First stop for Greg Clark was the construction site at the extreme north of site where the new RACE facility will be built. He was accompanied by Authority Chairman Roger Cashmore, CEO Steve Cowley and RACE Director Rob Buckingham. The ceremonial digg was followed by the chance for Greg Clark to meet and chat with RACE staff.
The RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) facility will capitalise on the remote handling systems developed at JET so customers can apply this knowledge to their own fields. It will give access to test facilities, robotic equipment and expertise to SMEs, multinationals, research laboratories and academia from areas such as space applications, deep sea exploration, fusion research and the advanced nuclear fission industry.
When fully operational, it will be a key centre for implementing the Government’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems strategy, which is designed to equip the UK to compete in this emerging global industry.
Greg Clark explained how RACE would fit in with this strategy: “Robotics is an emerging industry in which the UK has a solid foundation and can take the lead,” he said. “That is why we have identified robotics as one of our ‘eight great technologies’, and why we are committed to supporting the construction of world-leading facilities like RACE. Oxfordshire is a leading light in the robotics industry and this new centre will only go further to highlight the depth and breadth of scientific and research talent in the region.”
RACE’s Director, Dr Rob Buckingham said: “Robotic technology will be fundamental to the delivery of future nuclear power. In resolving the complex problems that fusion and fission power present we will be in a much better position to address commercial needs in other sectors, from mining to oil & gas extraction and processing, through to space exploration. We are also finding direct links with seemingly dissimilar subjects such as autonomous cars, which rely on advanced sensing and mapping technologies. It’s great to have the support of the Minister in this important emerging sector.”
During his visit the Minister was also given a tour of JET, including a demonstration of the Remote Handling system. JET allows operators to maintain and upgrade JET without the need to send people into the vacuum vessel.
The visit received plenty of local media coverage with a piece the Oxford Mail, JACK FM, and coverage on both local television news magazine programmes on ITV and BBC South Today.
Main RACE photo (left to right): Culham apprentices Tom Cox and George Hall; UK Atomic Energy Authority Chairman Roger Cashmore; RACE Director Rob Buckingham; Greg Clark MP; UK Atomic Energy Authority/CCFE CEO Steve Cowley.