EMC2 is seeking private investment for a three-year, $30 million commercial research program to prove the polywell can work as a nuclear fusion power generator. “We have had a 20-year involvement by the Navy, and it has been a very productive relationship,” says Park. “We were able to address a lot of basic scientific questions.” He understands that at this point, the company has to give up its government subsidy and seek private funding. “The Navy’s view is that they will provide transitional funds, but it’s time for us to go out on our own,” he says. “In their view, we’re becoming an adult.”
Park hopes to appeal to deep-pocket individual investors, as well as family offices and foundations that are committed to solving the energy problem—“people who look at this as their responsibility and their destiny,” he says. “It’s our generation’s job to solve the energy problem. Whenever we created energy in the past, we created pollution and created problems about sustainability, and we’ve done that for more than 200 years.”
An investment in the program is not for the fainthearted, Park freely admits. “People ask whether there are any applications in the middle [before building a reactor], and there aren’t many,” he says. “So it’s a very high-risk and high-return proposition.”
Investors will have full access to the energy production potential of fusion technology, where the biggest impact of the fusion is expected to be. EMC2 owns 100% of the intellectual property from its research. The Navy has licensing rights for specific applications it orders. EMC2 will keep confidential a small segment of the technology that is unique and critical to the Navy.
The $30 million phase will complete the last remaining technical milestone before EMC2 embarks on the development of a reactor. Park’s ambition is to see the company’s first reactor on the grid in about 10 years, and almost immediately start to replace coal-based power plants. “That will be the first target because among power sources, that’s the worst one,” he says. “We’ll probably replace nuclear fission, because although its contribution has been great, it’s time to replace it with a better technology.” He also expects the reactor to complement other energy sources, such as solar and wind, and begin to phase out natural gas and the fossil fuels.
Many power plants exist around the world. “How fast we’re going to replace them is going to be market driven, how much each country will invest to replace those old technology power plants and put in this one,” Park says. He estimates that an achievable goal is to replace 20% to 40% of the global electricity market in 20 to 30 years.
Park acknowledges this will be a huge undertaking. “A reactor doesn’t get built very quickly,” he says. That will require a significant infusion of capital, on the order of $200 million to $300 million, he says. He envisions teaming up with an existing energy player. In that event, EMC2 might issue the company 20% to 30% of its shares, and an investor could make an early exit.