JET’s remote handling upgrades make it most advanced globally

27th February 2024
Paige West

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has recently enhanced its Remote Handling Control Room, significantly advancing its capability to undertake fusion repurposing and decommissioning projects to the highest standards.

This refurbishment has positioned the facility among the forefront of global robotics and remote handling systems, particularly for operations involving the Joint European Torus (JET).

Steve Gilligan, Programme Sponsor and Head of Decommissioning and Handling, emphasised the critical nature of this upgrade: “The Remote Handling System is absolutely fundamental to the repurposing and decommissioning of JET. Due to safety precautions, personnel have not been able to enter the tokamak for over 30 years. Further, JET’s plasma operations over the last few years have made it a particularly challenging environment to work with. We have refurbished the system so that it’s fit for the future. This has taken huge effort, more than 400,000 hours have been invested in its upgrade, which includes research and development, installation, testing, commissioning, and training.”

A major task for the updated system involves the removal of over 4,000 tiles and components from the inner vessel of JET, some of which are exceedingly heavy.

Notably, the upgrades include an extensive revamp of MASCOT, a sophisticated remote manipulator that provides haptic feedback, enabling operators to ‘feel’ the actions they perform, from installing new components to tightening bolts.

Located at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire, JET concluded its plasma operations at the end of December 2023. It is now transitioning into a new phase of repurposing and decommissioning, opening avenues for the development of novel technologies and skills in alignment with the Government's fusion strategy.

The ongoing critical testing inside the tokamak commenced in the spring of 2024, involving the retrieval of 60 key samples for detailed scientific examination.

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