Fusion goes into operation

In the search of clean safe energy a major milestone in fusion energy has been reached with the latest fusion research machine, the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade achieving ‘first plasma’, meaning that it is able to generate a mass of electrically-charged gas plasma in its core. Fusion, offers the potential of an abundant, low-carbon electricity supply.

The new device, managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Culham Science Centre near Oxford, is the culmination of a £55m seven-year project to build and commission MAST Upgrade funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

MAST Upgrade will have a world-first system to tackle one of the main technical hurdles standing in the way of fusion power. ‘Plasma exhaust’ is the challenge of removing excess heat from fusion machines without melting their surfaces.

Scientists will test a new exhaust system called the ‘Super-X divertor’ at MAST Upgrade. It is designed to steer plasma out of the machine at temperatures cool enough for materials to withstand, meaning that components can last much longer.

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said: “Powering up the MAST Upgrade device is a landmark moment for this national fusion experiment and takes us another step closer towards our goal of building the UK’s first fusion power plant by 2040.”

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