Nuclear fusion firm draws $40 million from VCs

Fusion. It's still alive, and it's drawing money.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos

Tri Alpha Energy, which hopes to commercialize nuclear fusion technology, has raised $40 million from Venrock Associates and others, according to VentureWire. (Subscription required)

The company, which grew out of the University of California at Irvine, says its advanced plasma fusion technologies could be used to generate electricity as well as eliminate waste from nuclear power plants. A plant based on its technology would cost less than a conventional nuclear plant. Tri Alpha was founded in 1998 and has raised funds in the past.

Tri Alpha is working on a generator in which hydrogen chases boron, according to literature from UC Irvine. These atoms then form a helium atom, which is placed in a particle accelerator. Slowing down the helium generates electricity.

In the U.S., nuclear energy has been a nuclear topic for decades. The accident at Three Mile Island put the kibosh on further nuclear power plants based on fission techniques, and fusion has always been viewed skeptically.

But it hasn't stopped exploration. Venrock partner (and former nuclear engineer) Ray Rothrock, in an interview last month, said that close to $100 million in Silicon Valley has been invested in fusion concepts over the past several years.