The UK Is Racing to Build the World’s First Commercial Fusion Power Plant

The UK Is Racing to Build the World’s First Commercial Fusion Power Plant


We’re struggling to figure out what the future of sustainable energy looks like on our planet, and there are a lot of different directions we could go. The UK, however, made a bold move when they recently announced a huge investment in a prototype fusion power facility that could be functioning as a commercial power plant by 2040! That’s pretty mind blowing for many reasons, one of which is that fusion power isn’t really a reality yet. See, nuclear fusion is what powers stars, including our Sun. And the ‘fusion’ part refers to the fact that isotopes of extremely light elements like hydrogen, are fusing together at the extremely high temperatures and pressures that exist at the center of stars. Under these conditions, gases like helium and hydrogen actually exist as plasmas. For a fusion interaction to occur, the nuclei of the atoms that are being joined have to undergo a change in the way they’re put together. We take those two isotopes, usually heavy hydrogen isotopes like deuterium and tritium, and expose them to really extreme conditions. What comes out on the other side of that really hot, dense party is a rearrangement of their component parts: helium atoms, neutrons and a HUGE amount of energy. So how the heck do we recreate what happens inside of stars…here on Earth? Well, you have to try and replicate those extreme conditions so that you can get the atoms to behave the way you want them to. That involves creating plasmas, or taking gases to very high temperatures and densities which a number of innovative facilities do in a variety of ways. One of these facilities is called Iter, which means ‘the way’ in Latin and is a major international fusion collaboration that’s been in progress since 1985. China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.S. are all contributing members who have agreed to fund ITER’s goal of producing fusion energy that could power our world Because if we could make it work the way we hope to? Fusion energy could provide us with clean, basically limitless energy. And the U.K. government just dedicated 220 million pounds for a facility of their own. So the race is very much on, as it has been for several decades. Because as amazing as the idea of fusion energy is, we still haven’t reached a point where the amount of energy produced by the fusion reaction is greater than the amount of energy it takes to create the interaction in the first place. Until we’re able to make that happen, it doesn’t really make sense to think about fusion energy as a commercial option. This U.K. prototype fusion facility is called the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, or STEP. And the first step toward making STEP a reality is to come up with the design for the plant. Then—if the project gets approved to move forward—actually building the spec power plant would cost somewhere on the order of billions of pounds. STEP is hoping to make breakthroughs in the field by pursuing a slightly different approach from Iter— specifically, a different kind of tokamak. A tokamak is a common design for the central machine of a potential magnetic fusion reactor, where the plasma is created and where the fusion takes place. The newly proposed U.K. facility will use a smaller, more spherical tokamak which they hope will be cheaper. Iter’s long-standing plans incorporate a larger donut-shaped tokamak, a design which has been more extensively studied. So on the one hand, STEP’s innovation presents a risk, but it also presents an opportunity to potentially improve energy yield and on a smaller initial budget. It’s definitely interesting that the UK is announcing their plans for this extremely ambitious project just as it faces uncertainty around the Brexit decision… and therefore its involvement with Iter. Because remember, the EU is one of Iter’s contributing members, so if the U.K. leaves the EU… then they’re on their own for fusion innovation. But they’re not alone in branching out— each of the seven Iter partners are exploring commercial reactors on their own as well. With all of these efforts, plus the ongoing international collaboration of Iter, the hope is to make fusion energy a reality sooner, rather than later. 2040 seems like an ambitious goal, but I think it’s going to take that kind of audacity to get us where we need to go… and in the process, make the future of humanity on this planet more sustainable and honestly, possible. If you want to see how close we are to fusion energy, check out this video here, and let us know what other futuristic energy developments you want us to cover down in the comments below. Subscribe to Seeker for all your energy tech news, and thanks for watching! I’ll see you next time.

100 Replies to “The UK Is Racing to Build the World’s First Commercial Fusion Power Plant”

  1. And then one day it is all going to go 🔥"BOOM"🔥 And then we all can 💋 our world and our a$$'s goodbye.☠ Because if there is so much as a one tenth of a millisecond failure in the containment of the fusion reactor that would be just enough time for it all to horrible wrong. And with the fact that we are still a barbaric and savage species just imagine what would happen if someone tried to blow it up in a war. The simple fact is we as a species are not really ready to be responsible for what this technology is capable of delivering. But I guess no one can stand in the way of progress and whether I think this is a good idea or not it doesn't really matter and plus by the time they finally figure out how to make this work ,the fact is I'll would have long since been dead . So ultimately I don't really care what happens because it's going to be what it's going to be whether I like it or not. I just feel sad for what ever that's worth for the generation that sees all of this happening. Sometimes mankind is to smart for it's own good and to dumb to realize it. Just take Chernobyl and all the other's for examples of what I'm talking about.

