A Canadian firm backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will build its first nuclear fusion power plant in the UK, it was announced today.
General Fusion will build the prototype facility at Culham in Oxfordshire, the home of the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA).
Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, with operations beginning approximately three years later, the UKAEA said in a statement.
The UK’s existing nuclear power stations use nuclear fission technology, which splits apart atoms to release energy.
Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, produces energy by the process of binding atoms together. It is the same process that powers the sun.
The development comes as concerns over the future of the UK’s current nuclear fleet grow after it was revealed that Dungeness B power station in Kent would begin decommissioning this summer, seven years ahead of schedule.
By 2030, all of the UK’s existing power plants will be in various stages of decommissioning. At the moment, only two new plants – Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C – are in development.
Commenting on the development, science minister Amanda Solloway said: “This new plant by General Fusion is a huge boost for our plans to develop a fusion industry in the UK, and I’m thrilled that Culham will be home to such a cutting-edge and potentially transformative project.
“Fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy, and today’s announcement is a clear vote of confidence in the region and the UK’s status as a global science superpower.”
General Fusion was founded in 2002. Bezos Expeditions, the Amazon founder’s personal investment trust, is one of several investors, including Canada’s business development bank.
“Coming to Culham gives us the opportunity to benefit from UKAEA’s expertise,” stated Christofer Mowry, General Fusion’s chief executive.
“By locating at this campus, General Fusion expands our market presence beyond North America into Europe, broadening our global network of government, institutional, and industrial partners.”