Tractebel, a global engineering company, and First Light Fusion, the world’s leading inertial fusion start-up, have signed a framework agreement to provide specialist engineering expertise for the development of First Light’s gain demonstrator, Machine 4 (M4) in Oxford, UK.

Tractebel will leverage its international expertise in fusion to help deliver the M4 facility in Oxford successfully, which once operational will house the largest pulsed power driver in the world, 75 metres in diameter – equivalent to the size of London’s Royal Albert Hall.

M4 is a research and experimental facility, which First Light will use to demonstrate Net Energy Gain – the process of getting more energy out of fusion than is required to create it. In December 2022, the National Ignition Facility in the US became the first to demonstrate ‘Gain’. It did this through inertial confinement fusion, the same method as First Light, but using a laser to power the experiment rather than a projectile.

Tractebel engineers and multidisciplinary experts from the UK and the EU will support First Light by utilising their extensive experience developing fusion technologies. The engineering firm’s experts have acquired know-how in the field of fusion by working on several projects, including the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) located in France since 2014.

Founded in 2011, First Light works on a new approach to fusion called projectile fusion, which is a branch of inertial confinement fusion. It is an innovative and unique method for producing fusion energy which is simpler, cheaper, and more energy efficient than other fusion technologies. It works by launching a projectile into a target containing the fusion fuel. The projectile impacts a target which amplifies the energy of the projectile, imploding the fuel to the temperatures and densities needed to make it fuse. First Light’s unique target technology, which delivers a much higher pressure to the fuel, is a key piece to First Light’s approach.

Denis Dumont, Chief Global Nuclear Officer, Tractebel, said:

"With this contract, Tractebel re-affirms its commitment to support the UK nuclear industry, fission and fusion, and help meet the UK’s ambition to be net zero by 2050. Thanks to our presence in Bristol with the Hinkley Point C project, Tractebel contributes even further to the development of the nuclear sector in the country. Our UK team has been growing to assist UK nuclear stakeholders jointly with our experts based in France and Belgium. Thanks to our internationally recognized nuclear experience, we are able to provide innovative solutions to the most challenging projects. We look forward to developing our relationship with First Light Fusion."

Dr Nick Hawker, Founder & CEO of First Light Fusion, said:

"The design and development of Machine 4 at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site in Culham is well underway as we aim for completion well before the end of this decade. We are delighted to be working with Tractebel through this critical phase, leveraging their unrivaled expertise in major fusion infrastructure projects, including ITER in France."

The United Kingdom launched a fusion strategy in 2021 to drive long-term economic growth by developing technology and skills. Fusion energy can provide a large-scale, low-carbon energy source based on the same principle that powers our sun and stars. It has the potential to provide ‘baseload’ power, complementing renewable and other low-carbon energy sources. First Light Fusion and Tractebel’s partnership will contribute to making commercial fusion a reality.


About Tractebel

Tractebel is a global engineering company delivering game-changing solutions for a carbon-neutral future. Insights gathered during our more than 150 years of experience in energy, water, infrastructures, and nuclear projects combined with local expertise allow us to tackle complex future-oriented projects. By connecting strategy, design, engineering and project management, our community of 4,800 imaginative experts helps companies and public authorities create positive impact towards a sustainable world, where people, planet and profit collectively thrive. With offices in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North and Latin America, the company registered a turnover of 518 million Euros in 2022. Tractebel is part of the ENGIE Group, a global reference in low-carbon energy and services.