The UK Government has announced £86m investment for the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to establish a center to support innovation and expertise in nuclear fusion technologies.

The funding will be used to build and operate a National Fusion Technology Platform (NaFTeP) at UKAEA’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire.

Planned to be commissioned in 2020, the NaFTeP involves two new centers of excellence including Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) and Fusion Technology Facilities (FTF).

The H3AT will be used for research on how to process and store tritium, which will be one of the fuels that will power commercial fusion reactors, while FTF will carry out thermal, mechanical, hydraulic and electromagnetic tests on prototype components under simulated conditions inside fusion reactors.

The new facilities will enable UKAEA to develop technology for first nuclear fusion power plants.

The new funding will also allow UK firms to compete for £1bn worth of contracts for fusion technologies, including for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is currently under contraction in France.

UK Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister of State Jo Johnson said: “Our new Industrial Strategy clearly detailed our ambition to build on the UK’s existing scientific strengths and ensure UK expertise remains at the forefront of pioneering research that has global impact.

“This new funding for nuclear fusion research will establish a unique set of research and innovation capabilities that will safeguard the exceptional work already taking place in Culham by scientists and engineers from across the world, and emphasises the UK’s commitment to international collaboration.”

The facilities are also expected to position industrial supply chain for next phase of ITER procurements in areas including the tritium plant, Hot Cell, measurement systems, assembly, maintenance and reactor materials.

UKAEA CEO Ian Chapman said: “The National Fusion Technology Platform will help British industry to maximize growth from opportunities provided by ITER.

“In the longer term it means the UK will be at the forefront of developing fusion and bringing cleaner energy to the world.”

Image: A Fusion Technology research at a lab. Photo: © Crown copyright.