Oxford Nuclear Fusion wins funding from Washington

The United States government has funded a technology company in the UK to move forward with its plan to build a nuclear power plant and develop abundant clean energy.

Tokamak Energy has its headquarters in Oxford, and Sir David Harding, the hedge fund tycoon, is among its investors. It’s one of eight groups who will receive $46 million each from the US Department of Energy.

The money comes from the milestone-based development programme. This is Washington’s major drive to make fusion a commercial reality. It brings together selected companies with government-funded laboratories and top universities.

Tokamak, one of many British companies racing to prove the technology’s viability, is one such firm. Warren East is the former CEO of Rolls-Royce Engineering Group. He recently joined Tokamak’s board.

Warrick Matthews said that the funding is “a fantastic endorsement for the strength of our technology, team and path to commercialized fusion energy”.

Fission reactions are used in nuclear power plants to release energy. The process of fusion, which powers the sun is the combining of small atoms. It promises to provide nearly limitless clean energy, without radioactive byproducts.

Prior attempts to harness fusion failed. Critics claim that the technical challenges involved are too high and it is unlikely to ever be a viable commercial option.

Recently, there has been an influx of billionaires funding private companies in the field. Commonwealth Fusion, an offshoot of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, funded by business magnate Bill Gates was also chosen for funding.

Tokamak has been working on a plant which will contain fusion reactions in powerful magnetic fields. It has made progress using new types superconductors for making the fields stronger.