Oxford fusion firms react to US fusion breakthrough
Two Oxford-based firms involved in developing fusion energy have reacted after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved energy gain for the first time.
Using a type of fusion called “inertial fusion”, researchers at the National Ignition Facility in California received more energy from a fusion experiment than needed to run it.
First Light Fusion has congratulated the NIF on its achievement, noting that the research proves the approach taken by First Light Fusion, meaning it is something of a proof of concept for inertial fusion (distinct from magnetic fusion).
Nick Hawker, Co-founder and CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “Huge congratulations to NIF. Many of our team have worked directly with Livermore and know the dedication, rigour and creativity they bring to their work, this result is well deserved.
“This is a watershed moment for inertial fusion as a power generation technology. Gain has long been the measure of success, the objective that shows the core physics has been cracked. The physics path from this result to power production is very clear and significantly de-risked.
“For the energy sector, there will not be an immediate impact, and it is important that deployment of renewables must continue. This is not a silver bullet for climate change. But we need clean baseload power and this is what fusion can offer. It does not have the drawbacks of nuclear, no high-level or long-lived waste, no meltdown risk.
“There is a credible path to a power plant with the laser approach. At First Light we are pursuing a simpler, lower-cost approach that we believe can be commercialized more quickly. This result is directly relevant to the physics of our approach and massively increases our belief that we can reach cost-competitive power production with inertial fusion.”
Oxford-based Tokamak Energy has also congratulated the NIF on its breakthrough, calling it “an impressive scientific result”.
In a statement, the company said: "We’re in a race against time to phase out fossil fuels and make fusion a globally available solution for the world’s energy needs. Progress of this nature is great for the industry as more private and public investment flows into fusion technology.
“Our path to demonstrating clean, grid-ready power by the early 2030s continues on track. The spherical tokamak has significant efficiency advantages on the route to cost-effective fusion energy in compact power plants to be deployed globally.
“Our technology uses strong magnetic fields to contain the plasma – the fusion fuel – in a spherical tokamak which will deliver continuous power output. We are aiming for a Q of 25 for optimal commercial fusion to provide a constant energy source for homes and industry.
“We’re now focused on developing the critical know-how for our ST80-HTS advanced prototype fusion device and our pilot plant, ST-E1, as we work towards delivering clean, secure, low cost fusion for all."
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