Moniz joins fusion energy company

Source: Umair Irfan, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has joined California-based Tri Alpha Energy Inc., a company developing fusion power, as a member of its board of directors.

“Ernie’s wide breadth of experience in innovative energy technologies and policies will help further our company’s pursuit of safe, clean, sustainable, and commercially competitive fusion based electricity generation,” wrote CEO Steve Specker in a release.

Fusion energy, unlike the nuclear fission that powers the current generation of reactors, involves sticking small atoms together.

This in theory would generate gobs of power without producing carbon dioxide emissions, but the challenge is immense, and so far no one has come up with a viable way to make electricity from it.

Tri Alpha bills itself as the world’s largest private fusion company and is backed with more than $500 million in capital. Its technology uses superheated plasma to fuse hydrogen and boron.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment today.

Moniz, a physicist by training, said in the release that “as someone dedicated to innovation breakthroughs for a low-carbon energy future, I am pleased to join outstanding colleagues at Tri Alpha Energy who see the company’s technology offering the real possibility of just such a game-changer.”

During his time at the Department of Energy, Moniz supervised the fusion research portfolio at the national laboratories and U.S. contributions to international fusion efforts.

However, the most recent omnibus spending bill Congress passed earlier this month slashed funds for fusion research at DOE to $380 million, a 40 percent cut (E&E Daily, May 2).

Since leaving office in January, Moniz has continued to pad his resume. He is currently a part-time professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a nonresident senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

He is also a distinguished fellow of Emerson Collective, a social justice, technology and education consortium, and will become CEO and co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative on June 1.