Prince William tours UK’s new fusion energy experiment

Fusion energy research aims to copy the process which powers the sun for a new large-scale source of clean energy on Earth

By Priyanka Shrestha

Prince William was “left in awe” as he marked the end of construction of the UK’s new nuclear fusion energy experiment with a visit to the Culham Science Centre near Oxford.

The Duke of Cambridge took a tour of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) research lab, home to the £50 million MAST Upgrade project, which scientists believe could potentially be a “life-changing world energy project”.

Fusion energy research aims to copy the process which powers the sun for a new large-scale source of clean energy on Earth.

Prince William heard about the five-year project to build a machine capable of creating artificial stars and how in a few months’ time, temperatures of 50 million°C will be created – more than three times hotter than the sun.

He also ran a test of a “plasma” – the hot gas that will form inside the MAST Upgrade when it operates – to help the team condition the machine as they prepare for the first scientific tests in 2019.

The project will explore whether smaller reactors – the so-called “spherical tokamak” design – could make future fusion power cheaper and trial a novel way to exhaust heat from the large fusion reactors which are expected to be on the grid by the middle of the century.

UKAEA CEO Professor Ian Chapman said: “It was a privilege to welcome The Duke of Cambridge to Culham as we prepare to start a major new fusion experiment.

“The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week reminded us how badly the world needs cleaner energy. We think fusion has a big role to play. The fuels are abundant around the globe, it doesn’t release greenhouse gases and it doesn’t produce long-lived radioactive waste like the nuclear fission power we have today. Building a star on Earth is very difficult – but the research is fascinating and knowing that we could change the world is a big motivation.”

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