Oxford nuclear fusion spin-out raising £400m after energy breakthrough

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First Light, which was spun out of the University of Oxford, uses a simpler process to kick off the nuclear fusion reaction than rival ventures. Other programmes use magnetic fields, but Mr Hawker’s process instead sees a projectile fired at 20 times the speed of sound at a pellet containing tritium and deuterium, two isotopes of hydrogen.

The company is aiming to build its first power plant in the 2030s and expects to put its reactors in old power plants, taking advantage of their connections to the power grid.

Nuclear fusion is considered the “holy grail” of nuclear power because, if it is managed successfully, it produces no toxic waste and it can produce green electricity and heat dependably.

First Light wants to repeat the reaction every 30 seconds to keep the cycle going, overcoming a key challenge in nuclear fusion of keeping the reactor alive.

In February the company raised $45m from backers including the Chinese tech giant Tencent. Other investors include IP Group and Hambro Perks, a venture capital house.

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