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Dutch Fusion Day Shows Drive to Realise Fusion

With a crowded room and a programme that captivated until the last minute, the first edition of the Dutch Fusion Day on 3 May 2024 in Eindhoven brought together a group of 200 scientists, representatives of high-tech companies and government officials. One thing was crystal clear: they are all eager to get into action and bring fusion energy

Recent years have seen a global interest in fusion energy and the scientific progress that has been made in the field. The entrepreneurial Dutch see this as paving the way for new opportunities for the Dutch industry and academia. With the Dutch Fusion Day, the organizing parties—Eindhoven University’s energy institute TU/e EIRES, the Dutch organisation for industry participation in Big Science BigScienceNL, and EUROfusion member DIFFER— gathered all relevant parties together.

In addition to participating in presentations and discussions, attendees had lots of opportunities to expand their network and to get acquainted with national and international researchers, high-tech companies, private fusion initiatives and more.

Science and industry united

After a kick-off by DIFFER director Marco de Baar the day started with a scientific morning programme. Speakers were Josefine Proll (TU/e), Sven Wiesen (DIFFER), Hans van Oort (UTwente), Erik Offerman (TU Delft) and Behnam Taebi (TU Delft). A vivid panel discussion followed about important aspects of fusion energy such as scaling up, ethics, funding, and technical challenges.

The afternoon session titled ‘looking outwards’ took inspiration from other countries, with presentations from Ambrogio Fasoli (EUROfusion), Cyrille Mai Thanh and colleagues (Fusion Industry Association), Valerie Jamieson (The Fusion Cluster) and Matthew Smith (Trinomics).

To make the connection to the Dutch landscape (‘looking inwards’), speakers Benjamin Perier (Fusion for Energy) and Milena Roveda (Gauss Fusion) entered the stage. The first Dutch Fusion Day wrapped up with a vibrant interview with Paul Hieltjes (BigScienceNL), Jelle Stronks (Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science), Patrick Schelvis (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) and Robbelien Kooistra (NWO-I).

Quotes from speakers

Ambrogio Fasoli, Programme Manager (CEO) of EUROfusion:

“Europe already features the world’s most comprehensive R&D programme in fusion and the most advanced high-tech industry. The Dutch Fusion Day is an excellent example of how these two worlds can grow even closer. Together we will build a European fusion community that fully utilises the potential of ITER, designs the future demonstration power plant DEMO and trains the next generation of fusion experts. Through our combined vision, knowledge and know-how, science and industry will realise fusion energy.”

Niek Lopes Cardozo, full professor of ‘Science and Technology of Nuclear Fusion’ at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e):

“First of all, what stood out for me was the energy and impatience of the participants: they want to get into action and they don’t want to wait. A sense of urgency and, if you will, a fear of missing a window of opportunity. Other countries are moving fast – the Netherlands should move, too.

“My second observation is a remarkable progress during the Dutch Fusion Day. When asked, in the morning, what they needed to push fusion forward, the answer was ‘money!’, almost unisono. But at the end of the day, the consensus was: industry, academia and government need to get their act together, and quickly. We need a common goal, we need a plan, we need a figure head, we need a platform that brings all parties together. Then, the money will follow.

“Third: it would be a good strategy for the Netherlands to focus on key technologies for fusion, rather than develop their own reactor concept.

“And finally: The Netherlands is well positioned to host the first fusion plant in Europe. An exploration of that option would bring to the surface multiple non-technological issues that may need to be addressed urgently. Including legislation and licencing.”

Milena Roveda, CEO of Gauss Fusion:

“Gauss Fusion is pursuing active engagement with relevant and interested research institutions and industries throughout Europe, bringing us today to the Netherlands. The past has shown that Europe is successful when its countries unite, when its scientific institutes and its industries work together on ambitious projects.

“The current energy and climate situation gives Europe a unique opportunity to shine again. Fusion holds the key. Gauss Fusion strives to establish a strong, world-class European fusion industry, poised to serve not only Europe but also the United States and Asia. And the Netherlands could play a key role in it.

“The energy and drive we have experienced over the past two days in Eindhoven confirms that we were right to want the Netherlands to be part of Gauss Fusion. Europe needs a good dose of ‘Dutchness’ if we want to make fusion become a reality on our continent. We need courage, boldness and pragmatism, qualities that define the Dutch.

“We are very much looking forward to the co-operation with the Dutch institutions and the Dutch industry.”

Paul Hieltjes of BigScienceNL, the Dutch organisation to help industry participate in Big Science:

“The first Dutch Fusion Day was a great success. There was a large turnout from both industry and science. We are now at a turning point for the Netherlands regarding fusion energy. There was a clear need from the participants for this event not to be a one-time event, but the start of a Fusion Energy Innovation Cluster. We as an organisation, together with the enthusiastic participants, will definitely follow this up.”

Marco de Baar, institute director of DIFFER:

“New fusion parties like Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), STEP and Gauss Fusion want to collaborate with DIFFER in the fields of systems & control and materials. Topics in which we want to be world leading. In particular, Gauss Fusion wants to develop model-based systems engineering with DIFFER for their stellarator device and work with us on ‘design optimisation for control’.”

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This story was originally published by our consortium member NWO-DIFFER (Netherlands).

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