Abstract On the basis of worldwide design experience and in coordination with the evolution of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program, the application of helium as a coolant for fusion appears to be at the verge of a transition from conceptual design to engineering development. This paper presents a review of the use of helium as the coolant for fusion reactor blanket and divertor designs. The concept of a high-pressure helium cooling radial plate design was studied for both ITER and PULSAR. These designs can resolve many engineering issues, and can help with reaching the goals of low activation and high performance designs. The combination of helium cooling, advanced low-activation materials, and gas turbine technology may permit high thermal efficiency and reduced costs, resulting in the environmental advantages and competitive economics required to make fusion a 21st century power source.