General Fusion to build $400M facility outside Oxford, UK

The news signals General Fusion’s belief that it can benefit from a cluster of fusion supply chain activities in the UK focused around the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s expertise and reputation.

BC-based fusion energy startup General Fusion will build and operate a Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus. The FDP will demonstrate General Fusion's proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, paving the way for the company’s subsequent commercial pilot plant.

Why it matters: Fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy. This announcement signals General Fusion’s belief that it can benefit from a cluster of fusion supply chain activities in the UK focused around UKAEA's expertise and global reputation in the field.

“Coming to Culham gives us the opportunity to benefit from UKAEA’s expertise,” said Christofer Mowry, CEO of General Fusion. “By locating at this campus, General Fusion expands our market presence beyond North America into Europe, broadening our global network of government, institutional, and industrial partners. This is incredibly exciting news for not only General Fusion, but also the global effort to develop practical fusion energy.”

How it works: In fusion power generation, atomic nuclei are combined to form a larger nucleus, which releases carbon-free energy with no atomic waste.

Details: General Fusion is one of around 20 startups around the world attempting to harness fusion energy.

The Fusion Demonstration Plant at Culham is the culmination of more than a decade of work for General Fusion. The company says the plan will verify that its MTF technology can create fusion conditions in a practical and cost-effective manner at power plant relevant scales, as well as refine the economics of fusion energy production, leading to the subsequent design of a commercial fusion pilot plant.

Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, with operations beginning approximately three years later. General Fusion and UKAEA intend to collaborate on a range of fusion energy technologies for power plant design and operation.

General funding: General Fusion has raised at least $200 million in funding or commitments, with about 80% of those funds from private sources; however, the Canadian government has provided a significant amount of funding too. Outgoing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also invested in the startup, in addition to Cenovus Energy, Singaporean investment firms Temasek and GIC, and the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Other majors players in the fusion energy space include TAE Technologies in Orange County, California, the UK’s Tokamak Energy and Seattle’s Zap Energy.