University of Manchester awarded UKAEA funding for fusion development

The University of Manchester has been awarded £1.3m by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for the development of lithium technologies for fusion.

The research will deliver a method to produce enriched lithium in the quantities needed to make breeder blankets for deuterium-tritium fusion reactors. This allows tritium, which is an extremely scarce resource, to be produced inside the reactor. Thereby solving the challenge of how to fuel fusion reactors.

Dr Kathryn George will lead the project in collaboration with Prof Philip Martin, Prof Clint Sharrad and Dr Laurence Stamford from The University of Manchester’s Chemical Engineering department, Prof Bruce Hanson at the University of Leeds and Global Nuclear Security Partners Ltd. 

“I am excited to be leading this ambitious, collaborative project to produce the fuel needed to make fusion power a reality. 

“By bringing together a range of skills in chemical engineering and regulation, we will deliver a solution that not only solves the technical problem of fuelling fusion power plants but also ensures that the process will have minimal environmental impact and meet regulatory requirements.”

Dr Kathryn George

UKAEA launched the new Fusion Industry Programme challenge ‘Realising the potential of lithium in an economic, sustainable and scalable fusion energy fuel-cycle’ in early 2023, encouraging organisations to develop and evaluate prototypes of lithium technology.

In total, five organisations have secured six contracts worth £7.4m in total with UKAEA to develop lithium technology for fusion energy. The four universities and one company have received contracts ranging between £700,000 and £1.5m from UKAEA’s ‘Fusion Industry Programme’.

Tim Bestwick, UKAEA’s Chief Development Officer, said: “Fusion energy continues to feature on the world stage, with recent commitments being made at COP28 to develop fusion as a sustainable, low carbon source of energy for future generations.

“The Fusion Industry Programme is encouraging the development of UK industrial fusion capacity and preparing the UK fusion industry for the future global fusion power plant market.

“The organisations that have been awarded these contracts have successfully demonstrated their lithium technology concepts and will now develop them to the ‘proof of concept’ stage.”

The latest contracts follow the award of Fusion Industry Programme contracts earlier in 2023, focused on digital engineering and fusion fuel requirements, and more recently materials and manufacturing, and heating and cooling technologies.

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