US-based Longview Fusion Energy Systems has contracted Fluor to design “the world's first commercial laser fusion power plant. This is based on breakthroughs in fusion energy gain at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL’s) National Ignition Facility (NIF). Longview is the only fusion energy company using this approach.

Fluor will leverage its experience in developing and constructing complex, large-scale facilities to provide preliminary design and engineering to support the development of Longview's fusion-powered plant. Unlike other approaches, Longview does not need to first build a physics demonstration facility. Fluor, with expertise in the energy industry and modern modular construction methods, will design the Longview plant.

"We are building on the success of the NIF, but the Longview plant will use today's far more efficient and powerful lasers and utilize additive manufacturing and optimization through AI," said Valerie Roberts, Longview's Chief Operating Officer and former NIF construction/project manager.

Edward Moses, Longview's CEO and former director of the NIF said: "Laser fusion energy gain has been demonstrated many times over the last 15 months, and the scientific community has verified these successes. Now is the time to focus on making this new carbon-free, safe, and abundant energy source available to the nation as soon as possible."

Longview power plant designs incorporate commercially available technologies from the semiconductor and other industries targeting the delivery of laser fusion energy to the marketplace within a decade.

In April 2023, Fluor signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Longview to serve as its engineering and construction partner in designing and planning laser fusion energy for the global energy market. At full capacity, Longview’s laser fusion power plants (1,000–1,600 MWe) are expected to provide enough power for small city or provide process heat or power to drive industrial production of the key materials such as steel, fertiliser and hydrogen fuel.

LLNL has been pursuing the use of lasers to induce fusion in a laboratory setting since the 1960s, building a series of increasingly powerful laser systems resulting in establishment of NIF, which uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures similar to those found in the cores of stars and inside nuclear explosions. In December 2022, NIF achieved the first ever controlled experiment to produce more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. This demonstrated the fundamental science basis for inertial confinement fusion energy for the first time.

Image: Artist's impression of a laser fusion power plant proposed by Longview Fusion Energy Systems