The construction of a cutting edge robotics and remote handling centre at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire is now underway.
When fully operational at the end of 2015, the 3,000 sq m Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) building will be a hub for R&D into the applications of robotic technology in hazardous environments.
RACE will offer state-of-the-art test facilities and robotic equipment to SMEs, multinationals, research laboratories and academia across many industries – from space applications and deep sea exploration to the advanced nuclear fission industry.
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 and 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.”
RACE projects are already underway in an existing laboratory on the Culham site, including a contract with an Assystem-led consortium developing remote handling technology for the ITER international fusion experiment in Cadarache, France.
RACE will support design, development, testing and operation of remote maintenance / robotic equipment for one of ITER’s key components – the ‘divertor’ exhaust system that ejects waste from the reactor.
The RACE facility brings together a broad range of expertise from the UK Atomic Energy Authority and its partners, the National Nuclear Laboratory, TWI, the National Physical Laboratory and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Buckingham added: “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.”