UKAEA fusion energy research facility (Photo: UKAEA)A new UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) fusion energy research facility, which has begun operating in Rotherham (UK) will simulate the intense heat and magnetic fields that will be experienced by future nuclear fusion power stations.

The Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) was chosen by UKAEA as the ideal location for the new, which will create 60 highly skilled jobs in the South Yorkshire area. The £22 million facility was funded as part of the UK government’s Nuclear Sector Deal, delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with an additional £2.2m of investment from the Sheffield City Region’s Local Growth Fund for equipment purchase and set-up costs.

The Fusion Technology Facility has been designed to enable testing of fusion plant components in the extreme conditions that they will face during operation.  It will be used in the development of materials and components, and includes the Chimera test rig (Combined Heating and Magnetic Research Apparatus), which will subject prototype components to high heat and magnetic fields within a vacuum environment, as well as thermal cycling. 

UKAEA head of operations Damon Johnstone said on 28 September: “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. 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.” 

UKAEA will work with industrial partners as well as the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. It aims to put the UK in a strong position to commercialise nuclear fusion as a major source of low-carbon electricity.