The UK Atomic Energy Authority is to open a £22m fusion energy research facility in Rotherham next year to engage industry in commercial fusion energy development.
The facility will see UKAEA working with industrial partners to put the UK in a strong position to commercialise nuclear fusion as a major source of low-carbon electricity in the years ahead.
Located at the heart of the UK’s advanced manufacturing region, the UKAEA base will bring 40 highly-skilled jobs to the South Yorkshire area, and foster increased collaboration with research organisations including the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
It will be sited at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, whose existing occupiers include Rolls-Royce, McLaren Automotive and both the AMRC and NAMRC. It will be funded as part of the Government’s Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. An additional £2M of investment is coming from Sheffield City Region’s Local Growth Fund.
The key role of the facility will be to develop and test joining technologies for fusion materials and components – for example novel metals and ceramics. These will then be tested and evaluated under conditions simulating the inside of a fusion reactor (including high heat flux, in-vacuum, and strong magnetic fields).
The site will help UK companies win contracts as part of ITER – the key international fusion project being built in the south of France. Looking further ahead, it will enable technology development for the first nuclear fusion power plants, which are already being designed.
The planned 25,000 sq. ft facility will require regular supplies of specialist metals and materials – providing further opportunities for regional companies in the UK.
Colin Walters, director of the National Fusion Technology Platform at UKAEA, said: “Momentum is growing in fusion research and we believe the opening of this facility in South Yorkshire represents a practical step towards developing power plants.
“This facility will provide fantastic opportunities for UK businesses to win contracts and put UKAEA in a great position to help deliver the necessary expertise for the first nuclear fusion power stations.”
Andrew Storer, Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear AMRC, added: “We look forward to working with UKAEA at their new facility to develop manufacturing techniques for fusion power plants and help UK manufacturers win work in this growing global market.
“This development has the potential to create many jobs in the local supply chain as fusion technology matures. This is a huge deal for Sheffield and the North, and we are really pleased to have played a part in this and to be working with UKAEA.”