United Kingdom: Nuclear fusion and radioactive waste regulation: CoRWM members visit the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy
- Dec 8, 2021 3:10 pm GMT
Fusion will be ready when the world needs it.
This is what
Located near the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, the CCFE has been quietly developing fusion energy for decades. Hiding behind giant doors several metres thick, CoRWM members were shown a peek of the JET – Joint European Torus – reactor, which is the world’s first deuterium-tritium powered fusion reactor, operational since 1983. Only this fleeting glimpse was possible because JET is currently engaged in a programme of deuterium-fusion experiments, testing the fuel for its successor, ITER – the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. ITER – meaning ‘the way’ in Latin – is currently under construction in
Rapid progress in the development of the technology, and the government’s ambitious fusion strategy, have led to the publication of a public consultation, Towards fusion energy: proposals for a regulatory framework, to which CoRWM have provided input. One of the key areas of CoRWM’s interest is the regulation of radioactive waste arising from fusion energy, and its management and disposal, which is detailed in the recently published CoRWM briefing paper, led by member
With this in mind, CoRWM members talked with the CCFE
Innovation was at the heart of the visit. We were introduced to novel robots capable of entering the harsh reactor environment, thus reducing radiological risk to personnel. Hot cells (pictured) and state-of-the-art analytical equipment, housed in the Materials Research Facility, that will be used to support development of fusion reactor materials of the future, were demonstrated. The STEP siting process, which received a wide range of submissions, is a first-of-a-kind, making the giant leap from experimental physics to operational energy infrastructure. And, refreshingly, regulation of the technology, including its longer-lived radioactive waste, is already being carefully considered, even though the first energy-producing reactor won’t be operational for another 20+ years.
In our work, CoRWM will endeavour to ensure that the innovations in fusion power, and the resulting radioactive waste it generates, will be duly considered, regulated and safely managed into the future. We look forward to seeing the leaps in progress on our next visit.
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