British-Korean partnership for fusion robotics

28 March 2023

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in research and development for remote handling and the maintenance of future fusion power plants.

KFE researchers recently visited UKAEA's Culham campus (Image: UKAEA)

UKAEA's Joint European Torus (JET) has been configured to replicate the anticipated International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) set-up and is maintained using robotics and remote handling. KFE operates the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), the only tokamak machine using superconducting technology like ITER.

The MoU signed by UKAEA and KFE - both government-funded organisations - will see risk-driven research and development prioritisation, knowledge-sharing involving welding, large-scale tendon driven arm operations, the development of robust electronic components, and skills transfer.

The technical and knowledge exchange will happen via lectures, seminars and workshops in both countries. This will also include training placements for KFE.

"Fusion could be transformative for energy security and is important in the global fight against climate change," said UKAEA CEO Ian Chapman. "The ground-breaking research and innovation being done in the UK, and with our partners across the globe, aims to make fusion energy a reality. We welcome KFE to UKAEA's Culham Campus and look forward to an evolving partnership driven by a shared quest to make fusion part of the world's future energy supply."

"We are thrilled to be teaming up with UKAEA, who are at the forefront of the challenge to demonstrate fusion energy on earth," said KFE President Suk Jae Yoo. "While UKAEA researchers have vast knowledge in developing robot arms for fusion maintenance, KFE researchers bring extensive expertise gained from constructing and operating the KSTAR. The collaboration between the two institutions will create a synergy in developing remote control systems for fusion demonstration machines. I hope this partnership leads to further collaborations in key research areas, advancing the development of fusion energy."

UKAEA conducts fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government. Since opening at Culham, Oxfordshire, in 2014, UKAEA's fusion robotics centre, Remote Applications in Challenging Environments, has conducted research and development into the use of robotics in extreme industrial environments where it is difficult to send people to work.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News