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Visit of UKAEA facilities by EDF : when fission met fusion

By EDF | Posted July 25, 2022

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is a UK government research organisation responsible for the development of fusion energy. It is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) that aims to develop fusion power as a commercially viable, environmentally responsible energy source for the future. 

In June, The R&D UK Centre organised a visit of a high-level EDF delegation (EDF (UK) and EDF R&D) at UK Atomic Energy Authority facilities in Culham.
The EDF delegation with Paul Metvens and Ian Chapman in the MAST-U facility.

The UK clearly has a long history of fusion research, development and operational experience related to the famous JET reactor at Culham, but the EDF participants, including Bernard Salha (EDF Group CTO and R&D director), Paul Spence (director of strategy and corporate affairs at EDF UK), Mark Hartley (technical director of HPC / Managing director of TCO) or Richard Bradfield (Chief Technical Officer at Nuclear Generation) were also very impressed by the other laboratories/facilities of the UKAEA as: 

  • RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments), a facility dedicated to R&D and commercial activities in the field of Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • MAST-U (Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak Upgrade)
  • MRF (Materials Research Facility) specialised in processing and analysing radioactive materials to support research in fission, fusion and particle accelerator design

At EDF UK, we have significant strength and experience in nuclear science and engineering and the industrial deployment and operation of these technologies. The EDF delegation had a very interesting discussion with Ian Chapman (UKAEA CEO) and Paul Methven (STEP Programme Lead) on different ways for EDF to potentially support the government's ambitions in fusion (in particular the STEP program) through our people’s skills, expertise, processes and procedures as well as land.

Nuclear fusion reactor technology, although some way off, is moving closer to becoming a commercially viable reality, with the potential to positively impact large-scale energy supply for the UK and internationally.