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Chinese-UK agreements will advance drive towards fusion power

Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) has signed two Memoranda of Understanding for co-operation with Chinese scientific institutes, in the interests of pursuing research into nuclear fusion.

The agreements, covering a two-year initial period, are between:

1. CCFE and the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hefei and the School of Nuclear Science and Technology of the University of Science and Technology, Hefei;
2. CCFE and the Southwestern Institute of Physics, Chengdu and the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology of the Sichuan University, Chengdu.

Both Memoranda will see secondments of scientists and engineers between the UK and China to take part in joint experiments on their respective fusion devices, and other activities such as the provision of experts to contribute to design reviews for future projects by the other parties. Chinese fusion professionals will gain experience of the compact 'spherical tokamak' approach being developed by CCFE on the MAST device at Culham; their British counterparts will travel to work on the superconducting EAST tokamak in Hefei, and the HL-2A facility in Chengdu. Both MAST and HL-2A will be upgraded substantially in the period of interest covered by the Memoranda.

The collaboration will extend an already strong spirit of co-operation between the UK and China in fusion. It will cover a range of high priority areas in fusion research, including plasma physics, fusion engineering and technology, plasma heating techniques and computer simulations and modelling. With an eye on nurturing the fusion experts of tomorrow, there will be provision for exchange of students between the two countries, and for Chinese and British Professors to share their knowledge to improve training opportunities at MSc, PhD and post-doctoral level. This will build on the strong fusion education and training programmes led by the York Plasma Institute at the University of York and existing links with several Chinese institutes and universities involved in fusion.

Tom Todd, Chief Technologist at CCFE, said: "We are pleased to link up with four of China's leading institutes to take this research forward. Both countries have dynamic fusion programmes and are closely involved in the international ITER experiment, a vital step towards commercial fusion power. China has been investing heavily in fusion in recent years, and we in the UK have considerable expertise, demonstrated in operating world-leading tokamaks at Culham. Working together on some of the main science issues will be of mutual benefit and will boost the global drive to put fusion power on the grid."

China also plans to build a pilot fusion power plant on an early timescale, and these agreements will help the UK participate in those discussions.

Tom Todd added: "CCFE is glad to have the enthusiastic backing of the UK Government in this initiative. In fact the idea came from a visit by Culham, University of York and University of London scientists to China in 2012 that was sponsored by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Now the Memoranda have been signed, the five organisations will organise projects to get the most out of the collaboration."

Provided by Culham Centre for Fusion Energy