The world’s largest operational fusion project will continue operations until the end of 2020 – and potentially beyond – following the signing of a contract extension that secures at least €100m in EU funding.
The new contract guarantees operations at the Joint European Torus (JET) in Oxfordshire regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
JET is operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Culham Science Centre. Scientists from 28 European countries use it to conduct research into the potential for fusion energy in the future, through work coordinated by the EUROfusion consortium which manages and funds European fusion research activities on behalf of Euratom.
The future of the facility has been under discussion since 2017, as its work is covered by the Euratom Treaty, which the UK government intends to leave as part of Brexit.
“A heavy weight has been lifted off our shoulders,” said Prof Tony Donné, programme manager of EUROfusion. “This is extraordinarily good news for EUROfusion and the European fusion community as a whole. We can now continue to work on the realisation of fusion energy together with the indispensable experience of our British partner.”
Over 500 staff at JET can now ready JET for a series of fusion tests planned for 2020. These tests will serve as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the new international experimental fusion reactor, ITER, currently being built in Cadarache, southern France. The contract extension provides the option of a further extension to JET’s operations until 2024, which would enable it to support ITER in the run-up to its launch in 2025.
Prof Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said: “The extension to the contract is excellent news for both EU and UK science. JET has been a shining example of scientific co-operation between EU members, and this news means that these mutually beneficial collaborations will continue, allowing us to do essential experiments on the path to delivering fusion power.”