The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the ITER Organization (IO) have entered into a technical collaboration which will see the UKAEA’s centre for Remote Applications in Challenging Environments, RACE, host the ITER Robotics Test Facility (IRTF) for a period of at least five years from January 2017.
The UK Government is investing €5 million over this period, matched by the IO, to perform testing of critical remote handling operations necessary for the maintenance of components for ITER – the international fusion energy project based in Cadarache, France.
The IRTF will be used to test and evaluate remote handling system designs, conduct remote handling trials of generic and specific maintenance tasks and thus demonstrate the feasibility and compatibility of these remote handling tasks and to provide operational feedback into the final component designs. Test facilities will be established across many of the ITER systems, including Diagnostics, Heating, Vacuum and Port Plugs.
UKAEA’s RACE centre, at Culham Science Centre near Oxford, is actively supporting a number of industry-led partnerships developing remote maintenance systems for the ITER project, including the Divertor, Neutral Beam and the Cask & Plug Remote Handling System. Having this common link provides the opportunity for sharing best practice, creating common standards, sharing development effort and the development of generic test facilities.
UKAEA Head of Business Development, Martin Townsend, explained: “UKAEA remains committed to the realisation of ITER, helping to support industry to secure business from the ITER programme and partnering with all stakeholders to deliver the new technologies and processes necessary for success. Hosting the ITER remote handling test facility provides an excellent opportunity to link UKAEA’s know-how with IO technical experts, supported by industry.”
The IO Division Head for Remote Handling & Radioactive Materials, Spencer Pitcher, summarised the win-win nature of the collaboration: “At the RACE centre, we now have access to an excellent new facility at a fusion laboratory dedicated to remote handling and staffed with expertise arising from long experience in performing such tasks on the JET fusion experiment. Meanwhile at ITER, we are in the midst of designing components that will require remote maintenance and for which validation of maintenance schemes by mock-ups can greatly reduce the risk to the ITER project. ITER itself will not have facilities on our premises to perform such tests for several years. This UKAEA contribution to the success of fusion and ITER makes an excellent match with ITER’s remote handling mock-up and testing requirements.”