Research & Development

Nuclear Fusion / UKAEA Awards R&D Contracts To 18 Organisations

By David Dalton
28 February 2023

Projects aim to tackle ‘specific challenges related to commercialisation’

UKAEA Awards R&D Contracts To 18 Organisations
MAST-U is a fusion energy machine at UKAEA's Culham Campus vital for the delivery of fusion powerplants. Courtesy SMD Photography.

Eighteen organisations have secured contracts with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to demonstrate how their technologies and proposed solutions can help make fusion energy a commercial reality.

The UKAEA said the organisations will focus on overcoming specific technical and physical challenges.

The contracts – feasibility studies from £50,000 (€56,000) up to £200,000 – are funded by the UKAEA’s fusion industry programme and awarded through the UK government’s small business research initiative.

The latest contracts are the second part of the Fusion Industry Programme, following the first cycle of the fusion industry programme in 2021.

The projects aim to tackle specific challenges linked to the commercialisation of fusion energy, from novel fusion materials and manufacturing techniques through to innovative heating and cooling systems, all needed for future fusion powerplants.

Tim Bestwick, UKAEA’s chief technology officer, said: “In the past 12 months we have seen significant advances both in the UK and globally that demonstrate the potential for fusion energy to be a safe, low-carbon and sustainable part of the world’s future energy supply.

‘Significant Technical Challenges’

“However, there are a number of significant technical challenges to address for fusion energy to realise its potential. The fusion industry programme is helping engage organisations and industrial partners to stimulate innovation and address these important challenges.”

The fusion industry programme is part of the government’s £484m support package for UK research, announced last year. The programme was allocated £42.1m as part of this package to stimulate innovation and to accelerate the development of the fusion industry.

Contracts have been awarded to startups, small-medium enterprises, established companies, and academia, with six of the 18 organisations receiving funding through the fusion industry programme for the first time. The full list of awardees is online.

Fusion is the phenomenon which powers the sun. The major challenge is to control the complexities involved in replicating this process to produce a clean, abundant but also commercially viable source of power.

US-based Jacobs, one of the companies that has been awarded funding, said it will use the money to create a liquid lithium testing facility at its technology and innovation centre in Warrington, northern England.

Lithium is critical for breeding the hydrogen isotope tritium, an essential fuel for fusion, but there are many knowledge gaps surrounding the behaviour of lithium and the by-products of reactions used to produce it.

Pen Use this content