The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) to co-operate in research and development for remote handling and the maintenance of future power plants. The aim is to make fusion part of the world’s future energy supply.

The MOU covers risk driven research and development prioritisation, knowledge sharing involving welding, large scale tendon driven arm operations, the development of robust electronic components, and skills transfer. The technical and knowledge exchange will involve lectures, seminars and workshops in both countries, including training placements for KFE.

During a trip to UKAEA’s Culham Campus near Oxford, the KFE team visited Joint European Torus (JET) facility and UKAEA’s RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) robotics centre. The two organisations will cooperate on various research and development areas for fusion remote maintenance to exchange ideas, information, skills and techniques.

Both UKAEA and KFE contribute to the development of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) under construction at Saint-Paul-les-Durance in southern France. JET has been configured to replicate the anticipated ITER set-up and is maintained using robotics and remote handling. KFE operates KSTAR (Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research), the only tokamak machine using superconducting technology similar to ITER.

UKAEA CEO Professor Sir Ian Chapman welcomed KFE to the Culham Campus and said he looked forward to “an evolving partnership driven by a shared quest to make fusion part of the world’s future energy supply”. KFE President, Dr Suk Jae Yoo noted: “While UKAEA researchers have vast knowledge in developing robot arms for fusion maintenance, KFE researchers bring extensive expertise gained from constructing and operating the KSTAR. The collaboration between the two institutions will create a synergy in developing remote control systems for fusion demonstration machines.”

Image: Researchers from the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy on a recent visit to the UKAEA's Culham campus (courtesy of UKAEA)