Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced a new funding programme for nuclear fusion research, with the aim of constructing the nation’s first fusion power plant by 2040.

The BMBF has long-supported fusion research at the Max Plank Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Research Centre Jülich (FZJ).

The ministry said: “This institutional funding is supplemented by a second pillar with the new project funding programme. The aim of the project funding is to advance the technologies, components and materials needed for a fusion power plant in a first phase by the early 2030s. In the second phase, the focus is on integration into a power plant design. The funding programme is open to technology and addresses both the technology of so-called magnetic confinement and laser fusion.”

Nuclear fusion involves heating two light hydrogen nuclei to extreme temperatures to combine them into a large nucleus that releases energy, which can be used to generate electricity. This differs to traditional nuclear fission in which a heavy nucleus is split into two smaller ones. Fusion is considered safer than fission, as the latter leaves large deposits of nuclear waste that are difficult to dispose of.

Fusion has been attracting the attention of governments across the world as they look to harness its potential to produce vast amounts of energy. Last December, a laboratory in the US achieved nuclear fusion ignition reactions multiple times, a process that releases more energy than it consumes.

Germany’s Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger said: “The energy crisis has shown us how important a clean, reliable and affordable energy supply is – and fusion is a huge opportunity to solve all of our energy problems. Thanks to its excellent research landscape and strong industry, Germany offers excellent conditions for the construction of fusion power plants.”

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Last September, Stark-Watzinger said that Germany would increase research funding for fusion with an additional €370m ($403m) over the next five years. Combined with funding from other research institutions, the ministry will provide more than €1bn for fusion research by 2028.