The UK is well placed to lead the development of commercial fusion technology and influence global markets if a robust regulatory framework is established.
This was one of the key findings of a new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, commissioned by multi-national engineering firm, Assystem.
Matt Rooney, Head of Policy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lead author of the report, said: “Fusion used to be the preserve of national laboratories, but that is beginning to change. More than £2 billion of private sector funding has been invested in start-ups that are trying to accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy.”
The report, Fusion Energy: A global effort – a UK opportunity, profiles the potential economic opportunity of fusion at a time when future energy policy is under consideration and examines the current state and future prospects of fusion energy including:
- The potential role of fusion in future energy systems
- The steps that need to be taken to turn fusion reactors from scientific experiments to commercial power plants
- The cost drivers of fusion energy and the potential for cost reduction
- The financing options for different investment stages between fusion R&D and a commercial power plant
- The current capacity of the UK to support a fusion industry and the options for expansion
- The possible barriers to fusion energy and opportunities for the UK to lead on commercial deployment
According to the report, the UK has an opportunity to take the lead in the fusion market by building the world’s first demonstration reactor. The country also has the advantage of a world-class research base with Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion located nearby.
Assystem suggests that building a fusion demonstration plant in the UK would boost domestic industrial capacity in cutting-edge technologies, as well as project management skills, which will be key to the development of a commercial fusion power plant.
The report identifies short and longer term advantages to fusion development. In the short-to-medium term, there are positive economic spill-overs from fusion research to other high technology sectors, and in the longer term, the UK could become a global leader in fusion energy.
Simon Barber, UK Managing Director, Assystem said: “Fusion offers the potential for abundant power using a sustainable fuel source while leaving no harmful environmental legacy. Today, it is within reach thanks to a number of major experiments which have successfully stimulated a private fusion sector.
“Assystem is a committed partner in the development of low-carbon technologies, hence we commissioned this excellent report to highlight the opportunity for progress in the commercialisation of fusion energy,” said Barber.