BDaily Billy Wood 09 MAR 2017
Former Made in Chelsea cast member, Richard Dinan, is hoping to raise £200m and crack one of the holy grails of energy science – affordable, scalable nuclear fusion technology.
The entrepreneur and former reality TV star is hoping to build a pair of nuclear fusion reactors, backed by a team of scientists at his company Applied Fusion Systems, that are both more affordable and more portable than current industry-leading efforts.
At the moment, nuclear fusion technology is still at an experimental stage, with efforts ongoing to turn the technology into a viable means to generate electricity led by the multi-billion dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project.
The multi-national mega project involving the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United States has swallowed up $12bn in funding since it was launched in 2013, and represents the most sustained effort to develop and study nuclear fusion.
Once launched in 2020, the facility, which is one of the most complex machines ever constructed, will conduct experiments into plasma physics to find ways to stabilise and develop the technology.
A central breakthrough for the viability of the technology will be its ability to output more energy than is put in with minimal radioactive byproduct, at which point nuclear fusion will become a viable means of energy generation.
However, Dinan and his firm argue that current approaches and designs are based on outdated and costly methods, and has plans to build two reactors that are similar in size to an experimental reactor developed by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
These ‘Spherical Tokomak Nuclear Fusion’ reactors will cost £40m apiece, according to the entrepreneur, and will dodge the usual organisational hurdles and sluggishness of public sector efforts.
He explained: “To me, it is clear that fusion is not a matter of if, but when. Fusion technology is moving at a faster rate than ever before, and rapid iteration and short lead times are necessary in such a competitive field of development.
“Seemingly government projects lack the essential tenacity and agility of private firms, which now have unprecedented access to supercomputing and know how.
“Once fusion has been proven to the public, there will be an enormous appetite for this technology.”
Dinan intends to tap up his own network of private, high net-worth individuals to raise the £200m, and begin work on the reactors which will utilise the latest developments in supercomputing to generate data and results within ‘four to six years’.
Dr. James Lambert, who is Head of Operations for Applied Fusion Systems said that the company had been inundated with interest from ‘accredited candidates’ drawn from the UK’s healthy pool of nuclear fusion experts, including those who had formerly been involved in governmental nuclear programmes.
With the global energy market totalling $7bn, the returns for a company which can successfully harness and commercialise nuclear fusion are obvious, as it has the potential to become the world’s foremost source of energy in the coming decades.
“The word ‘nuclear’ is set for a big attitude change,” Dinan said. “Making fusion technology accessible is what Applied Fusion is all about.”