SWNH members win four out of six UKAEA awards for development of lithium technologies for fusion

The Fusion Industry Programme has awarded contracts ranging from £700,000 to £1.5m to two of our academic members across four projects.

The University of Bristol will lead two of the projects: LIBRA and CENTRAL (with support from Urenco on CENTRAL) and are extremely excited to be partnering with Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd. on LEPDOS. Bangor University will be running the LiME project.

The four projects cover a range of research activities addressing key issues in lithium technology. These are:

CENTRAL - centrifugation applied to lithium isotope enrichment

Fusion energy needs isotopically refined lithium as an important fuel precursor as without it available in relatively large quantities, fusion power cannot become a global reality. The University, supported by Urenco, is proposing to modify and adapt existing centrifugation technologies for the purpose of isotopic enrichment of lithium.

LIBRA - Lithium Breeder Advancement through materials manufacture and testing

Fusion energy needs to be self-sufficient and be able to produce its own tritium fuel to be successful in the future. This fuel will be produced by the neutron irradiation of lithium-6 deuteride (6LiD) , a stable isotope of lithium that upon interaction with a neutron, fissions into tritium. In this project, the University of Bristol proposes to thoroughly examine the feasibility of using lithium-6 deuteride (6LiD) as a tritium breeding material for nuclear fusion applications.

 LEPDOS - Lithium Enrichment Prototype Project

Combining technical leadership from Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd and the University of Bristol, this initiative aims to unlock innovative plasma-based technologies capable of meeting the enriched lithium needs of the UK and international fusion pilotplant generation.

LiME - Lithium Isotope Microorganism Enrichment

This project will aim to identify the optimum microbe for rapid and efficient 6Li removal. This work with include assessing Li uptake into the microbe, which will lead to modelling of batch sizes and residence time of said microbe.


The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) Fusion Industry Programme was launched in 2023 to address the challenge: ‘Realising the potential of lithium in an economic, sustainable and scalable fusion energy fuel-cycle’, encouraging organisations to develop and evaluate prototypes of lithium technology.

Fusion technology is one of the great scientific and engineering challenges of our time, but delivering fusion would provide safe, low carbon and sustainable energy for the future.

Professor Tom Scott, from the University of Bristol said:

“We are extremely pleased to have such as substantial involvement with this wave of the FIP programme.

“We see the fuel cycle for future fusion power stations as a superb innovation opportunity for the UK.

“Even if we don’t win the race to have the world’s first fusion power station if we have substantial control over the fuel cycle then our country will stand benefit substantially from high value jobs and exports.

“Bristol is a leader in the development of fuel cycle materials and technologies and we’re pleased to be working with a plethora of exciting companies that bring expertise and routes to market for our research.”

Tim Bestwick, UKAEA’s Chief Development Officer, said:

“Fusion energy continues to feature on the world stage, with recent commitments being made at COP28 to develop fusion as a sustainable, low carbon source of energy for future generations.

“The Fusion Industry Programme is encouraging the development of UK industrial fusion capacity and preparing the UK fusion industry for the future global fusion power plant market.

“The organisations that have been awarded these contracts have successfully demonstrated their lithium technology concepts and will now develop them to the ‘proof of concept’ stage.”

Our congratulations the the University of Edinburgh and The University of Manchester on their respective projects.

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