Fake it till you make it: Sitting with experts
Fusion 10th March 2022
Author: Ted Hicks, PhD student, The University of Manchester.
As a PhD student on the Fusion CDT, a joint program between The University of Manchester and other UK universities, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be the student voice on a panel about developing nuclear fusion regulation in the UK.
I’d already seen a couple of my peers give similar talks, related to fusion but on different topics, which made it easy to put my name in when Dr Aneeqa Khan, one of the Manchester academic leaders for the Fusion CDT, was looking for volunteers.
Since nuclear fusion is being designed with decades worth of knowledge gained from designing and operating nuclear fission plants, there are clear distinctions in the risks involved between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Because of this, coupled with the inherent physical differences in how these technologies work (or hopefully will work!), myself and others believe that the rules for fusion shouldn’t necessarily be the same.
Recently the fusion industry has been rapidly expanding, seeing start-ups pursue all sorts of different methods for achieving results, making it a very exciting time for the fusion community. Coming from an engineering background, I think it’s fantastic and we should continue supporting as many different ideas to get fusion reactors working, which is where my opinion on regulation originates.
Being in my first year of the CDT programme and not having the wealth of experience that the other panel guests have, I was a bit nervous of looking like a fool. I read everything I could, including the government white papers on UK government’s fusion strategy and UK government’s proposals for a regulatory framework for fusion energy, but these only gave so much insight and I only had so much time to prepare for my five minutes. Aneeqa was reassuring that she had confidence in all of her students to do a good job which settled me down.
The event was hosted virtually due to looming covid concerns when Aneeqa was organising it, which meant I could have my notes right in front of me (which I’d practiced many times) without being too obvious and I’d do the same thing again!
Fundamentally, there isn’t any clear regulation for fusion energy, which is exactly why we had the panel in the first place. My opinion was only an opinion so I ultimately didn’t need to be too worried. The worst thing that would happen is that someone would disagree with me, which they did.
It was a great and rewarding experience which gave me the perfect excuse to read about topics I’d been interested in anyway. I’d absolutely do it again and would recommend it to anyone given a similar opportunity.
You can watch the full event here: How do we develop fusion regulation?