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£48m cash infusion for JET fusion

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The UK’s fusion research programme got a cash injection of £48 million today, as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) bestowed its largest ever grant on UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) Culham Division.

The grant will fund the programme for four years, starting this April. Usually, money is allocated annually. Chris Carpenter, a spokesman for UKAEA, said the ability to plan over a longer period will make a real difference to the kinds of projects it can undertake.

Prof Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, Director of UKAEA Culham, said the grant is a measure of the UK Government’s commitment to fusion research, and a vote of confidence in the UK’s contribution to the field.

“It is essential that we have a wide range of energy options to meet the needs of our 21st century world with less reliance on fossil fuels. Fusion has a key role to play alongside renewable sources of energy,” he said.

The grant comes during a period of great excitement in the fusion community, as scientists await a decision on the location of a new, larger reactor, ITER (International Tokomak Experimental Reactor). This grant will enable the UK to maintain its key role in this defining period.

So: is fusion, which has been just around the corner for decades, really going to materialise? Carpenter thinks it will:

“We have much more confidence than ever. The results we are getting from JET mean that we know ITER will work. Also, scientists can train on JET, and go to ITER and get research up and running immediately. Once we build ITER, and start working in parallel, we’ll be well on track to see something in operation within a 25 year period.” ®

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