Fusion Demonstration Plant building at Culham in Oxfordshire takes a step forward

Fusion demo plant at Culham, Artist’s impression

The project to build the Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) Building to house the General Fusion Inc. FDP at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire has taken another step forward with agreement on the location of the plot for the building and further detailed terms.

The construction of the new building, funded by both UKAEA and General Fusion, to house the FDP, is expected to be completed in 2023, subject to planning. When complete, General Fusion will lease occupy the building.

It was announced in June this year that Canadian fusion company General Fusion is to build and operate its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at the UK Atomic Energy Association‘s UKAEA’s Culham Campus.

General Fusion will enter into a long-term lease with UKAEA following construction of the new facility at Culham, which will demonstrate General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, paving the way for the company’s subsequent commercial pilot plant. The MTF approach is different to the tokamak approach used, for example, in the Joint European Tokamak (JET) which is based at Culham, the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade (The MAST Upgrade  is exploring how to develop compact fusion power plants, testing reactor technology and addressing physics issues for the international ITER fusion project), and ITER itself (ITER is the world’s largest fusion experiment being built in France, a collaboration of 35 nations, including the UK), but UKAEA and General Fusion expect to collaborate on a range of technologies of mutual interest.

General Fusion will benefit from the cluster of fusion supply chain activities in the UK, centred on UKAEA’s globally recognised expertise and presence in the field. This is also an exciting and very positive development for UKAEA and the Culham site; strongly aligned with UKAEA’s mission and the development of the Culham site as a leading location for developing fusion energy and a key location for the nascent ‘UK fusion cluster’.

The announcement was made by Amanda Solloway MP, Science Minister for the UK Government, who said: “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. Fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy, and today’s announcement is a clear vote of confidence in the region and the UK’s status as a global science superpower.”

The Fusion Demonstration Plant at Culham is the culmination of more than a decade of advances in General Fusion’s technology, and represents a major milestone on the company’s path to commercialisation. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, with operations beginning approximately three years later.

“Coming to Culham gives us the opportunity to benefit from UKAEA’s expertise,” said Christofer Mowry, CEO, General Fusion. “By locating at this campus, General Fusion expands our market presence beyond North America into Europe, broadening our global network of government, institutional, and industrial partners. This is incredibly exciting news for not only General Fusion, but also the global effort to develop practical fusion energy.”

Ian Chapman, CEO of UKAEA, said: “This is a great development for UKAEA, very much in line with our mission to lead the development of sustainable fusion energy, and builds on our long heritage of hosting major fusion facilities such as the Joint European Torus.”