Boost for manufacturers as £22m nuclear fusion base launches in Rotherham
South Yorkshire manufacturers have been handed a major advantage as the world’s energy supplies go green after a £22m fusion energy research centre was launched in Rotherham.
The new UK Atomic Energy Authority facility will help commercialise nuclear fusion as a major source of low-carbon electricity in the years ahead.
The aim is to develop joining technologies, such as welding novel metals and ceramics, and components and help UK firms win contracts during the construction of the multi-billion euro International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France, which is set to be switched on in six years.
That knowledge can then be used for fusion reactors worldwide which, it is hoped, will replace oil and gas and existing nuclear power plants.
Prof Ian Chapman, chief executive of UKAEA, said he had every confidence fusion would work despite the technical challenges.
He added: “It’s had this huge potential for so long, now we are on the point of delivery.
“It will be a complete paradigm shift in energy production.
“It’s not what this place will spend, but what it will lead to for manufacturers. There’s nothing like this in the world. It gives them a supply chain advantage. If ITER works there will be fusion reactors everywhere.”
The new base, which will be next to the McLaren factory on Whittle Way, will employ 40. It will need regular supplies of specialist metals and materials, bosses say.
It will also work with research organisations including the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Andy Storer, head of the Nuclear AMRC, said he was excited by the centre’s potential including demand for apprentices.
“This is about securing the planet’s energy requirements, we need more clean energy.
“This has effectively brought a government department here and UKAEA are world leaders. It’s the first step to commercialising UK fusion.”
The centre will be funded as part of the Government’s Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
An additional £2m is coming from Sheffield City Region’s Local Growth Fund.
Fusion uses seawater as fuel, not radioactive uranium, its waste has low level radioactivity and a 12-year half life, not thousands of years like plutonium.
To get fusion energy, gas from a combination of types of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – is heated to 100 million degrees celsius, producing helium and high-speed neutrons.
A fusion power station will use the energy from the neutrons and turn it into heat, which is used to create steam to drive turbines that produce electricity.