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A ground-breaking Fusion Technology Facility, which can test components in the simulated conditions of a fusion power plant, has opened in South Yorkshire. 

The Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham was chosen by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as the ideal location for their 25,000 sq. ft. fusion energy research facility, which created 60 highly skilled jobs in the South Yorkshire area.  The facility received £2.2m investment from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) towards equipment purchase and set-up costs. 

The pioneering facility is involved with the development of technologies for fusion materials and components and includes the CHIMERA (Combined Heating and Magnetic Research Apparatus) test rig – the only device in the world that can test prototype components in an environment that simulates the conditions inside a fusion power plant. Within the UKAEA facility, component prototypes will be subjected to a combination of high heat and magnetic fields within a vacuum environment, as well as thermal cycling. 

Damon Johnstone, UKAEA’s Head of Operations, Fusion Technology Business Unit and Head of the Fusion Technology Facility, said: “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.” 

Located alongside innovators including Rolls-Royce and McLaren Automotive, the facility sees UKAEA working with industrial partners as well as the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC).  UKAEA’s aim is to put the UK in a strong position to commercialize nuclear fusion as a major source of low-carbon electricity in the years ahead.

About UKAEA 

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK Government at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, and at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham. 

Fusion research aims to copy the process which powers the Sun for a new large-scale source of clean energy here on Earth. When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. To do this, fuel is heated to extreme temperatures, ten times hotter than the centre of the Sun, forming a plasma in which fusion reactions take place. A commercial power station will use the energy produced by fusion reactions to generate electricity. 

Fusion has huge potential as a long-term energy source that is environmentally responsible (with no carbon emissions) and inherently safe, with abundant and widespread fuel resources. 

UKAEA is now designing the UK’s first prototype fusion power station, STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), targeting operations in 2040.