Fusion energy is a clean and abundant source of energy with the potential to revolutionize the global economy.
Investment in fusion R&D is at an all-time high, and several demonstration projects are emerging that will require capabilities from across the supply chain. This means that businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to get involved in the fusion industry and benefit from its growth.
If you are a business owner or manager, we encourage you to learn more about fusion energy and its potential impact on your industry. By preparing for the fusion revolution today, you can ensure that your business is well-positioned to succeed in the future.
So, what is fusion?
Fusion is the process that powers the sun and other stars. It is the process of fusing two atomic nuclei together to form a heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. Fusion has the potential to be a clean and abundant source of energy, and it is attracting significant investment from businesses around the world.
There are several different approaches to fusion energy, but they all involve creating and sustaining a plasma. Plasma is very hot and dense, and it is difficult to contain and control. However, significant progress has been made in recent years, and there are now several private companies that are developing fusion reactors.
Picture: Image of the sun (copyright: UKAEA CCFE)
The fusion industry is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to revolutionise the energy sector. Fusion reactors could provide a clean and reliable source of electricity and could also be used to produce heat for industrial processes and to desalinate water.
New business opportunities
Investment in the fusion industry exceeded $6 billion in 2022. This is a significant increase in investment, and it reflects the growing interest in fusion as a potential source of clean energy.
The fusion industry is expected to create a wide range of new business opportunities. Businesses that develop and manufacture fusion components and systems could see significant growth. Businesses that provide services to the fusion industry, such as engineering and construction services, could also see a lot of demand as demonstration projects emerge.
UK leading in nuclear fusion
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is the UK's national fusion research laboratory. It is working to develop fusion energy as a practical source of electricity, and to make the UK a global exporter of fusion technology. UKAEA is involved in all aspects of fusion research, from theoretical physics to the design and operation of fusion experiments and works with industry to develop the technologies needed to build and operate commercial fusion power plants.
UKAEA's Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) is home to the Joint European Torus (JET), the world's largest magnetic fusion experiment. JET has been delivering ground-breaking research and innovation for over 40 years and will continue to do so until its decommissioning at the end of 2023.
UKAEA's JET decommissioning and repurposing (JDR) programme will help define the full life cycle of a fusion power plant and provide ground-breaking research and innovation. It will also help define the requirements for the safe and ethical delivery of fusion decommissioning and repurposing.
Picture: Inside of the JET reactor (copyright: UKAEA CCFE)
The UKAEA Robotics Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) group hosted a fusion supply chain event in July 2023, introducing their Rapid Advanced Manufacturing of Fusion Components program. The event was attended by over 100 companies, and it showcased the latest in fusion technology and manufacturing. At the event, BakerHicks and Nuvia, two UK engineering companies, presented their Engineering Design Standards (EDS) and Engineering Evaluation Requirements (EER) frameworks for fusion. The frameworks will help to standardize the design and manufacturing of fusion components.
In August, UKAEA announced new funding for the fusion supply chain. The funding will be used to support the development of new manufacturing processes and technologies for fusion components.
The UK is also the home of private fusion technology companies.
First Light Fusion, a UK fusion company, and Tractebel, a Belgian engineering company, are developing a fusion demo machine called the FLF1, expected to be operational by 2030.
In September 2023, Kyoto Fusioneering, a UK-Japanese company announced a Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). The organizations will work together to jointly explore opportunities to accelerate the development and commercialization of fusion fuel cycle technology, a critical-path system for fusion energy commercialization.
In August 2023, Tokamak Energy was awarded its eighth grant through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy program by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). Tokamak Energy will team up with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to overcome a challenge that will have a significant impact on fusion power plant designs.
The fusion industry is also booming worldwide. Recent news includes Germany announcing they will invest more than EUR1 billion (USD1.1 billion) in fusion research over the next five years. In Canada, General Fusion announces a new fusion demo machine, expected to be operational by 2027. In the US, Marvel Fusion is partnering with Colorado State University (CSU) to develop a new laser facility for fusion research. The laser facility will be used to develop and test new laser-driven fusion technologies.
To summarise, there is A LOT going on in the fusion industry in the UK and abroad. Given the potential of fusion to provide sustainable clean energy, it will undoubtedly keep growing and provide amazing opportunities to the supply chain.
How can you get involved?
If you’d like to explore current opportunities in the fusion industry, UKAEA publishes its notices and contracts on the UK Gov websites ‘Find a Tender’ and ‘Contracts Finder’, depending on the value of the contracts.
There are also opportunities for industry to contribute to R&D or get support in developing their own innovative solutions for fusion challenges via the Fusion Industry Programme which can be found here.
Get searching now for the next opportunity for your business in the fusion industry!
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Disclaimer: This article was written with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) to summarise content and optimise reader experience.