General Fusion Building Fusion Demonstration Plant in the UK from 2022-2025

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and General Fusion have announced an agreement under which General Fusion will build and operate its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at UKAEA’s Culham Campus. General Fusion will enter into a long-term lease with UKAEA following construction of a new facility at Culham to host the FDP. The FDP will demonstrate General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, paving the way for the company’s subsequent commercial pilot plant. General Fusion will benefit from the cluster of fusion supply chain activities in the UK, centered on UKAEA’s globally recognized expertise and presence in the field.

They are preparing to build a first-of-a-kind Fusion Demonstration Plant to showcase our Magnetized Target Fusion technology. The facility is the result of over a decade of development; it assembles proven components into a scaled version of our commercial machine.

The Fusion Demonstration Plant at Culham is the culmination of more than a decade of advances in General Fusion’s technology, and represents a major milestone on the company’s path to commercialization. The Fusion Demonstration Plant will verify that General Fusion’s MTF technology can create fusion conditions in a practical and cost-effective manner at power plant relevant scales, as well as refine the economics of fusion energy production, leading to the subsequent design of a commercial fusion pilot plant. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, with operations beginning approximately three years later in 2025.

Nextbigfuture interviewed Christofer Mowry, CEO of General Fusion in May, 2018 at the C2 conference in Montreal. Christofer Mowry indicated that General Fusion was working to get funding and complete a 70% scale pilot plant that will prove out the viability of generating electricity from General Fusion’s magnetized target nuclear fusion. He indicated that the scale pilot could be completed around 2023.

General Fusion does not need to demonstrate fusion containment because they are pulsed power system like a diesel engine or steampunk fusion.

The pilot system will prove three things:
1. Fusion conditions will be repeatably produced
2. There will be a kill chain from neutrons to electrons
3. Economics will be validated.

Simulation will be used to validate the economics and design specifics to move to a 100% system.

The next system after the 70% scale system will be a full commercial system.

In 2019, $100 million was raised to build the Demo plant. Funding comes from Jeff Bezos, Venture Funds, Shopify founder Tobias Lütk, Canadian government, Malaysian government and others.

The CTO of General Fusion talked about taking 10 years to reach a commercial plant. This was stated in 2029 but there has been a two year shift in schedules. We are likely looking at 2031-2035.

General Fusion and UKAEA intend to collaborate on a range of fusion energy technologies for power plant design and operation.

Other Commercial Fusion Efforts

Other commercial fusion efforts include Commonwealth Energy which has raised over $200 million from people like Bill Gates.

TAE Fusion (was called Trialpha Energy) has raised over $880 million and is targeting fusion conditions in 2025.

SOURCES – General Fusion, TAE, Techcrunch
Written By Brian Wang,

52 thoughts on “General Fusion Building Fusion Demonstration Plant in the UK from 2022-2025”

  1. To emphasize the importance of Earth to Earth power beaming, a "huge technological leap", even before Space Solar. Solving the load and supply problems of Earth solar and wind are major things. It makes all thermal electricity too expensive.

    Just saw: "This is because nuclear and hydro are able to provide electricity
    whenever we need it. These “firm” sources of clean electricity do not
    need to wait for the sun to shine or the wind to blow to power the
    ventilators in our hospitals. Batteries and other forms of energy
    storage are great, and we need much more funding of research and
    development to make them even better, but until huge technological leaps occur, sustainables are hindered by the need for cooperative weather." —

  2. "dependent on a single contract or a single peace of infrastructure" On the specific topic, think of each rectenna as a power plant, supplying grid as now, or new loads. These are not centrally controlled, just built. The power can come from other Earth sources or Space, many places at once, again, all independent at least of each other. This is also leading to smaller grids, too. There will be abundant energy being beamed all around in Space, no monopoly IMHO.

    On the broader question "single peace of infrastructure" (Earth) there is seemingly obvious advantage to Space Solar as a *next big project* for international effort, thus owned as shipping ports or such, not cut off at a whim. Politics, who knows? A *big* reason to do Space Solar, global weirding/warming, is matched by the fact that it opens Space. $$$.

