UKAEA and Sheffield Uni team up on fusion

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the University of Sheffield are partnering on technologies to propel fusion energy towards commercialisation.

As part of the collaboration, Sheffield will appoint two new Chairs in fusion research, hosted at the university’s Faculty of Engineering. The Chair in Fusion Materials will focus on ‘innovation in materials design and processing to improve powerplant performance and the decommissioning and recycling of new materials developed’.  Meanwhile, the Chair in Qualification for Fusion will investigate ‘fundamental engineering challenges in the qualification of components, fabricated assemblies and systems for use within future fusion powerplants’.

“The challenge of how we test and qualify components for future use in a fusion environment is critical for the delivery of a fusion powerplant,” said Stephen Wheeler, director of Fusion Technology, UKAEA. “Partnering with the University of Sheffield to launch a new Chair in this field will accelerate the application of cutting edge techniques from across all sectors of engineering and the development of new experimental and digital techniques specific to fusion. 

“The UKAEA’s Fusion Technology Facility based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, South Yorkshire, is enabling us to access and grow regional capabilities to support the delivery of fusion. This includes local skills development from schools to universities and also the world class capabilities within the local manufacturing supply chain. We look forward to accessing the University of Sheffield’s expertise in engineering testing and qualification to enhance our national programme.”

As well as working closely with UKAEA, both Chairs will coordinate with the University of Sheffield Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) in nearby Rotherham. It is also expected the two positions will attract collaborations from a wider range of industrial partners who will be able to sponsor students and work in partnership with them on research projects.

“Here at Sheffield we have a long track record of world-leading research excellence across materials science, advanced manufacturing, engineering, and low-carbon energy research,” said Professor Jim Litster, vice-president for Engineering at the University of Sheffield. “This is coupled with successful translation into industry and UK government policy.

“Developing strong external partnerships is a key part of our Faculty of Engineering’s strategy. With the University, UKAEA’s Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham and the STEP prototype fusion powerplant site at West Burton, Nottinghamshire, all in relatively close proximity to one another, the partnership will develop a strong regional focus on fusion excellence in South Yorkshire and surrounding regions. Harnessing the research strength of northern universities, such as ours at Sheffield, is crucial if the UK is going to transition to low-carbon energy sources and protect its energy supply over the long-term.”