Research at UKAEA

The UK Atomic Energy Authority is a leader in magnetic confinement fusion research.

Fusion is the process that heats the Sun and all other stars, where atomic nuclei collide together and release energy. The goal of UKAEA’s research is to commercialise fusion, which has vast potential as a safe, abundant source of low-carbon electricity.

UKAEA and other research organisations around the world are developing ‘tokamak’ devices, which use magnetic fields to confine fusion fuel, as a design for future fusion power plants. Our STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme aims to build a prototype fusion power plant in the UK by the early 2040s.

Our work is also part of a co-ordinated European programme led by the EUROfusion consortium. This is focused on providing Europe’s input to the next-step international fusion experiment, ITER. This will be followed by a European demonstration power station, known as DEMO.

Main research activities at UKAEA include:

  • experiments on the MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak;
  • participation in the JET research programme;
  • a theory and modelling programme which studies key areas of plasma physics and predicts performance of future tokamaks such as ITER;
  • studies of the materials and technology needed in ITER and fusion power stations;
  • design and development of the STEP prototype power plant.

Fusion research at UKAEA is funded jointly by EURATOM and by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Further details can be found on the website of our fusion research brand, Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Details of our scientific publications can be found here: UKAEA Scientific Publications

New facilities linked to our fusion research are now operational at Culham in Oxfordshire and at a fusion technology centre near Rotherham, South Yorkshire:

  • Materials Research Facility (MRF), is a facility for researching materials for use in fusion and fission devices.

  • Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) is conducting R&D and commercial activities in the field of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).

  • Fusion Technology Facilities at Culham and Rotherham are sparking the solutions to key challenges in developing fusion power plants.

  • The Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) centre is researching fuel technology for fusion power; in particular, tritium - one of the two main fuels needed for commercial fusion.