Fusion Energy Project Sited at Former TVA Coal-Fired Power Plant

A major U.S. utility is part of a fusion energy project that would be located at the site of one of the company’s retired coal-fired power plants.

Type One Energy Group on Feb. 21 announced plans to build Infinity One, a stellarator fusion prototype machine, at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) closed Bull Run Fossil Plant in Clinton, Tennessee. Bull Run, an 865-MW facility, was decommissioned in December of last year. Type One Energy Group said construction of Infinity One could begin as soon as next year. The company is still working on obtaining the required permits and licensing for the project.

The energy company, which opened an office in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in August 2023, also said it would locate its Project Infinity headquarters in eastern Tennessee, though it did not announce an exact location. The company has said it plans to invest more than $220 million in the region over the next five years after signing an agreement with TVA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to expand fusion projects in Tennessee.

Then-U.S. climate envoy John Kerry in December of last year said the U.S. would do more to support research and development of nuclear fusion, which long has been described as the “holy grail” of energy production.

Commercializing Fusion Energy

Madison, Wisconsin-based Type One Energy Group said the Tennessee project is the result of a three-party memorandum of understanding signed last year among  Type One, TVA, and the Oak Ridge lab. It’s designed to pursue development and commercialization of practical—and economic—fusion energy technologies. The groups are expected to explore other opportunities for commercial deployment of fusion energy.

Want to learn more about fusion energy? POWER continues to provide up-to-date coverage of fusion’s research and development; check out the numerous articles in our archives.

Construction of Infinity One at the Bull Run site “aligns with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s vision to position the state as a national leader in clean energy, and Project Infinity is the first recipient of funds from the Governor’s Nuclear Energy Fund,” according to Type One.

The Infinity One is touted as a stellarator fusion reactor, which is a different design than a tokamak fusion reactor. Examples of tokamak reactors include the Joint European Torus in the UK, and the ITER project under construction in France. A tokamak is based on a uniform toroid shape. A stellarator twists that shape in a figure-8 design. Type One officials said the company’s team is currently working to finalize the design and performance specifications of Infinity One, and said the Tennessee project will allow the design features of its high-field stellarator to be verified for affordability, reliability, maintainability, and operating efficiency.

This is a rendering of Type One Energy Group’s fusion stellarator. Source: Type One Energy Group

“Project Infinity will create the world’s highest-performance stellarator, offering an excellent platform for a potential long-term fusion research facility,” said Christofer Mowry, CEO of Type One Energy. The company has  said its technology “applies proven advanced manufacturing methods, modern computational physics, and high-field superconducting magnets to develop its optimised stellarator fusion energy system.”

‘Critical Milestone’

“Successful deployment of Infinity One in East Tennessee, with our partners TVA and ORNL, is a critical milestone in our FusionDirect commercialization program. It is also a watershed moment toward the commercialization of fusion, linking for the first time leaders in the technology, utility, and national laboratory sectors on an actual deployment project,” said Mowry. “Project Infinity will create the world’s highest performance stellarator, offering an excellent platform for a potential long-term fusion research facility.”

The Bull Run Fossil Plant site is on the north bank of Bull Run Creek, across the Clinch River from the town of Oak Ridge. The coal-fired power plant came online in 1967, and was retired on Dec. 1 of last year. TVA after the plant closed said it was “currently evaluating the future use of the Bull Run site, including potential opportunities to maintain grid stability based on its strategic geographic location in the TVA service territory.”

“TVA is working with our partners to pursue new ideas and innovative solutions that meet growing energy demand in real-world conditions,” said TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash. “We appreciate this partnership between Type One Energy, ORNL, our local power companies and elected and economic development officials as we work together to identify energy technologies for the future.”

“It’s exciting to see a project in Oak Ridge with such great potential to advance fusion energy,” said ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer. “The laboratory has been a pioneer in fusion science and technology dating back to the early 1950s. We look forward to applying our institutional expertise and capabilities in working with Type One Energy on the engineering challenges they will be tackling at this new test facility.”

Gov. Lee in a statement said, “Our administration created the Nuclear Energy Fund in partnership with the Tennessee General Assembly to recruit companies like Type One Energy. Tennessee is ready to secure its place as the top state for energy independence, and we are proud to partner with Type One Energy to further that mission and bring hundreds of high-quality jobs and more reliable energy to Tennesseans.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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