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New report highlights UK fusion energy opportunity

21 October 2021

A new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that the UK is well placed to lead the development of commercial fusion technology and the creation of a robust regulatory framework will give it key influence in the global market.

(Image courtesy of IMechE)
(Image courtesy of IMechE)

The research was commissioned by Assystem, a multi-national engineering firm which has been actively involved in the development of fusion technology since 2005. The company is partner to a variety of energy transition projects including nuclear, renewables, and hydrogen. It engaged with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to profile the potential economic opportunity of fusion at a time when future energy policy is under consideration.

Fusion Energy: A global effort – a UK opportunity, offers a comprehensive new analysis of fusion’s potential as a source of abundant low-carbon power. It examines the current state and future prospects of fusion energy including:

• The potential role of fusion in future energy systems
• The steps that need to be taken to turn fusion reactors from scientific experiments to commercial power plants
• The cost drivers of fusion energy and the potential for cost reduction
• The financing options for different investment stages between fusion R&D and a commercial power plant
• The current capacity of the UK to support a fusion industry and the options for expansion
• The possible barriers to fusion energy and opportunities for the UK to lead on commercial deployment

The report highlights a particular opportunity for the UK to take a lead and build the world’s first demonstration reactor. Britain has the advantage of a world-class research base, built over decades, and largely concentrated around the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, with Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion located nearby.

Building a fusion demonstration plant in the UK, would boost domestic industrial capacity in cutting-edge technologies, as well as project management know-how, which will be key to the development and future deployment of a commercial fusion power plant.

In the short-to-medium term, there are positive economic spill-overs from fusion research to other high technology sectors. In the longer term, with significant R&D funding and the right industrial policy, the UK could become a global leader in fusion energy.

Simon Barber, UK Managing Director, Assystem said: “Fusion offers the potential for abundant power using a sustainable fuel source while leaving no harmful environmental legacy. Today, it is within reach thanks to a number of major experiments which have successfully stimulated a private fusion sector.

“Assystem is a committed partner in the development of low-carbon technologies, hence we commissioned this excellent report to highlight the opportunity for progress in the commercialisation of fusion energy.”

Matt Rooney, Head of Policy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lead author of the report, said: “Fusion used to be the preserve of national laboratories, but that is beginning to change. More than £2 billion of private sector funding has been invested in start-ups that are trying to accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy. 

“Fusion is an important technology option for delivering a long-term sustainable global energy system. Challenges remain, but the UK is well-placed to benefit from being a leader in this growing sector.”

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