Europe, Reactors, Strategic Development

Mott MacDonald in nuclear fusion collaboration

UK-based First Light Fusion and international engineering group Mott MacDonald are collaborating on a commercial nuclear fusion reactor.

The companies say that the project is “on track to deliver first fusion this year and to demonstrate gain [where the energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction] by 2024”.

First Light is currently identifying and addressing key engineering challenges, but aims to deliver a detailed reactor design in the 2020s.

The firm’s inertial confinement approach creates the extreme temperatures and pressures required for fusion by compressing a target using a projectile travelling at massive speed.

The companies say that their approach has the potential to transform the world’s energy supply if it can be harnessed and applied to power generation. Unlike existing nuclear, there is no long-lived waste, no meltdown risk, and raw materials can be found in abundance.

Ian Baird, managing director of nuclear at Mott MacDonald said: “Fusion energy is one of the great engineering and scientific challenges. We are excited to be working with First Light to help bring this vital technology towards commercialisation. We are impressed by their new approach, pragmatic collaborative culture and the scientific rigour. We expect a number of engineering hurdles, as we are dealing with a technology that has never been developed before, but the promise of clean and limitless energy is becoming a reality and we are proud to be part of this journey.”

Dr Nick Hawker, chief executive of First Light Fusion said: “Fusion energy doesn’t just need to be scientifically feasible; it needs to be commercially viable. Mott MacDonald is one of the world’s leading power consultancies with a wealth of experience in energy generation and in fusion in particular, given their involvement with ITER. The work we are doing is an important step forward towards making fusion energy a reality. Identifying the engineering challenges of our unique and radically new technology is a fundamental milestone towards the vision of a commercially viable fusion power plant.”

First Light and partners will use existing know-how to help accelerate the pathway towards a commercially viable reactor, as clearly there is no time to waste.

A recent analysis conducted by system-change advisory and investment firm SYSTEMIQ, found that achieving a zero-carbon global energy system by 2050 will require significant investment in both existing renewables and new clean energy technologies.

The analysis showed that while the maximum deployment of renewables is key to achieving the 2050 target, wind and solar power alone will not be able to meet projected energy demand, creating a market for clean baseload power to complement renewables.
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New nuclear technologies and O&M strategies will be a focus of the Knowledge Hubs at POWERGEN Europe in Paris in November. Click here for details of the event.