UK opens robotics laboratory

A new centre for developing technologies for remote handling in extreme conditions has opened at the Culham Science Centre in the UK. A £15.6 million ($26.2 million) purpose-built facility is to be constructed at the site by 2016.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which is leading the project, announced that the new Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) centre is open for business. It is currently undertaking projects in an existing laboratory at the site but construction of a new facility is scheduled to start next year. RACE has already won a contract with Assystem for developing remote handling equipment for the Iter fusion reactor in Cadarache, France.

RACE - Culham 460 (UKAEA)
An artist’s impression of the new RACE facility at Culham (Image: UKAEA)

The UK government is investing £7.8 million ($13.1 million) in the new facility, with industry matching funds. In addition to the UKAEA, the partners in the project include the National Nuclear Laboratory, research and technology group TWI, the National Physical Laboratory and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

When fully operational, the RACE centre will conduct research and development into remote applications and will offer access to state-of-the art facilities, remote handling equipment and expertise to design, implement, train and operate complete systems. Such applications for the technology include nuclear, oil and gas, sub-sea, space and construction.

The UKAEA said that its own experience with remote handling has been “honed over twenty years developing systems to maintain and upgrade the interior of Europe’s JET nuclear fusion experiment at Culham.”

RACE director Bob Buckingham said, “RACE will offer its customers the technical support to use the world’s best robotics to solve problems in their challenging environments. I am excited about leading RACE and there is no better place for it than Culham, with its tremendous expertise in remote handling.”

The RACE centre has already been awarded its first significant contract. Through a five-years contract with a consortium led by Assystem, RACE will support design, development, testing and operation of the remote handling system for the international Iter fusion project’s divertor. The divertor acts as an exhaust system to extract waste and impurities from the fusion fuel in the vessel.

Source: World Nuclear News

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