A privately owned British company has successfully launched a fusion reactor and managed to generate plasma.

U.K. company Tokamak Energy aims to accelerate the development of fusion energy by combining two emerging technologies – spherical tokamaks and high-temperature superconductors.

The British company, Tokamak Energy ambition is to achieve a plasma temperature of 15 million degrees centigrade this fall, which is as hot as the sun’s core.

Their next goal is to reach 100 million degrees next year. At that temperature, hydrogen nuclei can join (fuse) together to form helium – hence fusion.

The company has taken its name from the spherical reactor with internal magnetic coils used to create fusion energy. A tokamak will prevent plasma from coming into contact with the walls of the reactor, the temperature is high enough to melt any and all material. The plasma is kept floating within powerful magnetic fields.

Fusion energy has a huge potential. Compared to fission energy, it would provide us with virtually unlimited amounts of much more environmentally friendly energy, without risking a radioactive nuclear meltdown. But the technical barriers are considerable.

Even if Tokamak Energy and its many competitors manage to reach a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees, they must succeed in keeping the plasma alive for a long enough time to extract surplus energy. Research in the field is expensive and mostly consumes energy, rather than generate any.

Tokamak Energy CEO, Doctor David Kingham, has high-flying plans. He believes that their reactor (ST40) is more compact and cost-effective than other alternatives and said:

“Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already half-way to the goal of fusion energy; with hard work, we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030″

Moving from the concept to reality is often fraught with setbacks, delays, and failures. But the promise of a future of virtually unlimited clean energy is one that has fired the imaginations of physicists for generations. Nuclear fusion could be that future and also the final stake through the heart of the fossil fuel industry.

Click here to view a video with ST40 Project Manager Graham Dunbar discussing his wide-ranging job on this unusual project, making fusion energy commercial.


Tokamak Energy press release: First plasma in new reactor brings the UK a big step closer to fusion energy