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Is the Biden Administration Serious About International Cooperation on Fusion?

On December 2, the White House released a document, entitled “International Partnerships in a New Era of Fusion Energy Development.” While this had not garnered much attention when it was published, it became an item of wide public interest when Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, made the announcement of its existence at the COP 28 conference in Dubai on December 13. The document states that the U.S. is prepared to work together with their “partners,” including in the international ITER project in France, to promote the development of a commercial fusion reactor. People in the Democratic Party, like Ernest Moniz, a former Energy Secretary in the Obama Administration, and even the neocon Atlantic Council, are highlighting Kerry’s announcement. The irony of the situation is that the U.S. is no longer in the lead in the development of fusion energy, as might have been the case at the time the FEF-supported Magnetic Fusion Energy Engineering Act of 1980 (the “McCormack Bill”) was signed into law, but was quickly undercut by significant reductions in the fusion budget in the Reagan Administration.

Today, China is on the cutting edge of fusion technology, and Russia, which never turned its back on fusion, is also involved in significant work. Will the U.S., with all its restrictions on trade with China, and sanctions on Russia, be able to work with China and Russia on fusion in a project such as ITER, or do they intend to rely on their “allies” alone in working on fusion development? If the latter, this could, in fact, disrupt the progress that has already been made, bringing geopolitical squabbling into the ITER cooperation. What the intent with this proposal is still to be determined.,the%20development%20of%20fusion%20energy.