Work is expected to begin next year on a prototype fusion facility in the UK to be built and operated by Canadian clean energy firm General Fusion. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and General Fusion announced an agreement in June this year under which General Fusion will build and operate its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at UKAEA's Culham Campus – the home of the UK’s national fusion research programme – in Oxfordshire, England.

Globally recognised architecture firm AL_A founder and RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete led the design of the prototype fusion facility. AL_A was commissioned by General Fusion to push the boundaries of industrial design, creating a facility that invited a social connection between consumers and power providers – one that was open, transparent and inspiring.

Showcasing fusion energy’s game-changing potential for mitigating climate change, General Fusion’s FDP will introduce the world to the company’s proprietary Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) technology. Unlike traditional nuclear plants that generate energy through fission, FDP’s transformational fusion technology will produce energy by replicating the process that powers the sun and the stars.

The prototype fusion facility will be the first magnetised target fusion plant in the world. Concept images released by AL_A reveal a facility that reimagines industrial power plant design with the fusion reactor sitting at the heart of a circular building and visible to visitors. The building also houses educational corridors and meeting spaces for a diverse audience including scientists, politicians, investors and the general public.

According to General Fusion, the FDP is the culmination of more than a decade of advances in their technology, and represents a major milestone on the company's path to commercialisation.

“The Fusion Demonstration Plant will verify that General Fusion's MTF technology can create fusion conditions in a practical and cost-effective manner at power plant relevant scales, as well as refine the economics of fusion energy production, leading to the subsequent design of a commercial fusion pilot plant,” the company stated.

General Fusion CEO Christofer Mowry said, “The company’s Fusion Demonstration Plant is not only an opportunity to showcase our technology, but also to share the promise of a greener tomorrow. It will invite the world in to experience the transformative potential of fusion energy.”

“We have really enjoyed working with General Fusion and their team of scientists on the design of the Fusion Demonstration Plant and are particularly excited that the first of its kind will be built in the UK. This is a real statement of confidence in science and technology and its role in building our future. We look forward to continuing our work with General Fusion and UKAEA,” AL_A said in a statement.

“It will be a building that is not only highly efficient but one that also expresses the technological optimism of fusion to solve the energy problems of the world,” said Levete. “The facility will project a confident message to the public about the extraordinary potential of this technology.”

Observing that fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy, Amanda Solloway, Science Minister for UK Government 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.”

Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, with operations beginning approximately three years later. Key project partners also include the internationally recognised engineering and construction firm Hatch.

Image credit: AL_A