Two UK companies target working fusion reactor by 2030

  • UK-based firms Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion both claim that they're close to having a working nuclear fusion reactor, with commercialisation targeted for 2030.

    Nuclear fusion has been the holy grail of energy generation technology for decades, theoretically capable of producing cheap and clean energy that could eliminate the world's reliance on fossil fuels. Despite billions in funding and decades of research, no company or government has yet been able to build a working fusion reactor that generates significantly more energy than it uses.

    While nuclear fission reactors generate energy by breaking apart the atoms in heavy elements such as uranium, a fusion reactor generates power by fusing together light elements such as hydrogen. The problem with fission is that produces a lot of dangerous radioactive waste that must be stored for hundreds of years before it becomes safe, and several nuclear power plant disasters have painted a very negative image of the technology around the world.

    Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and it occurs naturally there as the result of hydrogen being compressed under the immense pressure of gravity until it reaches temperatures of millions of degrees. We can replicate that on Earth by constraining a high-temperature hydrogen plasma in a magnetic field, but that magnetic field requires a lot of power and we've had trouble consistently getting more power out of a fusion reactor than we put into it.

    Financial Times reports that both Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion claim that they're on target to produce working reactor designs by 2030, with Tokamak Energy aiming to get stable fusion by 2025. "We envisage having a 150MW device that we can license to people who are good at building power plants," commented the company's executive vice-chairman David Kingham.

    Source: FT, Header image © Tokamak Energy

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