Founded in 2005 by Greg Piefer, SHINE Technologies quickly grew into a team of ambitious scientists and engineers who envisioned a better, smarter way to realize the value of nuclear technology through near-term applications for nuclear fusion. Today, we leverage our core competencies in nuclear technology to solve pressing problems in the medical, aerospace, defense, and energy manufacturing industries as part of our four-phase plan with the ultimate goal of achieving clean, abundant, commercially viable fusion-based energy production. Our guiding philosophy is to continuously and consciously invest to build success upon success, using each break-through as a stepping stone toward the next phase in the evolution of our technology and our business to “level up” humanity as a species.
- Phase I – Advanced industrial inspection: Providing fusion-based materials inspection techniques such as neutron radiography to industries such as aerospace, defense manufacturing, and energy.
- Phase II – Medical isotope production: Using our fusion technology to perform small-scale nuclear transmutation and produce potentially lifesaving medical radioisotopes such as molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and other isotopes to provide solutions to isotope supply issues in healthcare.
- Phase III – Nuclear waste recycling: Using large-scale nuclear transmutation to recycle nuclear waste into useful materials with applications in medical isotopes and nuclear batteries, among other industrial applications, and to reduce the waste burden of nuclear fission by transmuting long-lived radioactive material.
- Phase IV – Fusion-based energy production: Achieving nuclear fusion as a technically feasible and commercially viable source of clean energy which will eliminate greenhouse gas-producing sources of energy and provide humanity with the energy to sustainably grow our civilization and “level up” as a species.
2005 – Beginning of Phase I
Our story, and Phase I, begins in the Madison, Wisconsin area shortly after founder Greg Piefer attained his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Piefer started SHINE to pursue his vision of nuclear fusion as fuel for our continued growth as an industrial civilization—for humankind to “level up”. The approach he envisioned, contrary to others pursuing fusion energy, was to work up from practical, non-energy applications of nuclear fusion and use the development of these initiatives to advance fusion technology and amass resources required to overcome the technological and resource barriers to fusion energy production.
We immediately set to work developing accelerator driven neutron generators, using nuclear fusion to produce neutron radiation, a form of radiation with many applications in various industries. For Phase I of our four-phase pathway to nuclear fusion, we sought to investigate industrial applications of our fusion neutron generators.
In 2007, we received funding from the US Army and Department of Energy to develop a neutron source that could be used for neutron radiography, a critical nondestructive testing method for quality control in aerospace and defense manufacturing, without relying on nuclear fission reactor facilities. Over the next few years, we also explored other applications of our neutron generator technology, such as radiation effects testing, radiation hardening, and neutron activation analysis.
In 2008, the abrupt and temporary closure of several molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) production facilities at once led to a global shortage of the isotope, which is used to produce critical materials for cancer and heart disease diagnostic procedures. Following this crisis, the US Department of Energy began issuing funding to companies seeking to develop new ways to produce Mo-99 in 2009.
2010 – Beginning of Phase II
In 2010, we began to study the possibility for our neutron generators to be used to produce this isotope and, with funding from the DOE, formed a new diagnostic isotope production division. Our systems and manufacturing division would continue developing and refining our neutron generators while pursuing industrial applications, primarily serving clients in the aerospace and defense manufacturing and nondestructive testing, while the diagnostic isotope poduction division focused on applying our technology to designing a revolutionary subcritical isotope production system. From this point on, we began work on Phase I and Phase II of our four-phase mission concurrently.
In 2012, we completed our first-generation fusion neutron generator for the US Army and installed it in 2013.
It was also in 2013 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted our construction permit application, signaling the beginning of a long road to the construction of a new Mo-99 production facility in North America.
We conducted a test of our prototype neutron generator and successfully produced 3×1011 neutrons per second, passing a major technical milestone and validating our method for producing Mo-99. Another joint test in 2014 would demonstrate 99% uptime in a 24-hour run of our neutron generator, further demonstrating our technology’s reliability for isotope production.
