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Campus News

January 11, 2023

Garrett College to host former senior DOE official

Heckman to speak about latest developments in nuclear fusion Feb. 1

Heckman

Kurt Heckman, a former senior U.S. Department of Energy official, will speak at Garrett College on February 1st on the latest developments in nuclear fusion.

A former senior U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) official will speak on the latest developments in nuclear fusion at Garrett College on February 1st.

Kurt Heckman, who served as DOE’s director of Secretarial Boards and Councils during the Trump Administration, will speak at 6:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Garrett College’s recital hall. In his director’s role, Heckman oversaw the DOE’s 22 advisory boards that supported the DOE’s three core missions of energy, nuclear security and science.

Heckman was also a co-author in the Secretary’s Advisory Board report on artificial intelligence. Prior to working in the Office of the Secretary, he served as a senior advisor in the Office of Science, where he promoted nuclear fusion, high-energy physics, advanced scientific computing research, and the general awareness of the DOE’s science mission.

"Fusion energy promises more energy from a barrel of sea water and a few ounces of lithium than a thousand tons of coal," said Heckman, "with zero greenhouse gases, no long-term radiation, no run-away reaction potential and no possible nuclear weapon proliferation."

Heckman said that, until recently, fusion was "too difficult and expensive, from an engineering standpoint, to be used to generate electricity." Just last month, however, scientists at a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory were able for the first time to get more energy out of the fusion process than they put into it, which is seen as a key step in moving toward using nuclear fusion as a power source.

"Last month's fusion energy announcement marked an engineering breakthrough," observed Heckman. "A machine created conditions that only naturally occur in the center of stars – nuclear fusion – and produced more energy than was required to create the reaction." Heckman’s lecture will provide the basics on how nuclear fusion works, how it differs from fission, and how the future of fusion energy could eventually change the world.

Heckman currently serves as president of vCalc, the online science and industry calculation site (www.vcalc.com), which manages a fast-growing calculator, equation and dataset library. Both an entrepreneur and an aerospace engineer, Heckman’s technical background includes large IT integration, program management, systems engineering and software development.