08 Aug 2023, 13:33
Sören Amelang

German start-up Marvel Fusion invests in US, laments lack of support in Europe


German nuclear fusion start-up Marvel Fusion has blamed a lack of government support in Europe for its decision to build a laser fusion facility in the US, in a $150 million public-private venture. “The US is much further ahead in this respect,” Marvel chief operating officer Heike Freund told business daily Handelsblatt. “There are clear milestone-based funding programmes, as well as a regulatory framework with a clear planning horizon.” Freund lamented the fact that the German government’s recent fusion energy strategy – led by the research ministry under the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) – has not yet been supported by concrete budgets, adding that there is no instrument at the European level either. “That has to change, and something must be developed here so that we can tackle our next project in Europe and Germany,” Freund said. Munich-based Marvel Fusion said it will build a laser fusion facility with Colorado State University in a public-private partnership to take a decisive step to "move forward in turning the conceptual technology into a fusion power plant."

Earlier this year, Germany exited conventional nuclear power production, which is based on splitting atoms, a process referred to as nuclear fission. In contrast, nuclear fusion research aims to harness the much larger amounts of energy released by fusing atoms - the same process that generates the sun's energy. Germany’s research ministry said in June it wants to accelerate this research with a new funding programme, arguing that the energy crisis had shown the importance of a clean, reliable and affordable energy supply. However, it has been repeatedly criticised for its enthusiastic embrace of nuclear fusion: Even supporters of the technology say that large-scale power generation is likely decades away, and critics warn that the party's insistence on nuclear fusion is wishful thinking that detracts from immediate steps that are necessary to fight climate change. The ministry said a new funding programme will be launched following a consultation process involving science and industry.

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