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US Aims to Create Nuke Fusion Facility 09/26 06:04

   The Biden administration hopes to create a commercial nuclear fusion 
facility within 10 years as part of the nation's transition to clean energy, 
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Monday.

   VIENNA (AP) -- The Biden administration hopes to create a commercial nuclear 
fusion facility within 10 years as part of the nation's transition to clean 
energy, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Monday.

   Calling nuclear fusion a pioneering technology, Granholm said President Joe 
Biden wants to harness fusion as a carbon-free energy source that can power 
homes and businesses.

   "It's not out of the realm of possibility" that the U.S. could achieve 
Biden's "decadal vision of commercial fusion," Granholm said in a wide-ranging 
interview with The Associated Press in Vienna.

   Fusion works by pressing hydrogen atoms into each other with such force that 
they combine into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy and heat. Unlike 
other nuclear reactions, it doesn't create radioactive waste. Proponents of 
nuclear fusion hope it could one day displace fossil fuels and other 
traditional energy sources. But producing carbon-free energy that powers homes 
and businesses from fusion is still decades away.

   A successful nuclear fusion was first achieved by researchers at the 
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California last December in a major 
breakthrough after decades of work.

   Granholm also praised the role of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog in 
verifying that states live up to their international commitments and do not use 
their nuclear programs for illicit purposes, including to build nuclear weapons.

   "The IAEA is instrumental in making sure that nuclear is harnessed for good 
and that it does not fall into the hands of bad actors," she said.

   The watchdog organization has agreements with more than 170 states to 
inspect their nuclear programs. The aim is to verify their nuclear activities 
and nuclear material and to confirm that it is used for peaceful purposes, 
including to generate energy.

   Nuclear energy is an essential component of the Biden administration's goal 
of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero 
emissions economy by 2050.

   Asked about the difficulty of finding storage sites for radioactive waste, 
Granholm said that the U.S. has initiated a process to identify communities 
across the country who may be willing to host an interim storage location. 
Currently, most of the spent fuel is stored at nuclear reactors across the 

   "We have identified 12 organizations that are going to be in discussion with 
communities across the country about whether they are interested (in hosting an 
interim site)," she said.

   The U.S. currently does not recycle spent nuclear fuel but other countries, 
including France, already have experience with it.

   Spent nuclear fuel can be recycled in such a way that new fuel is created. 
But critics of the process say it is not cost-effective and could lead to the 
proliferation of atomic weapons.

   There are two proliferation concerns associated with recycling, according to 
the Washington-based Arms Control Association: The recycling process increases 
the risk that plutonium could be stolen by terrorists, and second, those 
countries with separated plutonium could produce nuclear weapons themselves.

   "It has to be done very carefully with all these non-proliferation 
safeguards in place," Granholm said.

   Professor Dennis Whyte, director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at 
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the U.S. has taken a smart 
approach on fusion by advancing research and designs by a range of companies 
working toward a pilot-scale demonstration within a decade.

   "It doesn't guarantee a particular company will get there, but we have 
multiple shots on goal," he said, referring to the Energy Department's 
milestone-based fusion development program. "It's the right way to do it, to 
support what we all want to see: commercial fusion to power our society" 
without greenhouse gas emissions.

   On other topics, Granholm said that depending on whether the U.S. government 
shuts down or not, the Biden administration could announce in October details 
on an $8 billion hydrogen hub program that will be funded by the bipartisan 
infrastructure law.

   A hub is meant to be a network of companies that produce clean hydrogen and 
of the industries that use it -- heavy transportation, for example -- and 
infrastructure such as pipelines and refueling stations. States and companies 
have teamed up to create hub proposals.

   Environmental groups say hydrogen presents its own pollution and climate 
risks. When released into the atmosphere, it boosts volumes of methane and 
other greenhouse gases.

   "Our goal is to get the cost of clean hydrogen down to 1 dollar per kilogram 
within one decade," Granholm insisted.

   As fossil fuel emissions continue warming Earth's atmosphere and extreme 
weather phenomena occur globally, Granholm was asked her opinion on the 
announcement by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the U.K. will delay 
crucial climate targets.

   Sunak said last week that he will push back the deadline for selling new 
gasoline and diesel cars and the phasing out of gas boilers as part of one of 
his biggest policy changes since taking office.

   "When you see the heatwaves that the U.K. experienced this summer, I think 
it becomes obvious that we need to put on the accelerator," she said, while 
adding that the U.K. has been a "great partner" in pushing modern technologies.

   "We want to see everybody moving forward as quickly as possible (on the 
clean energy transition), including ourselves," she said.

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