German research ministry plans to boost nuclear fusion development
Clean Energy Wire
Germany’s research ministry, which is led by the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), wants to accelerate research into nuclear fusion with a new funding programme. “The energy crisis has shown us how essential a clean, reliable and affordable energy supply is. Fusion is a huge opportunity to solve all our energy problems,” said minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who presented a position paper aimed at taking “fusion research to the next level so that a fusion power plant becomes a reality as soon as possible”. Germany already has a “pole position” in fusion research and should make better use of this advantage by launching a new funding programme, she said.
The ministry said its position paper will form the basis “for a strategic reorientation of national fusion research and for the path to a first power plant”, by focusing on the strengthening of German companies so that they can build fusion power plants, and to create a fusion ecosystem. “Following the publication of this paper, a consultation process with the German fusion community (science and industry) is planned so that comments from the community can be taken into account in the creation of a future [science ministry] funding programme.” The paper says that “on the way to energy production by means of fusion there are still major challenges that can only be mastered in close cooperation between politics, science and industry”. It also says an open dialogue with the public about the opportunities and risks of the technology is “of essential importance.”
The FDP have been repeatedly criticised for their enthusiastic embrace of nuclear fusion, which aims to imitate processes happening inside the sun to generate electricity. Stark-Watzinger was widely ridiculed at the end of last year for saying that a German fusion reactor could be connected to the grid “in ten years”, a timetable considered unrealistic even by ardent supporters of the technology. Critics warn that the FDP’s insistence on nuclear fusion is wishful thinking that detracts from immediate steps that are necessary to fight climate change – in a similar vein as the party’s controversial embrace of synthetic fuels for cars, and hydrogen boilers for heating in the name of “technology openness” or “technology freedom”. Germany switched off its three remaining nuclear fission reactors in April.