Planning consent granted for General Fusion demo plant

13 January 2023

Construction of General Fusion's Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's (UKAEA's) Culham Campus near Oxford, England, is expected to start later this year following the granting of planning permission by the South Oxfordshire District Council Planning Committee.

A visualisation of the DFP at Culham (Image: General Fusion)

Canada-based General Fusion's Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) approach involves injecting hydrogen plasma into a liquid metal sphere, where it is compressed and heated so that fusion occurs. The heat from the fusion of the hydrogen atoms is transferred into the liquid metal. The company aims to construct a fusion energy power plant by the early 2030s.

The demonstration plant will be used to prove the viability of the MTF technology and is a 70%-scaled version of the commercial pilot plant. It will create fusion conditions in a "power-plant relevant" environment, achieving temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius. However, the plant will not be used to produce power. The FDP will cycle one plasma pulse per day, and will use deuterium fuel, whereas the commercial pilot plant will use deuterium-tritium fuel and will cycle up to one plasma pulse per second.

When construction of the 10,500-square-metre building is complete, General Fusion will lease the building from UKAEA. The company's fusion machine is expected to be commissioned in 2026 and fully operational by early 2027.

General Fusion said that siting the facility at the UKAEA's Culham Campus enables it to "access world-leading science and engineering capabilities, such as knowledge and experience in designing, constructing and operating the record-breaking Joint European Torus". In addition, the company will benefit from the UK's existing fusion energy supply chains.

"The UK has been a longstanding leader in fusion energy development," said General Fusion CEO Greg Twinney. "We are thrilled to join the Culham Campus and the UK's Fusion Cluster, and anticipate creating 60 long-term jobs at the site. In addition, we expect the project will generate approximately 200 jobs during construction."

"The UKAEA welcomes this milestone as it aligns with our strategy to create clusters that accelerate innovation in fusion and related technologies, and support public-private partnerships to thrive," said UKAEA CEO Ian Chapman. "It also builds upon our heritage of hosting major fusion facilities here at our Culham Campus."

The UKAEA carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government, overseeing the country's fusion programme, including the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment as well as hosting the JET - Joint European Tourus - at Culham, which is operated for scientists from around Europe.

UKAEA is developing its own fusion power plant design with plans to build a prototype known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) at West Burton in Nottinghamshire, which is due to begin operating by 2040.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News