The Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) Upgrade has reached a major milestone in fusion energy and achieved ‘first plasma’
The new device, managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Culham Science Centre near Oxford, was able to generate a mass of electrically-charged gas plasma in its core, also known as ‘first plasma’. It marks a major milestone for the seven-year project to build and commission MAST Upgrade.
It has been backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with a £55 million fund.
MAST Upgrade will have a world-first system to tackle the challenge of removing excess heat from fusion machines without melting their surfaces, also known as ‘Plasma exhaust’.
Scientists will test a new exhaust system, known as ‘Super-X divertor’, designed to steer plasma out of the machine at temperatures cool enough for materials to withstand, meaning that components can last much longer.
Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said:
“We want the UK to be a world leader in fusion energy and to capitalise on its amazing potential as a clean energy source that could last for hundreds of years.
“Backed by £55 million of government funding, powering up the MAST Upgrade device is a landmark moment for this national fusion experiment and takes us another step closer towards our goal of building the UK’s first fusion power plant by 2040.”
UKAEA Chief Executive Professor Ian Chapman said:
“Fusion is coming and MAST Upgrade will take us closer to bringing plentiful, cleaner energy to people around the world.
“This experiment will break new ground and test technology that has never been tried before. MAST Upgrade ensures the UK is in the premier league of countries working on fusion and it will be vital in achieving UKAEA’s goal of building the STEP fusion power plant by 2040.”
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