Duke of Cambridge unveils UK’s new fusion project at Culham

MAST at Culham

The Duke of Cambridge joined the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Culham Science Centre near Oxford to see a potentially world-changing energy project.

During Green GB Week, it was a particularly fitting time to view research into nuclear fusion – the power source of the Sun – and how it could be commercialised to provide huge amounts of low-carbon electricity.

The Duke heard about the five-year project to build a machine capable of creating artificial stars and stood yards away from the MAST Upgrade chamber where, in a few months’ time, temperatures of 50 million degrees C will be created – over three times hotter than the Sun. He then ran a test of a ‘plasma’ – the hot gas that will form inside MAST Upgrade when it operates.

Read our big feature on Culham Science Centre in the November issue of Business & Innovation Magazine

The UK Atomic Energy Authority runs the UK’s national fusion research lab at Culham, and its £50 million MAST Upgrade device will put Britain at the forefront of international research when it starts up in 2019. MAST Upgrade will explore whether smaller reactors – the so-called ‘spherical tokamak’ design – could make future fusion power cheaper. It will also trial a novel way to exhaust heat from the large fusion reactors that are expected to be on the grid by the middle of the century.

UKAEA’s CEO Professor Ian Chapman said: “It was a privilege to welcome The Duke of Cambridge to Culham as we prepare to start a major new fusion experiment.

“The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week reminded us how badly the world needs cleaner energy. We think fusion has a big role to play. The fuels are abundant around the globe, it doesn’t release greenhouse gases and it doesn’t produce long-lived radioactive waste like the nuclear fission power we have today. Building a star on Earth is very difficult – but the research is fascinating and knowing that we could change the world is a big motivation.”