Material assets

The UK-based Culham Science Centre has been given £48m to prepare for important international decisions on the future of fusion research.

UK-based Culham Science Centre has been given £48m to prepare for important international decisions on the future of fusion research. The grant is equivalent to three years of the Oxfordshire fusion research centre’s annual £16m budget, and is to be spent over the next four years.

The funding will allow it to prepare for two major decisions on fusion expected by 2005. By this time the future of Europe’s existing Joint European Torus (JET) programme, at Culham, could be agreed, and contracts may be confirmed for the new six-nation International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project.

If France, Europe’s candidate, wins ITER, JET may be cancelled or scaled down. But Culham could still see substantially more funding after 2005, as the centre is in a good position to pick up contracts from ITER.

A researcher at the Culham centre said that to prepare for this eventuality, materials research is ‘an area of growth’ to focus on. The international community is considering a major project called International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF).

This will develop materials needed to keep a commercial fusion power station running for decades. By focusing on materials Culham is positioning itself to win contracts for IFMIF.