Further contracts awarded to progress UK's fusion effort

08 December 2023

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has awarded ten contracts worth a total GBP11.6 million (USD14.6 million) to nine organisations to develop their innovative technologies for fusion energy.

Inside a fusion training facility at Culham, near Oxford, UK (Image: UKAEA)

The contracts - awarded to start-ups, small-medium enterprises, established companies, and academia - range between GBP500,000 and GBP1.4 million, and are funded by the Fusion Industry Programme.

The programme - part of the government's GBP484 million support package for UK research, announced last year - was launched to drive long-term economic growth by developing technology and skills that can both support domestic programmes and be exported globally. The Fusion Industry Programme was allocated GBP42.1 million as part of this package to stimulate innovation and to accelerate the development of the fusion industry.

Eighteen projects received initial Phase 1 funding at the end of last year.

The latest contracts, selected to progress to Phase 2, address prototypes for novel fusion materials, manufacturing and technologies; and developing heating and cooling systems for fusion machines.

The eight organisations focusing on manufacturing and materials are 3-Sci, Alloyed, Duality Quantum Photonics, Full Matrix, Jacobs, Oxford Sigma, TWI (Coldspray technology), and University of Birmingham. The two organisations focused on heating and cooling technologies are Cal Gavin and TWI (Coreflow technology).

This latest announcement follows the award of Fusion Industry Programme contracts earlier this year for organisations which had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of technologies focused on digital engineering and fusion fuel requirements.

"Delivering fusion energy is one of the great scientific and engineering challenges of our time," said UKAEA Chief Development Officer Tim Bestwick.

"The Fusion Industry Programme is supporting businesses to overcome these challenges and help make fusion a commercial reality. These organisations have been awarded contracts after successfully demonstrating the feasibility of their concepts through earlier stages of the Fusion Industry Programme and will now develop their technologies to the 'proof of concept' stage."

The UKAEA carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government, overseeing the country's fusion programme, including the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment as well as hosting the JET at Culham, which is operated for scientists from around Europe. It is also developing its own fusion power plant design with plans to build a prototype known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) at West Burton in Nottinghamshire, which is due to begin operating by 2040.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News