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Cutting-Edge Upgrade Elevates Remote Handling Control Room at UK Atomic Energy Authority

by Anna

The Remote Handling Control Room (RHCR) at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has undergone a significant upgrade, establishing it as one of the world’s most advanced robotics and remote handling systems for the Joint European Torus (JET). This enhancement plays a crucial role in maintaining the highest standards for fusion repurposing and decommissioning projects.

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Steve Gilligan, the programme sponsor and head of decommissioning and handling, emphasized the pivotal role of the Remote Handling System in the decommissioning of JET. The challenging environment resulting from plasma operations necessitates a prolonged period without human entry, ensuring safety. The comprehensive refurbishment of the system, involving over 400,000 hours of effort, including research and development, installation, testing, commissioning, and training, ensures its fitness for the future.

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The remote handling operators, equipped with the upgraded system, will undertake the meticulous task of removing more than 4,000 individual tiles and components from JET’s inner vessel. Some of these components weigh several hundred kilograms, underscoring the precision and capability of the enhanced RHCR.

Key among the upgrades is the overhaul of MASCOT, a highly dextrous remote manipulator with haptic feedback. This innovation allows operators to perceive every action, from carrying a new component to tightening a bolt, enhancing their control and efficiency in the challenging environment within JET.

JET, situated at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire, concluded its plasma operations at the close of December 2023. The facility has now entered the next phase of its life cycle, focusing on repurposing and decommissioning. This phase presents an opportunity to develop new technologies and skills in alignment with the government’s published fusion strategy.

Critical testing of the tokamak’s interior is currently underway and will continue throughout the Spring and Summer of 2024. This process involves retrieving 60 key samples for further scientific analysis, contributing to the ongoing advancements in fusion research and technology. The upgraded RHCR stands as a testament to the commitment to excellence in fusion research and reinforces the UK’s position at the forefront of nuclear innovation.

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