Both fusion research and UK nuclear industry are set to benefit from a new remote applications facility planned to start operation in 2016 at the Culham the Centre of Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, UK.

The UK government has pledged to invest £7.8 million ($12.7 million) in the facility, which is expected to start construction in 2015. The funding will be matched by industry.

The facility will enable CCFE and its partner organizations – the National Nuclear Laboratory, The Welding Institute Technology Centre, National Physical Laboratory and Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre "to offer their expertise in remote interventions and autonomous systems to a wider commercial sector."

It will offer access to an ‘unparalleled concentration of test facilities’ and expertise to develop and apply technology of remote applications, CCFE said.

The centre will also benefit fusion energy research by enabling "ever more complex remote handling techniques to be perfected." CCFE has over 20 years of remote handing experience on the Europe’s JET nuclear fusion experiment. Its partners add further experience of remote and autonomous working in challenging environments and remote welding techniques.

"Such significant government and private sector investment in our robotics and harsh environment capabilities will enable our expertise in this area to benefit the county of Oxfordshire and the UK as a whole," commented CCFE Operations Director David Martin.

The worldwide market in remote working in harsh environments is estimated at a potential £64 billion per annum, according to CCFE.

Photo: Conceptual design of the remote applications facility (Source: CCFE)