Skip to content

Is fusion the future of energy?

  • by JW

Is the Oxford-based First Light Fusion the future of energy?


The Sidmouth Solarpunk pages recently looked at “fusionpunk” – as a creative way of looking at various fusion energy projects as contributing to a sustainable future.

And there are several different types of fusion energy.

One area which is still in the research stage is the inertial fusion power plant – which the US government has poured billions into.

Meanwhile, the UK company First Light Fusion, who claim to be “the world’s leading inertial fusion company”, are offering a new approach to inertial fusion by making use of existing technology:

Our power plant concept uses a liquid first wall, with pure natural lithium as the working fluid. This can be built with existing nuclear technology and avoids some of the big engineering challenges of fusion, like neutron damage and producing enough tritium.

A year ago, the government announced that First Light Fusion were to build a demonstration facility at UKAEA’s Culham Campus. They then secured a grant for an ambitious five-year programme. And in the summer, the BBC were looking at how this Oxfordshire start-up hopes to transform nuclear fusion production:

A start-up business is hopeful it could revolutionise the production of energy. First Light Fusion in Yarnton, Oxfordshire has been investigating how nuclear fusion could be generated on a large scale. Physicists have pursued the technology for decades as it could offer a source of near-limitless clean energy to power homes across the globe. The company is planning a new bigger testing site and is looking to treble its workforce.

Looking more generally at fusion, at the end of last year, the UK government was looking to the next stage of the UK’s fusion energy strategy – but the are still difficulties, with Scientific American asking What Is the Future of Fusion Energy?

The world is increasingly desperate for an abundant source of clean energy that can mitigate the climate crisis created by burning fossil fuels. Nuclear fusion—the merging of light atomic nuclei—has the potential to produce energy with near-zero carbon emissions, without creating the dangerous radioactive waste associated with today’s nuclear fission reactors, which split the very heavy nuclei of radioactive elements. Physicists have been studying fusion power since the 1950s, but turning it into a practical energy source has remained frustratingly elusive. Will it ever be a significant source of power for our energy-hungry planet—and if so, will it arrive in time to save Earth from meltdown?

And this is what both academic and commercial projects are currently striving for – with this look at the latest Fusion Energy Breakthrough in California:

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who achieved a major fusion milestone a year ago have repeated it three times more. Each experiment used 192 lasers to ignite a fusion reaction that for a fleeting moment produced more energy than was used to trigger it…

Commercial fusion ventures applauded the NIF experiment and have made gradual progress since then. Commonwealth Fusion Systems opened a new headquarters in Devens, Massachusetts, where it’s building an experimental reactor designed to produce power. Tokamak Energy and General Fusion announced new facilities to be built near Oxford in the UK. Microsoft has agreed to buy fusion power from a Helion Energy plant called Constellation scheduled to go online in 2028.