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Aug 29, 2019

How This Unconventional Oxford Startup Plans To Win The Fusion Energy Race

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

Fusion energy startup First Light Fusion is working towards demonstrating “first fusion” before the end of the year, in their Oxford-based laboratory. If they succeed, they join only a few companies and research groups on the path to demonstrating “gain,” where the energy created outstrips the energy required to start the reaction, which they hope to do by 2024.

Demonstrating gain is the key marker of success and the proof required for the industry to start building the commercial infrastructure to scale the technology, but no company or research group has managed it yet. The history of fusion is littered with a few high-profile failures, prompting many to believe the “it’s always 30 years away” narrative, but with investment in the space heating up with more private investors starting to see the potential in recently-formed startups, belief in fusion is growing again.

In the fusion energy race, it’s arguably anybody’s game among the few key global leaders of both startups and publicly-funded research efforts. There’s the huge international research effort in the south of France, ITER, looking to demonstrate first plasma–not gain–at the end of 2025. And there’s the various startups with their different technological approaches attracting private funding worldwide, such as TAE with $600 million funding in Los Angeles, Boston-based Commonwealth Fusion Systems with $115 million raised in June and General Fusion with over $100 million based in British Columbia. In the U.K., Tokamak Energy has raised over $50 million.

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