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OpenAI is reportedly in discussions with Helion Energy to purchase large quantities of fusion power.

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Seattle-based fusion company Helion Energy is in talks with OpenAI on a deal that could see the AI company purchasing large amounts of electricity from Helion to power data centers. OpenAI’s CEO and co-founder, Sam Altman, has invested $375 million in Helion and serves as the company’s board chair. Helion is focused on developing technology to harness renewable energy from nuclear fusion, a potentially limitless power source that has yet to be commercially viable.

While nuclear fusion technology has attracted billions in investment globally, companies like Helion are working to unlock the potential of fusion reactions that power the sun and stars. Altman has emphasized the importance of clean power advancements for the future of AI, stating that breakthroughs in fusion or significantly cheaper solar and energy storage solutions are necessary at a massive scale. Helion has raised $612 million in venture capital with the promise of an additional $1.8 billion in funding if deadlines are met, in addition to federal grants totaling $8.97 million.

Altman has expressed his dedication to Helion, noting that the company is more than just an investment for him. There are concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest between Altman’s leadership at OpenAI and his ties to companies like Helion that are seeking business relationships with OpenAI. However, this isn’t the first customer deal involving Altman and Helion, as Microsoft previously announced an agreement to purchase electricity from a Helion facility expected to be operational by 2028.

As technology companies like Microsoft push the boundaries of AI tools and rely on massive data centers, there are growing concerns about the energy demands and environmental impacts of these operations. Microsoft recently reported a 29% increase in its carbon footprint due to data center expansions. Helion, on the other hand, is working on completing Polaris, its seventh-generation fusion prototype device, with plans for it to become operational this year.

In addition to Microsoft, Helion has an agreement with Nucor to build a fusion reactor to power a steel-making facility by 2030. The power purchase agreement with Microsoft includes penalties for Helion if it fails to meet electricity generation deadlines. Altman has been involved with Helion since his time as president of Y Combinator in 2014, actively recruiting the company to participate in the startup incubator, investing in Helion, and becoming its chairman in the years following.

Overall, the partnership between Helion Energy and OpenAI represents a significant step towards revolutionizing the AI industry with clean and renewable energy sources. Altman’s commitment to advancing fusion technology highlights the importance of sustainable power solutions for the future of AI development. With ongoing developments in nuclear fusion and clean energy initiatives, companies like Helion are at the forefront of driving innovation and creating a more sustainable future for technological advancement.

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