UK materials facility upgraded to support fusion research

17 October 2022

The newly completed GBP10 million (USD11.4 million) extension has doubled the size of the UK Atomic Energy Authority's (UKAEA) Materials Research Facility (MRF) at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire.

Amanda Quadling (on the left) and UKAEA Chief Financial Officer Antonia Jenkinson at MRF (Image: UKAEA)

Specialist materials that can withstand extreme conditions are a critical part of delivering fusion energy as a safe, sustainable, low carbon energy supply, the UKAEA said. They are also essential in the development of STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), the UK's prototype fusion power plant. The investment has seen an additional 12 shielded research rooms, used to hold high-end analytical instrumentation, added to the facility, as well as extensive new active chemical laboratory space, for scientists and engineers to develop more neutron-tolerant materials.

"Developing novel materials for resilience to fusion's triple whammy of tritium permeation, transmutation and atomic displacement effects is one of the grand challenges in delivering fusion power to the grid by mid-century," MRF Director Amanda Quadling said. She described the extended facility as "one of the best of its kind in the world", providing collaborative space to bring together academic and industrial researchers. "Also, by co-locating experimentalists and modellers, we hope to incubate new approaches to materials qualification for fusion," she added.
The MRF is supported by the UK government's National Nuclear User Facility and Fusion Foundations programme. It is also part of the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and bridges the gap between university and nuclear licensed site laboratories.

The UK recently announced the selection of a site at West Burton in Nottinghamshire to host the STEP demonstration plant, which is due to begin operating by 2040.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News