Plans for £22m fusion energy centre in Rotherham power up

South Yorkshire is set to play a key role in the quest for limitless green power with a £22m fusion energy research centre.

By David Walsh
Thursday, 06 June, 2019, 16:08
The Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham,

The UK Atomic Energy Authority is set to open a base on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, employing 30, by summer 2020.

It could also lead to 75 new jobs in the supply chain and pump £40m into the local economy, a UKAEA report states.

The site, next to McLaren on Selden Way, would focus on new materials and manufacturing techniques for a fusion power plant.

It would allow staff to collaborate with researchers at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Nuclear AMRC, both part of Sheffield University, and up to 40 manufacturing companies.

And it would need ‘regular supplies of specialist metals and materials’ offering ‘significant opportunities’ for local firms. But it would not contain radioactive materials.

In a report, UKAEA director Colin Walters says it would put the City Region at the forefront of future energy generation and could attract businesses at the leading edge of manufacturing capability.

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The plan has been welcomed by the head of the Nuclear AMRC, prof Andrew Storer, who stated: 'The impact will be more than just the direct effect of the building, jobs and gross value added, this facility will catalyse a wider range of activities and impact for the university and local communities. We are most excited by this prospect.'

To get energy from fusion, 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.

However a number of ‘significant technical challenges’ have to be addressed before the potential can be realised.

The Sheffield City Region organisation ise to put in £2.2m to cover the costs of establishing the site.

BEIS is proposing to invest a further £19.8m in Rotherham. The proposed facility would link with a Government-funded site being established at Culham, Oxfordshire.

The aim is to develop technology that will help the UK win a further £1 billion of contracts during the construction of the £18 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France - although Brexit could limit the ability of UK companies to bid for contracts, the UKAEA report states.