Next Step Fusion Explores Luxembourg’s Fusion Energy Potential

Aleksei Zolotarev, founder and CEO of Next Step Fusion (© Stephanie Jabardo / Silicon Luxembourg).

Fusion power, a method of generating electricity under development, is taking its first steps in Luxembourg with local company Next Step Fusion using digital twins and simulation software to aid research but also to put it into practice this June.

Over the last few decades, the running joke about fusion power, which scientists began studying in the 1950s, has been that it is just around the corner. But Aleksei Zolotarev, founder and CEO of Next Step Fusion, believes that this new source of energy is much closer than a lot of people think. The increase in the number of private firms operating in this domain is one of the big positive indicators for him. While he admits it is impossible to predict the future, he points to space technology as a sector that has advanced a lot as a result of the significant involvement of new companies.

Also, having advanced computational software and the ability to combine that with robotics puts scientists in a much better position today compared to 70 years ago. Nuclear fusion looks to generate electricity by using energy from nuclear fusion reactions. It is different from nuclear fission, used in nuclear power plants, and does not involve uranium or plutonium.

“We need to start building devices as soon as possible. Not bigger devices, not the best devices. Let’s provide fusion energy, not only build the best opportunities for research,” tells Aleksei Zolotarev, founder and CEO of Next Step Fusion.

In summer 2024, Next Step Fusion will test its plasma control module on a device in the United States through a partnership with an organisation, the name of which they are not able to share at the time of publishing. The company’s technology, based on machine learning, will look to control real plasma, which is the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei. The idea is also to take this experience and improve the module in a way that it can be used with other devices.

“Luxembourg is the only high GDP country outside of fusion energy.”

Aleksei Zolotarev, founder and CEO of Next Step Fusion.

Being most active far from home

At the moment, Next Step Fusion’s biggest partners are overseas. Those are Columbia University and the University of California. While the company is in talks with the IST institute in Portugal and the University of Seville in Spain, getting things underway in Europe has been a bit of an uphill battle. Zolotarev admits that one of the biggest challenges for the company right now is signing agreements with European institutions.

“Luxembourg is the only high GDP country outside of fusion energy. Every European country has some research capacity. But Luxembourg can easily catch up and can be at the top as far as we see it,” emphasises Aleksei Zolotarev, founder and CEO of Next Step Fusion.

The grand duchy’s potential for fusion power advancement lies in the opportunity to combine models already established in the UK, Germany, and France, according to Zolotarev. The benefit of this would be to create an optimal ecosystem for private companies in this sector. Industry plays an important role in the likes of deep technology, but it remains to be seen if private companies’ involvement will be the spark that will bring fusion into everyday life.

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