Photo of Laban Coblentz

Laban Coblentz

Fusion at COP-26: a foot in the door

Laban Coblentz


Wednesday, February 9, 2022



PSFC Seminars

Abstract: The genesis of this talk is the ITER experience in presenting fusion at the recent UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow. Following years of attempts to get fusion on the agenda—only to be repeatedly refused—ITER was offered two slots in the “Blue Zone” (official delegates only) agenda: (1) a 30-minute slot in the “Action Hub”; and (2) a 60-minute panel in the closing session.

What does this mean – for the ITER Project, for private initiatives like SPARC, and for other fusion R&D globally? Is fusion gaining acceptance in the climate change community? Critically, was COP-26 a foot-in-the-door that, managed carefully, can lead do something more?

This talk will answer those questions – subjectively – based on Mr Coblentz’s experience at the climate change conference and the feedback since: from the press, from influencers and decision-makers, and from within the global fusion community. It will also consider the entities globally that have the most potential to build on the budding conversation on fusion and climate change, and on the hurdles that remain – from regulation and technical challenges to education and public perception – in the collaborative/competitive effort to make fusion a commercial reality.

Bio: Mr. Coblentz is the Head of Communication at ITER, where 35 countries are collaborating to make hydrogen fusion a practical source of clean energy. His past career has crisscrossed multiple sectors. As a US regulator, he coordinated efforts to reform inspection and enforcement practices and applied probabilistic risk models to improve safety at nuclear power plants. In the US Congress, he led Senator Joe Lieberman’s efforts to create The E-Government Act of 2002 for public sector innovation. At the International Atomic Energy Agency, he worked with Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on nuclear diplomacy in Iraq, Iran, and other political hotspots. Subsequently, he returned to New York, first as Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a research university; and then, at the request of NY government officials, creating community-based models for entrepreneurship, drawing on the maker movement and the democratization of advanced manufacturing. He is also the Chairman of Kloke, a start-up establishing new standards for data security and online privacy.