First plasma for Tokamak Energy’s fusion device

15 December 2022

Tokamak Energy has said its upgraded fusion energy device, ST40, has achieved first plasma after recently returning to operation, as part of the company’s mission to demonstrate grid-ready power by the early 2030s. Tokamak Energy demonstrated a world-first by reaching a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in the ST40 tokamak earlier this year. This is the threshold required for commercial fusion energy and the highest temperature ever achieved in a privately funded spherical tokamak.

Tokamak Energy’s ST40 resumed operations after a rapid upgrade programme, which included the installation of a new Thomson scattering high-powered laser system to give greater insights into plasma behaviour, by measuring both temperature and density at many points in the plasma.

The new experiments, which can reach plasma temperatures more than six times hotter than the core of the sun, relate to future features that will be incorporated in the company’s recently announced ST80-HTS advanced prototype fusion device and the fusion pilot plant, ST-E1. Chris Kelsall, Tokamak Energy CEO, said: “Our upgraded ST40 with its new high-powered laser measurement system will help us move forward on our mission to achieve clean, secure, low cost and globally deployable commercial fusion energy. These tests will also develop critical know-how on operating future fusion power plants.”

Tokamak Energy, based near Oxford, is pursuing the global deployment of commercial fusion through the combined development of spherical tokamaks with high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets.

In October, Tokamak Energy and UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) signed a framework agreement to enable closer collaboration on developing spherical tokamaks as a route to commercial fusion energy. The five-year agreement includes joint technology development, shared utilisation of equipment and facilities and associated secondment of staff between the two organisations. The collaboration will focus on areas including materials development and testing, power generation, fuel cycle, diagnostics and remote handling. Both organisations have operational spherical tokamak devices.

UKAEA’s MAST Upgrade experiment has helped pave the way for the development of its ambitious STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme, which aims to design and build a prototype fusion powerplant capable of producing net electricity. The STEP prototype powerplant will be designed and constructed at West Burton, Nottinghamshire, to demonstrate the ability to put net electricity on the grid, enabling future commercial fusion energy plants to be commissioned and constructed.

Image: Tokamak Energy's fusion energy device has achieved first plasma (courtesy of Tokamak Energy)

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