An Investigation into the Potential for the Development of a Tritium Production Industry to service Fusion Power Plants for Electricity and Industrial Heat Production (materials strand)

Supervisors: Professor Laurence G Williams OBE FREng (Bangor University), Dr Simon Middleburgh (Bangor University), Dr Mark Gilbert (UKAEA, Culham) & Dr Lee Packer (UKAEA, Culham).

The current view of the fusion industry is that each fusion power plant (FPP) should breed its own tritium. The preferred method to achieve this is in breeding blankets containing lithium, which surround the fusion plasma and use the neutrons it produces to generate tritium from lithium. However, this approach is problematic for a global deployment of fusion power technologies. It produces more complex FPP designs with the need for replaceable breeder blankets and complex tritium processing facilities. The breeder blankets not only add complexity to the design of the FPP, but they also increase the hazard potential of the FPP and the need for additional safety, security and possible safeguards issues. The electricity utilities and other industries will expect FPPs to be as simple as possible for both cost and operability reasons, hence the availability of a tritium supply industry, similar to the nuclear fuel manufacturing industry in the case of the nuclear fission power plants, will have many advantages.

This project would aim to investigate the feasibility of producing tritium on the industrial scale that would be required to support the deployment of fusion power so that FPPs would not have to breed their own tritium. The longer-term vision is for the UK to create a tritium production industry that could service both the UK and global FPP industry need. In the shorter term it is recognised that STEP, other UK and international small spherical Tokamak reactors and private fusion endeavours will need tritium supplies for their early year.

Topics to be investigated in the project would be:

  • Policy issues relating to tritium production on an industrial scale relevant to fusion power plant operations.
  • Scale of tritium requirements to meet UK and Global demands for both short-term protype developments and longer-term deployment of fusion power.
  • Tritium production plant output requirements.
  • Supply of resources needed to produce tritium, for example lithium, beryllium and potentially other materials
  • Novel tritium production options, particularly focussing on possibilities for avoiding the use of lithium and/or requiring large neutron generators.
  • Methods of producing tritium including accelerators fission power plants, FPPs and enhanced breeding and novel neutron multiplication approaches.
  • Tritium processing facility characteristics.
  • Tritium transport issues including container designs and national and international transport regulations.
  • Production facility safety, security, safeguards and siting issues.
  • Regulatory issues such as site licensing an environmental permitting.

Fusion is of international importance and hence there will opportunities to participate in the international fusion power plant community that is developing in Europe, North America and Japan. There will be opportunities to travel to international events and conferences, including the IAEA in Vienna.

The project will be based at Bangor University, but it would be possible to base the project at the UKAEA Culham site in Oxfordshire with periodic visits to Bangor and York.

This project is offered by Bangor University. For further information please contact: Professor Laurence G Williams (email:

This project may be compatible with part time study, please contact the project supervisors if you are interested in exploring this.