The UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) has announced plans to open a £22m fusion energy research facility in Rotherham, Yorkshire in 2020 to engage commercial fusion development in the energy industry.

The research facility’s key role will be to test and develop joining materials for fusion materials and components, which will be evaluated under conditions simulating the inside of a fusion reactor.

The facility is designed to put the UK in a stronger position to commercialise nuclear fusion as a future low-carbon electricity source.  UKAEA will work with a number of industrial partners to develop the facility, and it expects to work with research organisations including the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) and the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The facility will be sited at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, currently occupied by the AMRC and NAMRC as well as Rolls-Royce and McLaren Automotive. It will be funded as part of the UK government’s Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with an additional £2m of investment coming from the Sheffield city region’s Local Growth Fund.

NAMRC CEO Andrew Storer 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.”

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UKAEA intends for this site to help UK companies win contracts as part of French international fusion project ITER, which involves a collaboration between 35 nations to create the world’s largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of large-scale fusion as an energy source. UKAEA also expects the facility to enable technological development for the first nuclear fusion power plants.

National Fusion Technology Platform director Colin Walters said: “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.”

The facility will bring 40 highly-skilled jobs to the South Yorkshire area, with the regular supplies of specialist materials and metals needed for the 25,000 square foot facility expected to provide further opportunities for regional companies in the UK.

Sheffield city region mayor Dan Jarvis MBE 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.”