Wednesday, April 22, 2020

News: New Rotherham nuclear centre "a truly unique facility"


You don't have to claim to understand it, just know that a £22m fusion energy research facility set to open in Rotherham next year will be truly unique.

The centre currently under construction on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham will enable the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to work 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.

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. At its heart will be a new CHIMERA (Combined Heating and Magnetic Research Apparatus) facility which will be used by engineers with the creativity to design power stations of the future.

The site will help UK companies win contracts from the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) programme – the key international fusion project being built in the south of France.

A £14.3m contract for the design and construction of CHIMERA has been agreed between UKAEA and global professional services firm, Jacobs.


Designing components to survive under reactor conditions is one of the key technological challenges engineers face in making nuclear fusion commercially viable. In addition, manufactured components or systems may require some form of qualification to ensure they meet requirements and perform as designed. The new CHIMERA facility is being constructed to address these needs.

Engineers describe CHIMERA as a "unique component loading machine", and it will enable testing of large component prototypes up to 1.8m tall. It will enable industrial partners to test prototype components giving them a head start in the commercialisation of fusion energy.

Tom Barrett, CHIMERA Technical Lead at UKAEA, said: "We're very pleased and excited to welcome Jacobs as our system integrator, they have a tremendous team who have already done impressive work and I have no doubt that they will successfully deliver a world-class testing facility. In CHIMERA we are building a truly unique facility which will benefit the UK but also promises to boost worldwide efforts for fusion technology."
Among the key components engineers want to test durability of are the vessel blankets. These cover the inner wall of the tokamak vacuum vessel (a device inside the reactor designed to harness the energy of fusion) in order to intercept high energy neutrons, protecting the vessel structure, breeding tritium fuel (by nuclear reactions with lithium) and enabling the extraction of fusion power for electricity generation.

The underlying technology remains relatively untested. CHIMERA will not simulate fusion neutron irradiation, nor will it test irradiated components, but by performing "semi-integral" testing in CHIMERA in parallel with advanced numerical simulation and digital twinning, the hope is to accelerate qualification of designs for fusion.
Damon Johnstone, Head of UKAEA Yorkshire, said: "This is a huge milestone for Fusion Technology and represents the sustained efforts of the Jacobs and UKAEA team to make this ground-breaking capability a reality. The collaborative approach adopted is exemplary – we have the foundations of a high performing project. We are moving forward with pace and I have full confidence we have the team to deliver."

UKAEA Yorkshire and the CHIMERA machine are planned to come online in February 2022.

UKAEA website

Images: UKAEA


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