U.S. and U.K. agree to “strategic partnership” on fusion energy

November 13, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News



Two top energy officials—U.S. deputy secretary of energy David M. Turk and U.K. minister for nuclear and networks Andrew Bowie—met on November 8 in Washington, D.C., to talk about a “coordinated, strategic approach” to advance fusion energy demonstration and commercialization and “maximize value” for both nations.

Following their meeting, they released a joint statement announcing a new strategic partnership between the Department of Energy and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (DESNZ). The partnership “aims to recognize and develop the complementarity between U.S. and U.K. resources and facilities in fusion, including those in academia, industry, and government,” and to advance both the U.S. Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy, announced in March 2022, and the U.K.’s Fusion Strategy, first released in 2021 and updated last month.

How it would work: Importantly, the two nations anticipate that the partnership won’t cover fusion power plant design projects that are already underway, such as STEP in the United Kingdom the U.S. Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program. Those programs could, however, “inform priority research areas of the partnership.”

Soon, the nations will announce a “focused joint coordinating committee” cochaired by the DOE and DESNZ to direct the work of the new partnership. The committee would include participation from national laboratories, academia, and industry and would likely meet for the first time in early 2024 to “form and oversee working groups to identify and advance priority U.S.-UK collaborative opportunities.”

Objectives: The United States and the United Kingdom have worked together for decades on the science and technology of fusion through the DOE’s Fusion Energy Sciences program within the Office of Science and through the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority. That collaboration includes access to researchers at fusion facilities on both sides of the Atlantic, including UKAEA-Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Fusion Fellowships as well as research on the MAST-U (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak Upgrade) in England and the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in the United States.

The new partnership will be designed to do the following:

  • Address the technical challenges of delivering commercially viable fusion energy, bearing in mind an existing agreement on scientific and technological cooperation between the two nations.
  • Focus on shared access to and development of major new national facilities required for fusion research and development, with a coordinated, strategic approach designed to maximize value.
  • Explore opportunities to support the international harmonization of regulatory frameworks and codes and standards.
  • Identify and support the development of resilient supply chains for commercial fusion deployment.
  • Support public engagement with communities, including equity and energy justice, to facilitate social license for deploying fusion energy.
  • Promote skills development to provide a robust, inclusive, and diverse workforce for the fusion sector into the next decade and beyond.

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