Nobody will hold it against you if you've never heard of Apollo Fusion, but the company has now taken at least part of its plans for "clean and safe" nuclear energy creation public. Along with an update to the company's website, the company's founder and former VP of X Labs at Alphabet, Mike Cassidy, has also commented on the company's purpose and how it intends to achieve its goals. The website itself had previously only supplied a definition for the term "nuclear fusion," providing some hints as to what the company was working on. Perhaps more unexpected, however, it has now been revealed that through working with Ben Longmier, who holds a Ph.D. in plasma physics and several advanced degrees in both physics and nuclear engineering, the company really does intend to bring nuclear energy to the market in a way that is completely green and completely safe.
The details provided about those ideas are necessarily vague – likely to protect intellectual property – although ideas themselves also aren't necessarily new. The technology being developed by Apollo Fusion is centered around the creation of subcritical reactors. More specifically, a subcritical reactor is a fusion-fission reactor that doesn't sustain a constant or near-constant nuclear reaction. It takes its energy instead from an isotope that has an extra neutron and which can be distilled from water – with the isotope, in this case, being deuterium. The result is the possibility of power plants that can be touted as "zero-consequence," with no foreseeable possibility of any massive harm from a cooling or control malfunction. Additionally, Cassidy has commented that they are relatively inexpensive to build and run, as well as being emissions free and flexible enough to provide power ranging from 5 Megawatts to 1 Gigawatt – which should be enough to power a large city.
Other startups such as Helion Energy are looking to accomplish a similar outcome using pulsed magnetic fields and the water-derived deuterium isotope. There also similar startups that have the backing of founders and co-founders of prominent companies such as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Amazon. While Apollo Fusion itself is neither a part of or officially backed by Google, Cassidy has also said that several of the search giant's co-founders are "super enthusiastic" about his company's goals and Apollo Fusion has already reportedly nailed down at least one as-yet-unnamed first international customer. All of that may lend some credibility to the ideas behind the company.