Britain ‘only 15 years away’ from world-first nuclear fusion plant
Nuclear fusion could be powering British homes in just 15 years, making it the first country in the world to make energy from the process, ministers have said.
Currently, nuclear fusion has only been achieved in labs and requires far more energy to make it happen than it produces.
However, George Freeman, the science minister, believes the 15-year timeline could be enough to solve fusion and make a plant capable of working at a large scale and making more power for the grid that it needs to be operational.
Speaking on Monday at the West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire, Mr Freeman unveiled a new company which will be in charge of the nation’s drive to build the world’s first functioning nuclear fusion power station.
UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd (UKIFS) will sit inside the Government’s UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and be tasked with supercharging the creation of Britain’s, and the world’s, first and only commercially-viable fusion plant.
Step (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) is an ambitious project that hopes to be able to reliably do nuclear fusion and produce energy which will feed back into the power grid.
The timeline of completion by 2040 has always been regarded as optimistic but speaking at West Burton, where Step will be built in place of a coal power plant, Mr Freeman signalled a desire to move even faster.
“We’ve decided to deploy into an industrial solution, not just to continually improve the science, but to be the first country to deploy fusion as an energy source – the cleanest, greenest, quickest to generate and lowest cost energy for the 21st century,” he said.
He added: “The start-ups are ready, the investors are ready, the engineering companies are ready but the big challenge now is to make sure that all the energy companies realise that this isn’t 50 years away.
“This isn’t 40 years away. This isn’t 30 years away. It’s a maximum of 20 years away and I think we could get that down a bit and make it 15 years away. The thing is, it’s time the energy sector now recognises fusion is coming.”
Nuclear fusion – the smashing together of two forms of hydrogen to form helium and release enormous amounts of energy – is seen as the panacea for the world’s energy crisis and the ongoing battle against climate change.