Mott MacDonald collaborates on nuclear fusion reactor

12 September 2019 3 min. read

International consulting firm Mott MacDonald has teamed up with First Light Fusion to develop a nuclear fusion reactor. The project aims to deliver designs for a reactor which can create more energy than it uses by 2024.

A recent analysis conducted by system-change advisory and investment firm SYSTEMIQ, found that achieving a zero-carbon global energy system by 2050 will require significant investment in both existing renewables and new clean energy technologies. The promise of nuclear fusion to that end is huge: it represents a zero-carbon, combustion-free source of energy. The problem is that until now, every fusion experiment has operated on an energy deficit, making it useless as a form of electricity generation, leading to the running joke that nuclear fusion is the innovation which is perpetually just 50 years away.

Now however, UK-based First Light Fusion and international engineering group Mott MacDonald are collaborating to bring the distant dream of nuclear fusion within reach. First Light is currently identifying and addressing key engineering challenges, but aims to deliver a detailed reactor design in the 2020s which will be viable for commercial use. The companies believe their approach has the potential to transform the world’s energy supply if it can be harnessed and applied to power generation. Unlike existing nuclear fission technology, there is no long-lived waste, no meltdown risk, and the raw materials it uses can be found in abundance.

Mott MacDonald collaborates on nuclear fusion reactor

A release from Mott MacDonald and First Light Fusion explains that the firms are applying an inertial confinement approach, which apparently creates the extreme temperatures and pressures required for fusion by compressing a target using a projectile travelling at massive speed. According to the companies, the project is on track to deliver its first fusion this year, before creating more energy than it uses to spark a reaction by 2024.

Ian Baird, Managing Director of nuclear at Mott MacDonald, said of the project, “Fusion energy is one of the great engineering and scientific challenges. We are excited to be working with First Light to help bring this vital technology towards commercialisation. We are impressed by their new approach, pragmatic collaborative culture and the scientific rigour. We expect a number of engineering hurdles, as we are dealing with a technology that has never been developed before, but the promise of clean and limitless energy is becoming a reality and we are proud to be part of this journey.”

Nick Hawker, Chief Executive of First Light Fusion, added, “Fusion energy doesn’t just need to be scientifically feasible; it needs to be commercially viable. Mott MacDonald is one of the world’s leading power consultancies with a wealth of experience in energy generation and in fusion in particular, given their involvement with ITER. The work we are doing is an important step forward towards making fusion energy a reality. Identifying the engineering challenges of our unique and radically new technology is a fundamental milestone towards the vision of a commercially viable fusion power plant.”