UK Atomic Energy Authority and Canadian Nuclear Labs Studying Tritium to Advance Fusion Energy’s Commercial Viability

Feb. 16, 2024
The partners will develop technologies to help manage tritium – a crucial element that can support fusion energy’s commercial potential

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) are partnering under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop technologies that will help with the management of tritium – a fusion energy fuel.

Ultimately, the MOU will serve to advance the groups’ broader goals of working to improve collaboration on research and development, regulatory harmonization, and skills and workforce development.

“Fusion energy promises to be a safe, low carbon, and sustainable part of the world’s future energy supply,” said Stephen Wheeler, UKAEA Executive Director. “Tritium is a key fuel for fusion energy, and developing a commercial scale fuel cycle for the handling and reprocessing of tritium is vital to the delivery of fusion as a clean energy source.”

Hydrogen isotope management within the fusion fuel cycle will be a large focus for the partnership – this involves safely removing, processing, and reinjecting fuel into the plasma in a continuous cycle.

The tritium will be separated from other hydrogen isotopes in the exhaust gas, where it will be recycled and reused as a fusion fuel. Tritium is a rare resource, and managing it efficiently is crucial to fusion energy’s commercial viability.

The partnership’s first project under the MOU will be to evaluate samples of candidate materials for isotope separation. This process will take place at CNL’s facilities in Chalk River, Ontario, and UKAEA’s facilities in Culham, Oxfordshire.

In the future, the partners will also advance tritium technologies required for fusion applications, including the design of tritium processing plants, tritium-compatible materials development, tritium breeder blanket technologies, tritium decontamination, and analytical equipment and the modeling of tritium handling processes.