Nuclear fusion research receives £21m

An experimental nuclear fusion project in the UK is to receive £21 million in funding. The Mage Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade test facility at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire will use the […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

An experimental nuclear fusion project in the UK is to receive £21 million in funding.

The Mage Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade test facility at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire will use the money to upgrade its plasma exhaust systems.

The funding, which will run up until 2022, comes jointly from research consortium EUROfusion and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The controlled exhaust of power and particles through the ‘divertor’ of a hot fusion plasma reactor is arguably the biggest challenge facing a future fusion power plant.

The extreme power loadings of more than 10 megawatts per square metre are higher than those experienced on a spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and would require a regular divertor to be replaced on a regular basis.

One possible solution the centre is looking into is a new design to cool particles down by steering them on a longer exhaust path out of the plasma.

The funding will also help increase the facility’s plasma heating power, install a cryoplant for the divertor, improve fuelling systems, upgrade related hardware and software and add extra diagnostic equipment.

These upgrades will allow fusion scientists to improve their understanding of plasma exhaust physics and work towards a prototype plant in the future.

The test device will go into operation in the next few months.

The UK Government intends to leave a Europe-wide nuclear co-operation body as part of Brexit.