A word From Our Founder

Vision for the “Fusion Age”

As a child I spent my recesses with my nose in a book. I read everything I could about humanity’s next high-tech frontiers – including high-energy particle physics, energy generation and space travel. Nuclear fusion was especially exciting. It not only had the power to change matter from one element to another, but it could also provide a nearly limitless source of energy. I dreamed of playing a role in expanding human potential for the next million years.

This fascination grew into a mission when, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I watched trains haul mountains of coal every few days into a heating plant that only provided enough energy to keep a portion of the university warm. I imagined this process at a global scale. I thought back to what I learned as a kid, and that just a few of those train cars of fusion fuel instead of coal, could power the entire United States for a year with no climate-impacting emissions. I decided I wanted to play a direct role in creating that future.

As I developed a strong understanding of fusion, its potential and its challenges, I turned my focus to the engineering needed to commercialize it – to take it from a science experiment to a working, cost-effective machine. The challenges in technology and experience seemed too great to overcome in a single step. But what if, instead of attempting to make a single giant leap forward, we could make significant but reasonable steps towards commercial fusion energy that would provide huge benefits for humanity along the way?

This process is how other big ideas have been and continue to be commercialized. Computers started as giant, expensive machines used only in niche applications. But they provided value in those applications, which justified reinvestment. Through that process, they moved into offices, then to homes, and now they’ve become so effective and efficient that we each have one in our pocket in the form of smartphones. 

Given the arduous path forward to make fusion reliable and cost effective for energy, it seems most rational to constantly grow value along the journey. At SHINE, we decided to initially focus on the highest-value product of fusion: the neutron. With some analysis, it became obvious that customers were willing to pay up to a million times more per reaction for neutrons versus the energy produced. We saw that this could provide a commercial bridge to build an ecosystem that got better and better at fusion over time. We are different in that we are mastering near-term applications of fusion to pave a stepwise path to the end goal of fusion energy, all while creating tremendous social and economic value along the way.

The Phased Approach to Fusion Energy

The race to abundant, commercialized fusion energy is on. I view that race as a marathon, not a sprint, and humanity is still just learning to walk. Our phased approach allows us to build the sustainable economic engine, human capital and technical momentum needed to become strong runners, and ultimately finish the marathon first.

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Safety Illuminated: Inspecting Industrial Components

SHINE’s first phase makes the aerospace, defense and energy industries safer. We serve the need for advanced industrial inspection by generating neutrons to be used in nondestructive testing. Neutrons can be used for things like taking pictures or testing parts to see how they stand up to radiation.

Our first specialized neutron imaging facility is operational and profitable in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Everyone is familiar with X-rays, which are good at imaging heavy materials, because they pass through light material like skin, muscle and tissue. Neutrons, at a very basic level, complement this with the ability to image light materials. Through neutron radiography, we can image the insides of parts that go into modern jet engines or spacecraft and ensure the reliability of defense systems. These are components where failure would be catastrophic.

Health Illuminated: Producing Medical Isotopes

With the first phase off and growing, we continued scaling our technology to improve our competencies in fusion while meeting more human needs.

The world currently relies mostly on a few ancient research reactors to produce the neutrons needed for our supply of medical isotopes – which are critical to diagnosing and treating heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. These neutrons transmute (change one element into another) low-value materials into high-value medicines. We’re in the process of completing two facilities that will replace dated reactor infrastructure with fusion neutron sources. This will give the world access to a much cleaner, safer, cost-effective and reliable source of these critical medicines. 

For now, we’re focused primarily on two specific isotopes: molybdenum-99 and lutetium-177. But we have developed a platform that can produce a wide range of isotopes as needed over time.

We plan to be the first new large-scale producer of high-specific-activity molybdenum-99, which is used to diagnose a variety of diseases in more than 20 million patients each year. Our molybdenum-99 will be identical to what’s on the market today, offering a more reliable alternative to aging reactors while ensuring a seamless transition for customers to our new fusion-based production.  

Our transmutation process also has an incredible benefit in that it will take material that was once intended for nuclear weapons – weapons capable of killing billions – and turn it into medicine that’ll be used to help save up to a billion lives over time!

We’re also already producing lutetium-177, an isotope that is rapidly emerging as a potentially life-saving cancer treatment. It’s a component in cutting-edge therapy that gives new hope to cancer patients with metastatic disease. It’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of two metastatic cancers, with dozens of clinical trials underway. With the technologies we’ve developed we’ll introduce a more efficient supply chain, enabling vertical integration of the production of raw materials, fusion-based neutrons, and advanced radiochemical processing. 

Recycling Illuminated: Recycling Nuclear Waste

The buildup of spent nuclear fuel is a significant issue – at least perceptually – from a social, environmental and economic perspective. The United States has an estimated 86,000 metric tons of nuclear waste, a number that grows by about 2,000 tons per year. Globally, the annual production of nuclear waste is approximately three times this number and growing.

While producing medical isotopes and recycling waste from nuclear power plants might not sound like they’re related, many of the technical, regulatory and execution aspects are similar. We are already turning our core competencies in radiochemical processing toward separating waste products from valuable materials, including unused nuclear fuel which will be recycled and used again in reactors. This recycling process could eliminate about 95% of the waste stream. 

Longer-term, we plan to scale our fusion technology to take waste mitigation a step further. Using fusion neutrons – just as we use them to transmute harmful materials to medicine in Phase 2 – we plan to transmute long-lived waste products into less harmful ones, drastically reducing their half-lives and solving one of the biggest problems with nuclear waste. We believe this will help enable nuclear fission energy to play a bigger role in today’s fight against climate change without burdening future generations with a legacy of nuclear waste.

Energy Illuminated: A Path to Fusion Energy

Decades after I first started reading about it, the potential for fusion energy to level-up humanity still excites me. I believe it is the way humans will make energy for the next million years. And the fusion systems we plan to use in Phase 3 to eliminate those long-lived waste products will look a lot like fusion power reactors that can make that energy.

With recent announcements describing progress on fusion science, the world has never been more abuzz about fusion than it is right now. While others chase the dream of making one giant leap, we stand apart by remaining grounded in a practical, scalable approach to developing revolutionary fusion technology. We’ve cut our teeth on systems to commercialize the first two phases of our business. And each step of our plan builds the technology, human capital and economic engine needed to fuel the next step.

With fusion energy, we’re talking about something that has the potential to profoundly change the kinds of problems humans can solve. Think: an elevated standard of living for all people, human settlement of other worlds, and a level of environmental harmony previously thought impossible.

We’re also talking about one of the most difficult endeavors that we, as humans, will ever attempt. Considering the challenges of technology, cost and delivery efficiency, compared to other forms of energy generation, fusion will take time to master. It likely won’t come in a sudden breakthrough. It’s going to be long, hard work, and we’ve built our company to scale over time to meet that challenge.

It’s why SHINE is today’s fusion company. 


Greg Piefer, Founder and CEO