The governments of the UK and Canada have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate more closely on the advancement of nuclear fusion energy.

The MOU was complemented by the signing of a partnership agreement between the UKAEA and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL).

The two agencies will advance technologies critical to the management of tritium, a key fuel for fusion energy.

The MOU aims to foster cooperation in strategic areas including research and development, regulatory harmonisation, and the development of skills and workforce.

UKAEA executive director Stephen Wheeler stated: “Fusion energy promises to be a safe, low-carbon and sustainable part of the world’s future energy supply. Tritium is a key fuel for fusion energy, and developing a commercial scale fuel cycle for the handling and reprocessing of tritium is vital to the delivery of fusion as a clean energy source.

“This collaboration between UKAEA and CNL brings together two of the largest and most experienced tritium research and operational teams to accelerate the development of new technologies for tritium processing.”

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The partnership will focus on the management of hydrogen isotopes within the fusion fuel cycle.

This involves the continuous and safe handling of fuel, including its removal, processing and reinjection into the plasma.

The first project will analyse materials for isotope separation at CNL’s Chalk River facilities in Ontario and the UKAEA’s facilities in Culham, Oxfordshire.

CNL hydrogen and tritium technologies head Ian Castillo stated: “For our part, CNL has extensive expertise in the safe operation of facilities, storage and management of tritium – capabilities that will be critically important to this collaboration.

“Overall, we are thrilled to work with such a talented and internationally respected team of researchers at the UKAEA, and we cannot wait to get started.”

The facilities of the UKAEA and CNL will be leveraged to advance the tritium technologies needed for fusion applications.

These include the design of tritium processing plants, tritium-compatible materials development, tritium breeder blanket technologies, tritium decontamination and analytical equipment, and the modelling of tritium handling processes.

This UK-Canada partnership complements the UK-US partnership on fusion energy announced in November 2023.