Tokamak Energy has turned on its third reactor in five years with a goal to provide clean energy to the UK's national grid by 2030.
The ST40 reactor has officially achieved first plasma. It intends to produce a record-breaking plasma temperature of 100 million degrees for a privately-funded venture.
As part of its plans, the company now aims to complete the commissioning and installation of the entire set of magnetic coils which are crucial to reaching the temperatures required for fusion.
The move will enable the ST40 to a produce plasma temperature of 15 million degrees, as hot as the centre of the sun, in Autumn 2017.
Once this milestone is reached, the reactor will be prepared to reach the 100 million degree mark in 2018.
According to Tokamak, reaching the 100 million degree milestone is essential, as only at these temperatures do atoms of lower mass such deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen) can overcome their natural repulsive state and form heavier helium nucleus and release substantial amounts of pure energy.
As per an estimate, when lithium is combined with half a bath of deuterium, could produce energy equivalent to 70 tonnes of coal.
Tokamak claims that it has reached the half-way point in its plan to produce fusion power. Presently, the company is planning to work on a smaller reactor design – called compact, spherical tokamak, which can enable quick development of devices to speed up the process and to start generating electricity, as early as 2025 and make the process commercially feasible by 2030.
Tokamak Energy CEO David Kingham said: “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world. We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.
“We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists, and an excellent supply chain.
“Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already half-way to the goal of fusion energy; with hard work we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030.”