Professor Ian Chapman
UK Atomic Energy Authority & Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE)
A Step Towards Delivering Fusion Power
Fusion power could be one of the sustainable options to replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy source. Fusion offers the potential of predictable, safe power with no carbon emissions, and fuel sources lasting for millions of years. However, it is notoriously difficult to achieve in a controlled, steady-state fashion. The most promising path is via magnetic confinement in a device called a tokamak. 70 years after John Lawson formulated the criterion for a fusion burn that creates more energy than needed to initiate it, a machine to demonstrate this is due to turn on in 2025. This device, called ITER, will prove that fusion is possible on a commercial scale.
UKAEA has developed a wide range of skills to address many of the challenges associated with commercialising fusion energy production and hosts the JET device, presently the only MCF facility capable of operating with both the fusion fuels, deuterium and tritium. Several major new UKAEA facilities have started operation, notably a new compact fusion device (MAST Upgrade), a major robotics facility (RACE), and a materials research facility (MRF). Most recently, work has started on the H3AT (Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology) centre for tritium technology and a group of Fusion Technology Facilities (FTF). Finally, the government also recently announced a £200M investment in the conceptual design phase of a compact fusion reactor, called STEP (the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production).
This talk will describe the international effort towards delivering fusion, consider how UKAEA is supporting UK industry and academia to address the key challenges on the path to delivering commercial fusion power and look ahead towards the STEP programme to deliver smaller, cheaper fusion reactors.