  2. It's not like global warming will make life on Earth impossible. It won't even destroy human civilization. It WILL make life absolutely miserable, though, which is actually worse than extinction in my book. It'll make being poor or homeless a death sentence, and it might deal the death blow to the middle class, while the rich will, of course, be largely unscathed. Sure, their summer homes may be destroyed by fires and flooding, but they will be able to insulate themselves from the effects of homelessness and heat stroke. And rioters.

  3. Yeah, like it will ever be able to compete economically with ANY other energy source. And what is the big problem with fission reactors? They are political, not technical. But, but, but, how will they ever find a solution to the waste disposal! The problem here is the demand for absolute perfection with ZERO chance of failure. While the screeching fools obliviously accept relatively huge risks from other sources, I bet most of em don't even know what radon is and the reason they won't actually watch a video on the subject is the fear that they might be wrong. The Earth is already contains a ton of NORM, – Naturally occurring radioactive materials, for every gram of carefully contained and isolated waste we could put back into it, AND IT IS COMING RIGHT UP THROUGH OUR BASEMENTS AS WE READ AND WRITE THIS SENTENCE! If you don't want to hear this, fine with me, I'm sure not going to listen to you.

  4. I did a presentation about the plans to build ITER in high school, 15 years ago. Well, at least we're moving forward…. slowly.

  5. This thing is a science project….even it works, how much to build the numbers needed? New generation fission reactors are achievable and far less expensive. Most don't realize that this project is basic scientific research, the first step in developing new technology….and it's not there.

  6. I heard planet krypton was destroyed because they couldn't get it right what makes you earthlings think that you can sustain that kind of energy on earth without consequences?

  7. This is such a waste of money, if the same amount of money we've dumped into fusion was instead spent on improving the safety and efficiency of fission we wouldn't have energy problems… but no lets hope that we solve the problem in 20 years by throwing more money it, despite it becoming increasingly obvious that without the massive gravitational force a star provides, it's impossible to get more energy out than is put in.

  8. If you rush to fusion power you will also be rushing to the first fusion power plant disaster. Please take your time and do things right instead of what is cheapest and easiest to do. Haste makes waste.

  9. The fact that fusion is a natural process in the middle of the sun is no reason to think it’s feasible for generating power. Thorium MSR’s will be much cheaper, safe, and sustainable. See http://youtu.be/N2vzotsvvkw

  10. You’re not listening too well, keep an eye on that waist. Start eating better foods and lesser portions.
    Notwithstanding, are you pregnant? That would explain your weight gain.
    You’ll thank me in the end.

  11. Fusion is going to change everything. No more reliance on oil or coal. Essentially limitless energy. If we still aren't lifting up all less fortunate people in the world at that point, I don't think we deserve limitless energy.

  12. So if one of the ITER members comes across a major breakthrough while working on their own project, will they share it with ITER…?

  13. Please do a segment that looks forward to a potential future where small modular LFTRs could be manufactured in factories and deployed throughout the country. Would be great to include insight from Kirk Sorensen and a shout-out to #AndrewYang for seeing thorium reactors as a stepping-stone to a brighter future.

  14. The Zeta project, c1958, was supposed to herald the advent of fusion power. We're still waiting. There's a saying "Fusion power is twenty years away and always will be" Can't help feeling that money would be better spent on Thorium molten salt reactor development. The Americans built an experimental plant about fifty years ago that worked for several years. The best achieved ina fusion reactor is 10 secs . For a fusion device to work, it will have to be truly gigantic, nothing can withstand being anywhere near a source at 10,000,000deg.

  15. Guess I'll have to try avoiding Lee jeans since they bugged me with their ad when i wanted to see this video. Jeans suck anyway.

  16. Doesnt that violate the law of conservation or whatever law states that energy cant be created nor destroyed…. it will never produce more then it takes to start it….

  17. I know £220m is a lot of money but it's nothing compared to what will be needed. If they'd said £22b I would have thought that's a good start. Getting away from fossil fuels are the single most important thing we can do right now. Show me the money!

