In what could be a first-of-its-kind deal. Her Majesty’s Government will test a private company’s experimental fusion reactor.
General Fusion will build and operate a Fusion Demonstration Plant at theCulham Centre for Fusion Energy in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The Culham Centre is the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) national fusion laboratory at the Culham Science Centre.
The UAKEA will will use the Demonstration Plant to test General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, a press release indicates. Unlike other fusion processes, MFT uses mechanical systems to achieve fusion.
British government will test mechanical fusion
For example, MFT reactors use a liquid metal wall to contain the hot plasma. Interestingly, MFT uses steam-powered pistons to compress the hot plasma and create the fusion. In contrast, most fusion reactors rely on powerful magnets to contain the plasma and lasers to create the fusion reaction.
The MFT reactor generates electricity by pumping hot liquid metal through an exchanger to make steam from water. The steam powers a turbine which generates the electricity.
Interestingly, this process points to another potential use of the MFT technology. I think they could use MFT to generate steam to heat cities or large facilities such as college campuses or military bases in district heating.
British government will test Bezos-funded fusion reactor
The UAKEA could begin testing the Fusion Demonstration plant as early as 2025, Business Insider claims.
The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is an investor in General Fusion for over a decade, The BBC claims. However, Bezos’ true role at General Fusion is unclear.
General Fusion has raised around $100 million in its latest funding round, the BBC estimates. The Fusion Demonstration Plant will cost $400 million to build, the BBC claims.
The Culham plant will be the first real-world test of the MFT technology. If it works, General Fusion could build a commercial MFT reactor.
A Transformative Project
Once they complete the Fusion Demonstration Plant, the UKAEA will lease it from General Fusion, a UKAEA press release states. Building the plant at the Culham Centre enables General Fusion to take advantage of the research and development infrastructure the UKAEA has built at Culham.
“This new plant by General Fusion is a huge boost for our plans to develop a fusion industry in the UK, and I’m thrilled that Culham will be home to such a cutting-edge and potentially transformative project,” UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway MP (Member of Parliament) says in the press release.
General Fusion is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, but it has offices in London and Washington, DC. General also operates a research facility in Vancouver.