Britain doubles down on its efforts to unlock a ‘grid ready’ reactor by 2020
After being rejected by a rival EU program due to Brexit, the UK signed an agreement with US to collaborate in nuclear fusion.
Andrew Bowie (Britania’s Minister for Nuclear and Networks) announced the partnership in Washington.
The two countries will fund research, build shared supply chains and share facilities for complex fuels and materials required to achieve fusion.
Mr Bowie stated that the UK aims to have a “grid-ready commercial fusion reactor” by 2040.
He said: “The UK is the world leader in this technology and pooling resources will unlock private sector investment.” This bold new partnership is going to help us turn our fusion dreams into reality.” David Turk, the deputy undersecretary of the US Department for Energy said that the US was looking forward to working with Britain “to advance the fusion energy in order to achieve our shared goal to end the climate crisis.”
The fusion process involves heating hydrogen atoms at extreme temperatures until they fuse. This releases huge amounts of energy. It was 70 years ago that the process was harnessed with the development the hydrogen bomb. Theoretically, if it could be controlled, then it could provide an almost limitless supply of clean energy.
This has not been possible in practice. The temperatures required to initiate fusion can be up to 15-times hotter than that of the sun, so no material is known to contain it. Fusion reactions only work when they are contained in powerful magnetic fields.
The UK used to be one of the leading nations in the ITER Fusion Project at Cadarache, France. However, it was kicked out after leaving the EU.
The EU told 60 UK scientists who were leading the project they had to take on French citizenship to keep their jobs. The majority of them did, decimating UK fusion researchers.
The Jet Fusion experiment in Oxfordshire will close at the end this year after 40 years of research.
Recently, attempts to rejoin ITER failed a few months ago.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority is due to release designs for the new tokamak next year.
The UK could be well ahead of ITER by 2040, if the reactor is connected to the National Grid.