Washington, March 29, 2023 – The Fusion Industry Association (FIA) held its second annual conference in Washington, DC. The event was an open forum for government officials, industry experts, scientists, and investors to discuss concrete plans for the future of fusion and methods to accelerate its development.
Dr Mark Plesko, co-founder and CEO of Cosylab, participated in the panel discussion “Enabling Commercialisation” with experts from ARPA-E, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, MetOx and TRUMPF. The round table, moderated by Andrew Holland, CEO of FIA, focused on the fusion supply chain and its impact on the growth of the global fusion industry, considering data from the FIA 2023 Global Supply Chain Report.
In 2022 alone, fusion companies spent over 500 million USD, with supply chain spending projected to rise by 200% to 1000% by the time the first commercial fusion facility is built. Fusion companies’ spending will potentially reach trillions of dollars in a mature fusion industry after 2035.
Dr Plesko spoke about the qualities fusion companies seek in their suppliers and the foundations for reliable company-supplier partnerships. In fusion, control systems and device integration in particular, there is vast potential to reduce software development costs by leveraging know-how from solutions in other industrial domains of complex, high-energy facilities, such as accelerator-based ones. Unfortunately, experience often shows software comes last in development because it is not on the critical path. And once the physical parts of the machine are in place, it is expected they could be controlled the next day – which, of course, doesn’t work.
Each fusion company’s machine is unique but often utilises equipment shared with other reactor prototypes. “Standards are important to keep the cost of fusion systems down and to establish better relations between fusion systems developers and their supply chain. Often people’s first instinct is to standardise only the hardware controls, such as PLCs, controllers, sensors and actuators. But interfaces to many other subsystems can and should be available as parts of a standardised system, enabling significant cost savings and reliability gains in the development of commercial fusion facilities,” Dr. Plesko explained.
“Cosylab is preparing to establish a software interface standards body, which will be open to all fusion and supply chain companies that need to interface with a central control system and integrate devices and equipment into that system. This would bring significant benefits to the fusion industry and lead to faster fusion on the electrical grid,” Dr. Plesko added.
Fusion companies expect their supply chain requirements will increase dramatically over the next decade. They want suppliers to scale up and accelerate development cycles through shorter lead times and higher volumes. The panellists agreed that greater standardisation and consistent demand are the most significant enablers of the fusion supply chain, giving fusion suppliers the confidence to invest and innovate more while sharing the development risks.