Nuclear fusion project gains Brexit funding pledge
© European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy

Nuclear fusion project gains Brexit funding pledge

A research project into nuclear fusion will continue to receive funding from the UK, if the EU agrees to keep it in Oxfordshire.

The UK government has confirmed it will continue to fund the Joint European Torus (JET) nuclear fusion experiment until at least 2020, despite the country’s intention to leave the EU in March 2019. JET is located in Oxfordshire and is run by the European Consortium for the Development of Fusion Energy, which gets around half of its funding from the EU’s Euratom Horizon 2020 programme.

JET is operated by the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) – the UK’s national fusion research laboratory – under a four-year €283m contract that expires in 2018.

The EU covers 88% of the running costs.

The UK government has committed to paying its ‘fair share’ of the project if the EU extends the contract to 2020.

Industry Secretary Greg Clark said: “JET is a prized facility at the centre of the UK’s global leadership in nuclear fusion research.”

JET is a magnetic-confinement plasma-physics experiment and is used to study how nuclei can be made to fuse together to unleash large amounts of clean energy. It is the precursor to the ITER fusion-energy demonstrator, which is currently being built in France. JET supports 1,300 jobs in the UK, 600 of which are highly skilled scientists and engineers.

UK Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “Our exit from the EU has not altered our desire and willingness for the UK to continue playing a leading role in furthering our scientific understanding.

“Today’s announcement aims to provide the necessary reassurance for us to continue this partnership.”

Professor Ian Chapman, chief executive officer of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which manages JET, added that the authority was “pleased” with the government’s commitment.