Jeff Bezos enters the nuclear fusion zone
Jeff Bezos enters the nuclear fusion zone

A company backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is planning to build a large merger testing facility in Oxfordshire.

Canada-based General Fusion Corporation is a leading private company dedicated to transforming the prospects of nuclear fusion into commercially viable energy.

The new facility is under construction in Calum, home of the UK's comprehensive national research programme.

The new facility will not produce electricity, but it will be 70% of the commercial reactor's volume.

After General Fusion set up facilities on the Culham campus, the company signed a long-term commercial lease with the UK Atomic Energy Agency.

Although details of the work have not been released yet, the development project is expected to cost around $400 million. The plant should be operational by 2025.

Fusion is the process by which the sun generates energy. Its use on Earth is seen as an important step towards greener nuclear energy. They differ from traditional nuclear methods in that they attempt to fuse atoms together rather than split them.

In theory, fusion should be a safer, carbon-free energy source with very little radioactive waste.

However, fusing of atoms at temperatures several times above the surface of the Sun has turned out to be a formidable technical and financial challenge.

As part of the Iter project, a major international effort is being made to build a fusion reactor in southern France. But this $20 billion project has been held up by delays. It will not be able to operate effectively until after 2035.

Jeff Bezos' ambition:

Because of the slow progress, private companies around the world have adopted their own methods and General Fusion's efforts are considered one of the most progressive.

Backed by Jeff Bezos, the company raised $100 million in its latest round of funding and is preparing to return more money to investors to show that the company's technology can scale successfully.

The company uses a method called targeted magnetic fusion. In this process, a superheated gas called plasma, which consists of a specific form of hydrogen, is injected into a cylinder surrounded by walls of liquid metal.

Then hundreds of air compressors are used to compress the plasma until the atoms fuse and generate a lot of heat.

This heat is transmitted through the liquid metal. They are used to boil water and generate steam to power turbines.

The company said the main advantage of its approach is that there are many technologies in the industry. This is a very different approach than other integration programs (as in Culham's).

The government said the deal with General Fusion supported hundreds of jobs in Oxfordshire and other areas during the three-year construction phase and more jobs during the operational phase.

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