  3. For some countries, I do not expect any prospects for building infrastructure just to change one energy overlord to another, and one who could leave you with no current instantly. Just look at the affair with the Russian natural gas flowing into Poland via Ukraine, and the dreaded (by us) Nord Stream 2. Plus, there always will have to be maximum diversification, you cannot make energy needs of several dozen million people be dependent on a single contract or a single peace of infrastructure. To move it all to space, you also need some progressive thinking, which in some places may be totally absent. BTW, I'm all for leaving this planet.

  4. The lead will get into the plasma, but only the outer edges of the plasma, and the plasma gets replaced with each shot. So it shouldn't be a problem.

    It's not like a quasi-steady state reactor where the heavy ions have time to penetrate throughout the working plasma.

  5. Plutonium has a nice low-melting eutectic with iron. Bit corrosive though, and might scare off a few investors.

  6. I think the lithium is supposed to absorb neutrons and split to produce two tritium nuclei, which are needed to keep the deuterium/tritium reaction going. Only 7.5 % of natural lithium is Li6 atoms, but they have about 20,000 times the neutron absorption cross-section of Li7, which makes up the rest of it. Lead has a number of different isotopes, all with lowish neutron absorption cross-sections, and one, Pb208, has a 'magic number' of both neutrons and protons. This gives it an extremely low neutron cross-section, two million times less than for Li6. It usually makes up about half the lead atoms, but in some thorium-bearing ores that can rise to 90%. Lithium can also be enriched ( or depleted, depending on whether you want Li6 or Li7.)
    Anyway, the main function of the lithium/lead is to turn the neutrons' energy to heat. The hot metal can then be pumped through a steam generator to power a turbine.

  7. Candu waste hasn't been any trouble at all. An outfit in New Brunswick is working on reusing it as fuel ( though the plutonium content is rather lower than from US reactors.)

  8. Liquid plutonium or Uranium 235 will absorb the neutrons and help provide heat for power generation.

  9. So far it's taken 70 years to come down by 10 years. The fact that it's now moving at all is an improvement, but we're still worried about Zeno's paradox.

  10. I don't see how anything with this many moving parts can be reliable enough for long enough. Zap Energy seems a lot more promising.

  11. Power beaming as in my above reply to Dennis, Criswell LSP see searchanddiscovery link, exactly solves the load and supply variability, removing main justification for more expensive nukes/boil systems. Most importantly long term, any Space Solar project blows the doors open to Space. Save the planet by leaving.

    US military is about to go on several fronts, could have started in 1977 by following my recommendations at the time, see tech current details:

    The independence comes from the fact that 50-80% of the cost is the locally owned, built and located rectennae, which can receive power beam from anyone who is selling. Or, own 100% by buying into the Space part of the deal.

  12. See Earth to Earth power beaming ppg 12-13 Criswell LSP find searchanddiscovery link. Solar if delivered already cheaper than boil water and power wires, even if heat for water free. Add in Space Solar collectors and game over.

  13. Well, would solar and wind so be so viable everywhere? In Winter, in Poland we do not see any direct sunlight, and wind power is controversial – some complain about noise, some about killing of birds. Large-scale space based solar power – how soon, and are you sure everone is willing to sell off his/her energy independence?

  14. Twenty years ago we got the same percentage of power from low Carbon sources as we do today, it's just that we make much more power so the Carbon pollution is much higher than twenty years ago.

  15. Too far away, and is blocked for long periods. This would give us clean power for years at a time, continuously,like the Candu nuclear plants in Canada,thirty years of continuous power, but this will have less chance for an accident and a thousand times less troublesome waste.

  16. It is still spherical,they use timing ,so they are building this in the UK and it will pulse once a day, the commercial plants to follow will pulse once a second.

  17. If you want to make tritium for D-T fusion (vastly easier than any other kind of fusion) you need the metal to contain some lithium and capture neutrons. This is a thermal plant, so the energy dumped into the metal becomes heat, which drives a turbine. The turbine could be driven by steam or supercritical CO2 or some other medium, but most likely steam because it's easy and traditional.

  18. For some reason they always present their design as though it's a physical crushing. I wonder why>?

  19. Asking for neutrons is fair in order to evaluate how well a confinement method works. In this case though, I believe this is the first time they will build a fully integrated system. So we won't know until then. Also note that neutron counts need to be evaluated based on the scope of the experiment. This prototype is only using Deuterium for fuel. So actual neutron counts will have to be extrapolated to D+T which the commercial reactor will use.

