UKAEA opens new fusion research centre

28 September 2021

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has opened its new nuclear Fusion Technology Facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. The facility will develop and test materials and components in the simulated conditions of a fusion power plant.

The new Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham (Image: UKAEA)

Regional stakeholders from industry, the research community and local authorities joined UKAEA last week to see the new building, hear about plans for the facility and discuss potential partnerships.

The Fusion Technology Facility will house a range of test rigs, including the Combined Heating and Magnetic Research Apparatus (CHIMERA) device, which is being designed and built by Jacobs and Tesla Engineering Limited. The CHIMERA test rig is said to be the only device in the world that has the ability to test prototype components in an environment that simulates the conditions inside a fusion power plant. Within the UKAEA facility, component prototypes will be subjected to a combination of high heat and magnetic field within a vacuum environment, as well as thermal cycling.

UKAEA said the location of the facility in South Yorkshire enables it to tap into the expertise in the area. The new facility will foster increased collaboration with research organisations including the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre - both of which are also based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park - and The Welding Institute. In turn, the facility will create up to 60 jobs and will help local firms to win business in the emerging fusion industry.

The new facility has been funded as part of the government's Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. An additional GBP2 million (USD2.7 million) of investment came from Sheffield City Region's Local Growth Fund.

"We are scaling up our efforts to develop fusion, and the South Yorkshire region has a big part to play as we look towards the engineering of commercial fusion prototypes," said Damon Johnstone, UKAEA's Head of Operations, Fusion Technology Business Unit and Head of the Fusion Technology Facility. "Opening up our Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham is the just the start.

"CHIMERA is a unique world-first facility in which we will be able to simulate the extreme conditions found within a fusion power plant, but without any nuclear reactions taking place," he added. "This will enable a step change in our ability to test components for all UK and international fusion research programmes. It therefore represents a hugely important national capability, enabling industry in the UK and internationally to design, and eventually qualify, components for future commercial fusion power plants."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News