Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Professor Ian Chapman, chief of the UK Atomic Energy Authority is worried the Brexit negotiation standoff between Britain and the EU poses a threat to the vast multi-decade, multi-billion dollar ITER Nuclear Fusion project.
Nuclear industry acts on ‘no deal’ Brexit as MPs plot Euratom rebellion
The UK’s nuclear chief says leaving Euratom is an “existential threat” to the industry, as MPs plan to amend the EU exit bill.
By Faisal Islam, Political Editor
The British nuclear industry is activating plans to relocate some nuclear material and components around Europe, Sky News understands.
The move comes in anticipation of a failure to replace the UK’s existing trading arrangements with Europe and the globe before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
Executives are now planning for potential legal barriers to the highly controlled movement of nuclear parts and materials into and out of the United Kingdom after Brexit.
Leading figures speaking privately to Sky News have complained of “no visibility” that full arrangements will be in place by 2019 to replace existing arrangements under the Euratom nuclear safety treaty and related third country treaties – and are “planning for a world where that doesn’t happen”.
In the Article 50 letter, the UK signalled its desire to leave Euratom at the same time as leaving the European Union.
The industry was also adamant that there is a serious issue about the supply of medical isotopes, a byproduct of the continental European nuclear industry, critical for cancer treatments.
The Government has dismissed fears over their supply as “scaremongering” but industry figures pointed out that their supply and transport is governed by the rules of the Nuclear Common Market and they are materials mentioned in the annexe of the Euratom treaty.
Professor Ian Chapman chief of the UK Atomic Energy Authority told Sky News: “Leaving Euratom is absolutely an existential threat for us as an organisation, about two thirds of my turnover comes from the European Commission.
“So we have to find a resolution so we can continue to do the world-class cutting-edge science that we do here.”
There is something terribly Soviet about the ITER project. The project timescales are measured in decades, for example the first Deuterium Tritium burn is not scheduled to occur until 2035, assuming the deadline doesn’t slip.
If ITER scale projects turn out to be the only path to viable nuclear fusion, assuming it ever works, fusion will remain uneconomical for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately there are a number of smaller teams, including several US based private companies, which are exploring potentially far more affordable approaches to achieving commercial Nuclear Fusion.
US based IPP Fusion, a small maverick startup whose unconventional approach to confining Fusion plasmas has created a lot of excitement recently, is no fan of ITER.
September 23, 2013
Open letter on fusion
We, the undersigned scientists, urge that the United States, the European Union and Japan fund a much broader fusion energy research effort, expanding the program to include a large number of promising devices and fusion fuels in order to maximize the chances of getting economical fusion power as soon as possible.
The present international fusion effort is focused almost exclusively on a single device, the tokamak, and a single version of that device, the ITER experiment. We believe that near-exclusive focus is a mistake. We do not yet know if ITER will lead to an economical fusion generator. We do not yet know which of the many fusion devices now being researched will work, which will be fastest to achieve or which will produce the most economical energy. So a focus on a single experiment is not the surest and fastest way to fusion power.
We therefore strongly urge the US Congress and the European and Japanese parliaments to immediately hold hearings on the direction of the international fusion program, looking at the wisdom of a much broader-based program. Such hearings could be the first step to legislation allocating an additional at least $300 million per year to research on alternative fusion approaches, devices and fuels.
Read more: https://lppfusion.com/open-letter-on-fusion/
Upsetting the ITER team is not a reason to change course on Brexit. Even if the ITER project finally delivers better than breakeven power, in 2035 or beyond, the sheer cost and longevity of the ITER project in my opinion will mark ITER as the gravesite of commercial nuclear fusion, not the herald of a new age of unlimited clean energy.
The only hope for viable commercial fusion in any of our lifetimes is for small teams of mavericks like IPP to explore the road less travelled.
IPP’s explanation of their approach to Nuclear Fusion. Note I am NOT specifically endorsing IPP Fusion. Their approach seems promising, but the history of Fusion research is littered with promising ideas which never delivered.