  20. They start building in 2022, and operations in 2025, so I would say that it has now moved to 4 years away.

    It keeps moving down so it looks like we will reach the 1 year away soon enough.

  21. There is still some molten metal in the center at vapor pressure. Its unavoidable and they are injecting plasma in to the high Z ions (at vapor pressure). Also the high Z ions at vapor pressure would mess with and deform the plasma when it is injected. These seems like they would be problems but they are also an obvious problems so I assume that they have worked around this?

  22. Certainly agree! Fusion needed for many reasons, but don't wait for it. MIGMA or such is the ultimate key, but aneutronic not being thermal gets to the heart of the matter. Which is that thermal with free heat is worse than Earth to Earth power beaming today. This is 80s radar, or better!, simple screens in orbit. Nothing interesting to test. Do it. No more power lines long distance. Balance load and source variability worldwide, now. Supply whole world, now. Build the rectennae for Space Solar supply soon to come. Wind and intentionally overbuilt Earth solar can supply, or make H locally, to bring up another topic. Criswell LSP find the searchanddiscovery link, ppg 12-13 for Earth to Earth power beaming. Criswell predicted 1 cent/KWh-e delivered retail. 20-200 TWe system, needed for global weirding solution. Then, perhaps a big drop in price to the owners. Needs to be re figured entirely with Musk pricing and other advances. May be free!

    edit: wouldn't it be a kick if the successful aneutronic device were based upon the storage ring O'Neill invented?

  23. I'm a big fan of space solar but I'm not convinced it automatically beats thermal. Based on cost projections in *The Case for Space Solar Power*, at Starship launch prices SPS gets to about 4 cents/kWh, with most of that being manufacturing cost. That's fantastic for 24/7 clean power but I've seen cost projections for molten salt reactors that do even better.

    And of course if we get aneutronic fusion then that's not thermal anyway. Potentially it could outcompete everything.

    I definitely think we should develop and deploy SPS but since nobody's done that yet even at a small scale, I wouldn't say it's time yet to abandon other clean baseload efforts. Certainly not fusion, which would give us a way to power O'Neill colonies as far out as we want 🙂

  24. While I support science, and fusion is certainly a topic, the time for commercial thermal electricity is long past. There is no money to make there, certainly not the further into the future one looks. The last gasp justification has gone down to the intermittency of wind and solar. Power beaming solves that, and does not lead to vast new conduction lines, aka solar flare detectors, being strung. Space Solar puts the puppy to bed for good.

  25. Yeah, in Pu implosion you use 'lenses' to convert a finite number of explosive charges into a spherical implosion. Don't see why you couldn't pull that off with hammer blows, too.

  26. I believe it's a lead-lithium alloy. Though they may have changed that since I last heard.

    Maintaining absolute symmetry IS essential in these things. If you have some shear in the flow, so that it's flowing faster in the interior than along the wall, (Kind of unavoidable, really, you're not going to get slug flow in a liquid.) that will tend to average out asymmetries.

    Poisoning the plasma is less of an issue when you're replacing the plasma with each cycle, as I believe is the case here: Takes some time for the high Z ions to reach the fusing plasma.

    I think they could have used the original low number of pistons together with a lens system, by making the wall out of suitably shaped high and low speed of sound materials. But maybe that wasn't working out.

    It's a graphic artist illustration, probably looks nothing like what they're actually building.

  27. I think they are trying to smooth out the outer hammer impacts by transferring their force to multiple inner hammers.

    Analogous to Pu implosion explosive composition and arrangement- must deal with speed of sound issues in liquid metal in an attempt to provide uniform compression.

    Inner hammer arrangement seems to be adding complexity with the idea of synchronizing the outer hammers.

  28. Are they still using lead for their molten metal?

    And all of that molten metal is going to go back to the sides of the cylinder after getting hit by a hundred pistons? At best it will take time to get the metal rotating smoothly (and if it isn't a nice smooth rotation then things get wild). Come to think of it if a piston fails then things probably get wild.

    I'm concerned about the molten metal being present in small quantities as a vapor and disrupting plasma injection as well as poisoning the plasma with extremely high Z value ions.

  29. > General Fusion does not need to demonstrate fusion containment because they are pulsed power system

    Even NIF, which has a much shorter confinement time than General Fusion, has to deal with containment. Get things a little bit wrong and the plasma squirts out sideways somewhere instead of compressing evenly inwards.

