about the promise of fusion and to prepare us for the economic boon that’s going to take place when fusion becomes a reality. To teach the workforce that this is the place they want to be. And that there’s hope. There’s hope for a brighter, cleaner, electrified future.

Thank you for listening to Good Clean Energy.

Good Clean Energy is edited and produced by Jennifer Hsu. Mixing and sound design by Wade Strange and Mike Clemow at SeeThruSound. Digital production by Katherine Wiles.

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