Fusion Power has the potential to solve one of society’s greatest challenges: universal access to plentiful, safe & sustainable energy. A person’s entire lifetime energy needs can be supplied from
fusion energy using the deuterium taken from a domestic bath of water and the tritium that can be bred from the lithium in a single mobile phone battery. Fusion power plants cannot suffer any type of runaway and they do not produce any direct greenhouse gas emissions. However achieving fusion is technically challenging: it requires heating the deuterium & tritium fuel to millions of degrees. At this temperature, the fuel becomes a plasma – a gas of charged particles. The plasma must be confined for sufficient time at sufficient density in order to get more energy out than we put energy in.

There are a number of approaches being explored but the most successful are (1) magnetic confinement fusion which holds the fuel by magnetic fields at relatively low density for relatively long
times in a chamber called a tokamak, and (2) inertial confinement fusion which holds the fuel for a very short time but at huge densities.

The exciting news is that fusion is now entering a golden era. Since 2020, there have been substantial scientific breakthroughs, such as at JET in the UK and at NIF in the US. There has been
dramatic expansion into the private sector with over 30 companies globally pursuing a range of approaches and many more establishing the fusion supply chain; governments around the world, but especially in the UK, are investing to accelerate fusion delivery.

A remaining critical barrier to making fusion a reality is the shortage of people who understand the inter-related operational constraints for both the plasma fuel and its containment materials, including the breeding of tritium from lithium, all of which must be satisfied simultaneously. The EPSRC CDT in Fusion Power will build on our existing success and international reputation to become the global beacon for training the next generation of fusion leaders. At the core of our CDT is the partnership between six leading research-intensive universities and more than 20 private companies, UK & international labs and government agencies. Our students will benefit from a systems-thinking-based technical training in plasma physics and materials science including tritium breeding & handling.

They will benefit from training delivered by non-academic partners in topics such as regulation & licensing, commercialisation & entrepreneurship, sustainability, financing & investment and project management. Through the CDT partners, the students will use internationally leading experimental facilities and high performance supercomputers. Initially through their supervisors and then increasingly independently, students will access international networks of institutions and fusion professionals. During their PhD, students will have the opportunity to build their track record through presenting work at conferences and leading their own “collaboratory” mini project. These scientists and engineers will go on to solve the technical cross-disciplinary challenges, moving fusion forward faster at a rate of 20 scientists & engineers per year. We will increase diversity in the fusion community through: positive recruitment & admissions practices; supportive, cohort-based training activities; undergraduate fusion internships for students from under-represented groups; outreach to the public and via sustained relationships with target schools. This supply of the best people will energise the UK fusion industry and enable a global ambition for fusion power plant innovation & development.

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