New R&D facility to accelerate use of robotics in nuclear industry

RACE robotics facility
RACE robotics facility

A new facility to accelerate the use of robotics in the UK nuclear power industry has been announced, including for both decommissioning and new builds.


The contract, which will support robotics R&D from four UK locations, was announced by the centre for Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE), which is part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The National Nuclear User Facility for Hot Robotics (NNUF-HR) will support the UK by applying robotics to develop cheaper and faster nuclear decommissioning systems, nuclear new-builds, advanced modular fission reactors and future fusion power plants.

Due to open in 2023, the facility will be based in the following locations:


  • Remote Applications for Challenging Environments (RACE) at UKAEA, Culham, Oxfordshire

  • The University of Bristol’s Fenswood facility

  • The National Nuclear Laboratory’s Workington Laboratory

  • The University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbria facility

As well as being able to build on existing infrastructure and relationships, the chosen locations are suitably placed to access key nuclear sites and related organisations.

The NNUF-HR will provide opportunities for academia and industry to utilise cutting-edge equipment and expertise.

Universities and industrial partners will be able to book both space and equipment in the facility for supported experiments, demonstrations and technology certification

Users will be able to hire-out ‘containerised’ robotic solutions to facilitate development, integration and testing of new capabilities, control algorithms and sensory add-on

Nick Sykes, head of decommissioning at RACE, said: “NNUF-HR gives users the tools they need to demonstrate what is possible and increase the routine use of robotics in nuclear and other highly hazardous environments.”

Rob Buckingham, head of RACE, added: “This announcement illustrates the growing demand for robotics. The UK are world-leaders in the field and this new facility will enable this position to be maintained.”

Construction has already commenced on the extension of the RACE facility in Culham by Midas Construction.

When complete, the project will provide open plan office spaces, meeting rooms, ‘quiet pods’ and multi-purpose areas. RACE will use the extension to continue its expansion following rapid growth since the launch of its first building in 2016.

UKAEA is focused on developing a fusion power plant and such a power plant will be remotely operated, and RACE is pursuing a design for a plant that is remotely operated and maintained.

Rob Buckingham, director of RACE, said: “The intention is to create over 100 highly skilled jobs, improve collaboration and build a globally significant robotics cluster in Oxfordshire. Robotics is a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy and RACE will play a leading role in delivering this vision, for fusion, for the nuclear sector as a whole and for the wider emerging robotics community.”

RACE www.race.ukaea.uk

Midas www.midasgroup.co.uk

Company

UKAEA [**]

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