FEI Insights

Addressing the technical challenges beyond energy breakeven

Nov 19, 2021

The November Insights Q&A session was with Prof. Michael Gorley, Chief Technologist at the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

We discussed the technical challenges beyond energy breakeven, specifically technology and facility gaps on the pathway to fusion commercialisation. Mike is a technical specialist who reviews the strategy and direction of projects such as STEP and DEMO, so we get the public-sector perspective, but also the message that UKAEA is looking to build the fusion ecosystem, which will have impacts for private industry too.

Here are selected insights from the event:

1. There are many “gaps” on the pathway to commercialisation

There are various areas where we still need technology development or facilities to do research or testing because we just don’t have all the answers yet. So there are challenges, but there are also opportunities.


Mike says, “It’s all about building up an ecosystem that can handle all of these, because it's not just a challenge for DEMO or STEP (or any specific device). It's a challenge for fusion.”

2. Integration is key

“On a technology front, the greatest challenge is still the integration of it all. You don't understand how big this challenge is—the technology gap—until you start trying to piece it all together. So the real issue here is that you need to understand that whole picture, and integrate it all together. So no one challenge is the greatest problem in my mind; it's the integration challenge which really has to be solved.”

3. Challenges bring opportunities

Fusion is incredibly difficult. The challenges are real and need solving, but they all have spin off benefits too.


“If you solve those challenges, you solve them for all sorts of different areas. So there’s an economic driver for fusion research, not just for reaching commercial fusion itself, but along the pathway you can actually generate positives.”

A full pdf summary of key insights, plus the Q&A event replay, is available to Game Changer members of Fusion Energy Insights. Join us now for full access to all the insights.

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