  18. they want to build an engine that yield 100%+ energy than from what it gets… I think there is a reason why stars burn out…. sounds like a free energy machine… please some explain to me how this doesn't break thermodynamics… I'm serious.. tell me

  19. I love engineering. let me engineer an ION capacitor just for you… first. you will need to study this cloud chamber : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnKvtazt5So&pbjreload=10 On that note the radiation field persists all around you but you can't see it. this is ionizing radiation. it's a charge. and we can take advantage of that charge electronically. and it is pretty easy to do. on that note. the cloud chambers glass thickness is 1 centimeter thick and allows that amount of radiation to take place but if the density and thickness of the cloud chamber is say a micron thick maybe made of diamond or zirconium and at the least silicon crystal. these materials must be strong for the VACUUM pressure they will contain. the ions will now be able to become more active since the cloud chamber has lower density high strength glass with a high TOR value. doing this brings space inside a bottle. that bottle can be a Leyden jar of any design. it would be easy to plug this in. a layden jar effect that becomes AS a form of perpetual energy that space has to offer as a cosmic ion capacitor system. one could if they wanted to and make a battery even for the home as a piece of space for running their home. a vacuum box with ultra thin super glass filled with a vacuum to allow all ions in the low density box to fill up with ionic space. unimpeded. that's a lot of free energy. I could go another billion miles with this but what fun would that be. and it's all free to anyone. 🙂 between the walls to prevent flexing in a box with thin walls then a few spindles can be used to keep the walls apart. a perfect vacuum is better but a lower vacuum will suffice in this case. it doesn't need to be a box either. it could be a six pack of leyden jars maybe. have a drink on me. I did all this in my mind cave. thinner the walls and greater the vacuum the more available cosmic energy you can get. in a capacitor. the nuclear vacuum gets even more. if by my engineering you get a ton of money off of my behalf, give it to the homeless. they need it more than I do. one could shrink wrap a spherical soccer ball frame and shrink wrap some Mylar as a micro thin vacuum shell. low density vacuum bubbles. and can be as big as a house. if you wanted. the glass can be tinned with Indium & Tin as a transparent conductive surface other than using foils and to keep the surface density low. also, if the vacuum itself was pre cesium gassed before vacuuming then some additional ionization will occur for more ion densities due to the cesium ions losing 2+ electrons during collisions. as additional charge. always have a Geiger counter in your house. if not just for safety. they should have a house wall mount in every home just as a smoke detector it is a real life saver. you don't need anything but space itself in a super hard ultra low density vacuum hyper-sphere bubble. the possibilities are endless. that'd be good enough 🙂 how big is your vacuum bubble? using metric tons of the nuclear vacuum force. a rip in space time will occur. leaky.

  20. keeping people on the grid with fusion energy only subjects you to that corporate entity. we need self sufficient power for each home. with their own power source. not corporate gods. imo. corporate power entities and their power lines have caused some of the biggest deadly fires in history with their power lines. answer to the equation? get rid of the power lines.

  21. It will never happen, because they think magnetic force is enough to produce the pressure required. It isn't! Gravitational force is required and they don't know how gravity works! They may get the heat needed but not the force. A big waste of money when we have a huge resource of Thorium where the efficiency is high enough to limit waste and produce all the power we need safely.

  22. Even that could be 'clean energy' it would still heat the globe, as eventually all the energy will convert to heat. Effect could be smaller than with the oil and gas because emissions will be only heat not the green house gasses.
    All the earth excess heat should be radiated to space night time. If more heat is coming in (from external and internal sources) than radiated out there will be global temperature rise.
    How much does 500MW powerplant increase earth's temperature (if assumed the produced energy is spread evenly for the whole globe as heat)? 0.1mK? Some of the plant's energy if converted to light can escape directly to space…

  23. Hi Seekers, thanks for watching! Want more on fusion energy? Check out this episode of How Close Are We?: https://youtu.be/ZW_YCWLyv6A

  24. We must make all nuclear energy illegal. It will take away from needy immigrants who just want to work as human powered batteries!

  25. Why wait? We successfully tested a Thorium power plant in the 60's. Thorium would cut pollution by 1000 percent roughly and modern designs have a way to eliminate a melt down should worse come to worse. The BIG question is WHY haven't we built these all over the world already? Weapons grade uranium perhaps?

  26. Wow!!!
    A clean and infinite source of energy

    So perfect 😁😁😁

    Until it destroys the whole planet !!!

    😨

    But don't worry

    It's "just now coming in 20 years"
    And 20 years
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  27. If there will be free electricity it will be limited anyway because everyone would heat homes and automation machines.

  28. The only thing UK is racing to is creating the first distopian poothole in Europe and Epstein did not kill himself.

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