The University of Sheffield has welcomed the announcement of a new £22 million fusion energy research facility in Rotherham next year, which will work with research and industry 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 UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) facility will be located at the heart of the UK’s advanced manufacturing region – the Advanced Manufacturing Park – and will bring 40 highly skilled jobs to the South Yorkshire area, as well as work with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC)
It will be sited at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, whose existing occupiers include Rolls-Royce, McLaren Automotive and both the University of Sheffield AMRC and Nuclear AMRC. The new facility will be funded as part of the Government’s Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with £2 million of the investment coming from Sheffield City Region’s Local Growth Fund.
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 – including high heat flux, in-vacuum, and strong magnetic fields.
Andrew Storer, Chief Executive Officer of the University of Sheffield Nuclear AMRC, said: “We’re delighted to welcome UKAEA to the Advanced Manufacturing Park, and to the Sheffield region’s world-leading cluster of applied innovation. We look forward to working with UKAEA at their new facility to develop manufacturing techniques for fusion power plants, and help UK manufacturers win work in this growing global market.
“This development has the potential to create many jobs in the local supply chain as fusion technology matures. This is a huge deal for Sheffield and the North, and we are really pleased to have played a part in this and to be working with UKAEA.”
The site will help UK companies win contracts as part of ITER – the key international fusion project being built in the south of France. Looking further ahead, it will enable technology development for the first nuclear fusion power plants, which are already being designed.
The planned 25,000 sq ft facility will require regular supplies of specialist metals and materials – providing further opportunities for regional companies in the UK.
Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “This is a hugely significant and transformative announcement for our city, region and the north of England.
“Researchers at the University, our Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre are looking forward to working with UKAEA on cutting edge research into fusion energy – a potentially world-changing future source of low-carbon electricity, which could be critical in responding to the climate emergency.
“This will also complement the work of the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield, which aims to develop an affordable and clean energy future that is safe, secure and sustainable.”
Colin Walters, director of the National Fusion Technology Platform at UKAEA, added: “Momentum is growing in fusion research and we believe the opening of this facility in South Yorkshire represents a practical step towards developing power plants.
“This facility will provide fantastic opportunities for UK businesses to win contracts and put UKAEA in a great position to help deliver the necessary expertise for the first nuclear fusion power stations.”
Dan Jarvis MBE MP, Sheffield City Region Mayor, said: “The Sheffield City Region is a growing hub of innovation, expertise, and knowledge.
“These qualities are among the reasons why the UKAEA have chosen to open a new facility in Rotherham, supported by Local Growth funding from the Sheffield City Region.
“As well as creating new skilled jobs and opportunities for collaboration with the nearby research centres, this facility will create opportunities for other businesses as specialist suppliers, boosting the region’s economy and highlighting our world-leading specialisms in advanced manufacturing.”