The NRC issued us a construction permit, the first such permit to be issued since the 1980s, in 2016 after thorough review of the application, allowing us to begin planning the constructing our future isotope production facility. We chose Janesville as our new headquarters and began to work toward having our production facilities constructed there while our systems and manufacturing division remained in the Madison area. In the same year, the team completed another unprecedented neutron production run, and we received a grant to develop a second-generation neutron generator for N-ray. We also received a grant to develop NEMESIS, a mobile neutron generator capable of standoff detection of IEDs.
In 2018, we secured funding to develop nuclear fuel inspection systems utilizing our core neutron generator technology and delivered the first neutron generator to our Mo-99 production facility. We also broke ground on our imaging center in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, a first-of-its-kind X-ray and neutron radiography vendor using our in-development third-generation neutron generator in lieu of a nuclear fission reactor.
In 2019, we received 91 acres of land in Janesville and promptly broke ground on our first medical isotope production facility. Once complete, the 43,000 square foot facility will be home to eight of our accelerator-based medical isotope production systems, with the expected capacity to produce over one-third of global demand for the potentially lifesaving medical isotope, molybdenum-99.
In the same year, we also performed another joint test of our isotope production system, running the neutron generator for 5.5 days (132 hours) with a neutron yield 10% higher than expected and an uptime higher than 99%. During further testing of the isotope production system, we set a new record for neutron output in a sustained fusion reaction. Our neutron generator’s output exceeded the previous record, set over 30 years ago, by nearly 25 percent, making our fusion neutron generators the strongest sustained fusion neutron source on Earth.
Near the end of 2019, we created a new division of our company, SHINE Therapeutics, to research the production and commercialization of medical isotopes with applications in cancer and disease treatment in addition to Mo-99, such as lutetium-177 (Lu-177). In Fitchburg, we completed construction on our imaging center, hosting a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of the facility’s groundbreaking. Shortly thereafter, our neutron imaging system produced its first Category I neutron image, the highest measurable image quality as defined by ASTM International.
In early 2020, the imaging center became open for business as construction began on our new office space and production facility, Heliopolis, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin adjacent to the site. Ground was also broken on the new SHINE headquarters and production facility in Janesville. Heliopolis would open later that year.
2021 – Beginning of Phase III
In 2021, we announced our plans for a second isotope production facility in the Netherlands and a second neutron imaging facility on the West Coast of the United States. We also were awarded a grant from the DOE funding our development of a plasma window to increase our fusion neutron generators’ strength one hundredfold as part of the Galvanizing Advances in Market-Aligned Fusion for an Overabundance of Watts (GAMOW) program. This performance increase is expected to enable us to tackle the large-scale nuclear transmutation necessary for the upcoming phases of our mission and accelerated testing of emerging fusion reactor materials and subsystems critical to the development of reliable and efficient fusion reactors that produce net positive electricity with no carbon footprint or long-lived waste products.
The future of SHINE
If successful, Phase III will scale up the subcritical medical isotope production system designed in Phase II and apply it to transforming nuclear waste material produced by nuclear fission reactors into more benign, easier to handle materials. Transforming nuclear fission byproducts via nuclear transmutation into materials that are more easily disposed of and pose significantly less risk to the environment mitigates the greatest issue surrounding fission. The transmutation process can also derive substantial value from once-useless nuclear waste through proper separation and processing of its components. We believe that Phase III will result in clean fission energy production, enabling fission to successfully help us save our planet’s environment from climate catastrophe.
The fourth and final phase of our mission is achieving nuclear fusion as a technically feasible and commercially viable source of clean energy to replace not only fossil fuels but also fission. One goal of our first three phases is to build the core competencies, bit by bit, needed to reach this stage in our development, building up human and technological resources to overcome the barriers that still lie on our path toward fusion energy and a greener society.