Nuclear Fusion: Small is beautiful. The UK is set to become a hub for Nuclear Start-ups.
Small British Firm, Applied Fusion Systems has its sights set on its own reactor and believes that the UK is a center for excellence of Nuclear Fusion Technology offering Small Enterprises an unparalleled opportunity for Research and Investment.
LONDON, 20 OCTOBER 2016
Fusion was easy, that’s what scientists thought, that was in the 1950s. Things didn’t go according to plan.
Over the past two weeks’ fusion research has seen more setbacks. Firstly, Princeton’s NSTX reactor was shut down after a malfunctioning copper coil melted. The device will be offline for a year. This week the Alcator c-mod at MIT was powered up for the last time. The reason? Funding cuts.
Fusion research has a problem and the problem is size. Years ago, the US agreed to join the ITER project, a vast multi-billion dollar consortium of countries building a huge test reactor in the south of France. Not scheduled to begin fusion reactions until 2027 and massively expensive, it took two years simply to decide to locate the project in Cadarache, Provence. The huge expense of ITER means that funds are tight for homegrown fusion research, hence the demise of Alcator at MIT.
But look closer and you will see the emergence of a new wave of fusion research. In recent years, a number of startups have appeared pursuing their own path to commercial fusion conceptualising smaller, cheaper designs with lead times of years instead of decades.
In the UK, Applied Fusion Systems is typical of this new breed; small, nimble and plugged into a world leading research community. Founded by Richard Dinan and Dr. James Lambert, Applied Fusion is in the process of privately financing the construction of its own British made Tokamak reactor, ‘S.T.A.R.’ (Small Toroidal Atomic Reactor).
The designers behind STAR have compiled elements from some of the most successful reactors over the past 20 years and applied the very latest super computing technologies, combined with a cutting edge understanding of Plasma Physics. A subject for which the UK is home to a wealth of World experts. Additionally down the road in Culham is CCFE, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Here sit JET and MAST, world-leading fusion experiments with their researchers singly focused on bringing fusion to the grid.
Fusion had been a tough sell for venture capitalists but a number of factors have combined to change that making fusion particularly enticing to investors and graduates who, a few years ago, might have gravitated towards investment banking. Fusion research is a number crunching game and over the last decade the cost of supercomputing has collapsed. Instead of filling warehouses with computers researchers can now hire time on a provider’s cluster on the other side of the world.
The financial crisis of 2008 has reversed a brain drain which saw many to physicists leave the lab for the city. Now, with Imperial College, Oxford, Cambridge, York and others carrying out world-class fusion research the time has never been better for UK enterprises to get into fusion.
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APPLIED FUSION SYSTEMS UK