Oil giant taking stake in nuclear fusion startup

The second largest oil and gas company in the U.S. is putting some of its venture capital into a start-up focused on advanced modular nuclear reactor technology.

Chevron Corp. announced a Series A investment in Seattle-based Zap Energy. Zap is working to develop a plan on advancing commercially scalable nuclear fusion reactors.

Chevron is one of the world’s 10 biggest oil companies and second in the U.S. only to ExxonMobil.

This investment marks the 10th investment by Chevron’s Future Energy Fund, which was launched in 2018 to explore breakthrough technologies that enable macro decarbonization, the mobility-energy nexus, and energy decentralization.

“We see fusion technology as a promising low-carbon future energy source,” said Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures. “Our Future Energy Fund investment in Zap Energy adds to Chevron’s portfolio of companies we believe are likely to have a role in the energy transition.”

Conventional nuclear power uses nuclear fission which involves the splitting of a large unstable nucleus into smaller elements and generates long-lived radioactive waste. Nuclear fusion occurs when nuclei of lightweight elements (typically hydrogen) collide with enough force to fuse and form a heavier element – a process that releases substantial amounts of energy with no greenhouse gas emissions and limited long-lived radioactive waste.

Founded in 2018, Zap Energy says its technology stabilizes plasma using sheared flows to confine and compress the plasma.

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