This research area covers the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) UK Magnetic Fusion Research Programme.
How we are funded
This research area only contains the funding for the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) UK Magnetic Fusion Research Programme. Transfer of funding for the domestic fusion programme to EPSRC from the Department of Trade and Industry occurred in 2003 to 2004.
The current grant of £43.2 million was awarded in April 2019 and runs until April 2022. The grant includes funding for the following:
- funding for the upgrade to Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST)
- UK research programme
- UK host funding for operating the Joint European Torus (JET) which UKAEA operates for the collective EUROfusion programme. JET is currently Europe’s flagship fusion research facility.
JET operations are mainly funded by the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The UK programme (both UKAEA and universities) also gets EURATOM funding for research and training via the EUROfusion consortium. Overall fusion income to UKAEA is around 15% from EPSRC, 15% from BEIS and 70% from EUROfusion.
The main strategic priorities for the UKAEA programme as laid out in the 20-year vision will be:
- to continue to support international fusion science on JET in order to reduce risk to International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER) programme operations
- to support research on the UK domestic MAST programme, to capitalise on the experience gained from operating the JET facility and keep the UK well positioned to benefit from future international fusion energy developments, such as the demonstrator reactor (DEMO)
- research into materials and technology in support of the ITER programme
- to support the MAST upgrade facility as a UK national programme that will provide a centre of excellence for the UK once JET is decommissioned.
Other priorities also highlighted by the 20-year vision and independent review of fission and fusion are:
- to continue to encourage the collaboration between UKAEA and the universities that work in fusion research, to identify and enable transferable outcomes
- to continue to work closely with the fusion Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) at York University to ensure the supply of future UK fusion research leaders
- to encourage UKAEA to work more with complementary research areas, such as engineering in hazardous environments and the nuclear fission research programme, to exploit synergies and reduce duplication of capability
- to support the Materials Research Facility and Remote Applications in Challenging Environments Centre at Culham in order to facilitate the above point.
Researchers and training
While UKAEA does not directly support students, they are responsible for training postdoctoral researchers and host CDT students funded by the York Fusion CDT. The numbers of researchers being trained will be maintained as the research capacity for fusion research was judged by the recent fission and fusion review to be appropriate to the future needs of the sector.
Industrial demand for researchers with fusion experience is limited. Therefore the links to other research areas are very important. The crossover with nuclear fission, robotics and autonomous systems and sensor and detector research provides a wider pool of capability and career opportunities for fusion researchers.
Additionally, UKAEA will continue to train the people that will be needed to enable operation of the ITER facility when it becomes operational.