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First-of-its-kind energy company plans to build new facility at retired coal plant site: 'This is incredibly symbolic'

"This is an emerging industry … I think it will build on itself."

"This is an emerging industry … I think it will build on itself."

Photo Credit: Type One Energy

A fascinating project being planned in Tennessee would flip an old fossil-burning power plant to nuclear fusion

Type One Energy, which has offices in Boston; Vancouver; Madison, Wisconsin; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, plans to bring its concept for fusion energy development to the defunct Bull Run Fossil Plant, a former coal burner. Now, experts plan to work on groundbreaking fusion technology at the site, which has the potential to unlock power like the sun's for everlasting, sustainable electricity. 

What's more, the company plans to have the proof-of-concept operation running by the end of the decade, all according to Knox News.

It's part of a unique partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The company plans to invest more than $220 million into the project, creating hundreds of jobs during the next five years in an effort dubbed Infinity One. The work is also being boosted by government funding incentives, as Knox News notes

"This is incredibly symbolic," Type One CEO Christofer Mowry said to the news agency. "It is the first time that a fusion company is actually partnering with an electric utility … and also, frankly, a national laboratory in this way."

The potential for the energy source is great, as it could create an unlimited and safe form of nuclear power, thrusting our electricity system into a cleaner future. That's why experts around the world are working on similar projects to harness powerhouse reactions. Fusion works by slamming two particles together to form a heavier atom, producing energy without long-lasting radioactive waste. 

Fission, which is used in more than 400 nuclear facilities globally, splits atoms to create heat that powers turbines. While there's little to no air pollution, the process results in toxic waste, according to the U.S. Department of Energy — and sometimes disasters

The hiccup with fusion has been sustainably creating more energy than is required to complete the reaction. Type One plans to address this with its Infinity One program in the Volunteer State, using the company's unique technology to prove that the scheme is scalable. 

The science includes a large, more or less doughnut-shaped device called a stellarator. Knox News reports that Infinity One's could be around 20 feet wide. It includes magnets, advanced math, temperatures greater than 40 million degrees Fahrenheit, and other innovations that Type One's experts claim can turn theory into reality. When it comes to powering our toasters, treadmills, and TVs, it would prove that this type of system can eventually provide a stable and steady energy source. Most importantly, "no miracles needed," the company states on its website. 

Agreements and other details are still being finalized on the ambitious plan, according to Knox News. But optimism seems to be mounting. And experts hope that momentum around fusion will create its own chain reaction for the game plan.  

"This is an emerging industry … I think it will build on itself," Mickey Wade, an Oak Ridge associate lab director for fusion and fission energy, told Knox News.

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