£86m boost for UK fusion energy programme
An £86m Government investment in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA’s) fusion energy research programme at Culham Science Centre has been announced. This investment will fund the building and operation of a National Fusion Technology Platform at Culham, expected to open in 2020.
The new facilities will support British industry and help to secure around £1 billion in contracts from the key international fusion research experiment ITER, now being built in France, and other global fusion projects. Looking further ahead, they will enable UKAEA to develop technology for the first fusion power plants and put UK industry in a strong position to exploit the commercialisation of this highly promising low-carbon energy source.
The National Fusion Technology Platform comprises two new centres of excellence; Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) will research how to process and store tritium, one of the fuels that will power commercial fusion reactors; and Fusion Technology Facilities (FTF) will carry out thermal, mechanical, hydraulic and electromagnetic tests on prototype components under the conditions experienced inside fusion reactors.
The National Fusion Technology Platform will enhance the UK’s expertise in critical areas of fusion research, with significant benefits to the economy as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. It will also provide a powerful signal of the UK’s intent to continue its participation in international science collaboration after leaving the European Union.
So far, 38 UK companies have won contracts totalling over €500m on the €14bn ITER experiment – the stepping stone to fusion power stations. H3AT and FTF will work closely with the industrial supply chain to create knowledge to position them for the next phase of ITER procurements in areas including the tritium plant, Hot Cell, measurement systems, assembly, maintenance and reactor materials.
The National Fusion Technology Platform is expected to create around 100 jobs at Culham Science Centre and many more in the wider nuclear industry supply chain.
UKAEA’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ian Chapman, said: “Fusion is entering the delivery era, with an increasing focus on the key technologies that will be needed for the first power stations. The National Fusion Technology Platform will help British industry to maximise growth from opportunities provided by ITER. In the longer term it means the UK will be at the forefront of developing fusion and bringing cleaner energy to the world.”