Fusion Diary: An 'Apollo Program' For Fusion


(MENAFN- Asia Times) This is the fourth installment in Asia Times Science Editor Jonathan Tennenbaum's series“Fusion Diary.” For an introduction to the series, readers are encouraged to start with“US abandoning its leadership in fusion energy ,” by Matthew Moynihan and Alfred B Bortz. Then read part 1 of the series
here , part 2
here and part 3 her .




Paul Methven, Director of STEP. Photo: UK Atomic Energy Authority

On August 22, 2023, I interviewed Paul Methven, director of Great Britain's Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) program. STEP aims at building a demonstration electric power-generating fusion plant based on the spherical tokamak design.

Formerly director of submarine acquisition for the UK Defense Ministry, Methven brings with him a wealth of knowledge in organizing complex technological endeavors.

He compares the challenges of STEP to the 1960s Apollo program to land astronauts on the Moon and to the US project, led by the legendary Admiral Hyman Rickover, to build the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. The following is the first of three parts of the interview.

Jonathan Tennenbaum : How would you describe the mission of the STEP program?

Paul Methven : The physical deliverable, if you like, is a prototype fusion energy plant. But the legacy that comes from that is probably the more important thing, which is that the plant will firstly demonstrate that you can actually make fusion energy commercially realistic, but also that through the endeavor of trying to design, deliver, operate that prototype fusion energy plant, you build a supply chain. And through that you really have the industrial capability necessary, with quite a lot of it hosted, or at least value-seeded in the UK, to service fusion programs across the globe, creating a myriad of spinoff businesses.

JT : At this point a number of countries have fusion demonstration reactor programs, generally called demos. Would you call STEP a demo in that sense?

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