The specialist company, created in 2013, has pledged to supply the tech giant with electricity produced from nuclear fusion by 2028.
Investing in a technology that does not yet exist, and which is even at a very experimental stage, this is the daring bet that Microsoft has just made. The American tech giant has signed an electricity supply contract for 2028 with the start-up Helion, which specializes in nuclear fusion, announced the latter last Wednesday. This is, according to experts interviewed by the American press, the first trade agreement of this type to be concluded.
It must be said that nuclear fusion is a technology that is still far from being mastered. Unlike nuclear fission, used in current nuclear power plants and which consists of breaking a heavy atom to form two light atoms, nuclear fusion aims to bring two light atoms together by heating them to extreme temperatures (above 100 million degrees Celsius), to make up a bigger one. This is to imitate the way the Sun produces energy. This revolutionary technology has the particular advantage of being potentially abundant and of not producing lasting radioactive waste.
Read alsoCan nuclear fusion be a ‘game changer for the planet’?
Too ambitious a schedule?
Founded in 2013, Helion aims to commission its first fusion power plant by 2028, with the goal of producing at least 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity within a year. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power plant“, said its CEO David Kirtley in a statement. On the side of Microsoft, it is emphasized that the work of the company “supports our own long-term clean energy goals and will drive the market forward to establish a new, efficient way to bring more clean energy to the grid, faster“, indicates its president Brad Smith.
However, some experts consider Helion’s schedule too ambitious, not imagining this technology giving its first results for at least a decade. Few details were provided on the contract signed between the two companies. The boss of Helion specifying only that his company will have to pay penalties if it does not deliver electricity to Microsoft on time.
It should be noted that Microsoft and Helion maintain close ties, through Sam Altman. The CEO and co-founder of OpenAI – behind the phenomenon in particular ChatGPT -, a company linked to Microsoft through a multi-billion dollar partnership, is also the main investor in Helion. He has indeed invested $ 375 million in 2021. If Sam Altman entrusted to CNBC having pleaded for the two companies to work together, the agreement is the result of the work carried out by Helion in an independent manner, he insisted on specifying. “It wasn’t my doing“, he declared to the american media.