    No matter what your design is, you're working on exceeding a threshold for the triple product of temperature, density, and confinement time.

  30. Yep, magnetic confinement is part of this. I think it's actually a tokamak configuration now, the central column is a solenoid.

  31. I've got a theory: Yes, metal, even liquid metal, is cold compared to the plasma so directly crushing it will serve to cool it down.
    Though, remember the sonoluminescence phenomena. Where room temperature water can heat up gas bubbles to plasma temperature?

    But my theory is that liquid metal isn't just heavy, it's a conductor. So what we have is a collapsing conductor around a spinning plasma, which is going to naturally be encapsulated in a magnetic field. Now the collapsing conductor is going to crush that magnetic field, which in turn crushes the plasma, without the metal actually needing to touch (and cool) the plasma.

  32. I wonder what has been demonstrated in the preceding 10 years? Plasma density, neutrons, heat generation? What is the demonstrated Q, for instance..?

  33. I don't see how this could work; perhaps someone could help me out?

    So there is a plasma inside of the metal vortex, and the pistons move the metal which in turn compresses the plasma. But how does the latter work? The liquid metal is extremely cold compared to the plasma, so when the plasma "bounces" of the liquid metal "walls", will it not be cooled by the liquid metal? I thought this was the whole point of "magnatic bottles", you could keep that plasma from touching the physical walls..

  34. They do seem to have lost the "brisance", though. The original concept had the hammers hitting a solid surface, with the very abrupt impulse being transmitted to the liquid metal. The liquid metal then left the surface it was traveling along, and converged to form a continuous spherical metallic liner uniformly compressing the magnetic field the plasma was trapped in.

    The new concept has the first stage pistons compressing gas, which transmits a more gradual force to many more smaller pistons, which directly compress the liquid metal. (At least that's what the illustration shows.) I'm unclear how solid pistons converge in this way without creating interruptions in the surface the metal is flowing against.

  35. Still has the steampunk philosophy though.

    We need to compress this really hard. So we'll hit it with a hammer.
    Not hard enough? We'll use multiple hammers.
    Still not hard enough? We'll use really big hammers.
    REALLY really big hammers… there she goes.

  36. As always, I am asking how many neutrons? If they can't beat a commercial neutron generator, then they are not worth caring about.

  37. Lemme see,
    I’ll be about 78 years old by then. If I’m still around, I’ll be excited, so I’m gonna put an alarm in my calendar with a link back here on 6-20-2035,
    Hope I remember what it’s about

  38. If you look closely, it is still sort of spherical. The upper and lower pistons move in first with the ones in the middle last. So the liquid liner still forms (kind of) a sphere during compression.

  39. Thought they were going to use molten metal?

    Edit: Yes, they're still using molten metal. I believe an alloy that contains lithium to breed more fuel from the neutrons.

  40. Actually, having the outer acceleration tubes a wee bit shorter would do the trick. A matter of timing. Also, though they've 'radically' changed from net-spherical to a long piece of plasma spaghetti, I tend to think that something kind of elliptical in cross section might be the best: maintaining a pumped vortex channel would be easier than a strict cylinder; the center would be the least turbulent part, and the compression-timing would be relieved by overall geometry.

    Compressing to a longish plasmoid would give plenty of opportunity to extract fusion power from it directly to the surrounding liquid. And to be honest, though it sounds like a great liquid (water made from deuterium oxide), maybe better would be a non-ionic fluid like n-hexane. With 100% of the hydrogen in the compound being replaced with deuterium.

    For full-on fusion, one would only need to maintain a tritium trickle into the channel. All D would be supplied from hexane ionization.

    Or maybe that's a bad idea: de-protonating hexane leaves either allyl 'unsaturated' groups (best case), or carbon. Doesn't sound like a good case. Then again, non-oxygen 'burning' of hexane thru high energy degradation to carbon could lead to simple filtration-to-clean-it-back-up in the circulation loop.

    The basic problem then would be that the D-hexane would become DT-hexane, mildly radioactive. Oh well. TANSTAAFL.

  41. So, they've gone from spherically symmetric, to radially symmetric. Can't say I didn't see that coming; A spherically symmetric compression of a rotating liquid liner didn't look workable to me. I suppose they'll just trigger the pistons on the ends first.

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