Monday, 28 January 2019

Introducing... The Undercover Physicist!


This is on a strictly need to know basis but… I studied Physics at university. A BSc at that. It is with great fondness therefore that I recall walking into the interview room and being asked:
“So you’ve applied to be a mechanical engineer?”
“Yes” I say with confidence. Pondering in those brief moments what had possessed me to apply for something I was not at all technically qualified for. Reflecting on it now I applied for that position because I knew I wanted to do something practical, I wanted to do something science-y and I believe in fusion.
The interview was suitably tough but at the end of the day what they’re looking for is problem solving and being able to talk through a logical process of how you might get to an answer. Look at any university website that has a course on physics though and, like a universal constant, they will undoubtedly promise physics, if good for anything, is good for problem solving. Nevertheless, it was a surprise when a clandestine hand tapped me on the shoulder and I was invited to talk to the head of the diagnostic group of MAST-U – the UK’s spherical tokamak experiment due to begin experiments in 2019.
After going through my presentation again at double pace and discussing my background working as a technician after university and some of the summer lab work I had done I left to complete the rest of the assessment centre. Not a week later and my email flashed OFFICIAL – SENSITIVE. I was in.
Having been here for a little while now I feel I am at liberty to disclose some of the ways studying physics has prepared me for (technically) being a mechanical engineer plus the very particular set of skills I’ve picked up on the way. Being involved in diagnostics means I have some flexibility as to how much of any end I get involved in whether that’s the physics being studied, the engineering of supporting frames, vacuum systems and high voltage supplies or indeed control systems and data acquisition.
Being part of a research organization studying and experimenting on plasma physics and nuclear fusion I’m familiar with the concepts thanks to my degree. The details need to be filled in without a doubt though! edge localised modes, safety factor and a whole host of other parameters/concepts are alien to me. The basics however, are covered. This applies equally well to diagnostic concepts. For example, one of my current projects is working on the interferometer that measures electron temperature and density from the refractive index of the plasma. This is an apparatus familiar from my own time at university, as well as the many hours spent as a laboratory technician trying to align them.
Having a clue on the underlying physics is one thing but applying them is a subject in itself. Working with a spectrometer operating in the vacuum ultraviolet range requires (unsurprisingly) an air tight vacuum so that the light isn’t absorbed. This has required me to learn all about how ultra-high vacuums are achieved at 3 x 10-6 Pa (in our case) using turbomolecular and roughing pumps. All to fit snuggly in a height adjustable frame that’s wide enough to not overload the floor but still conform with space restrictions on nearby diagnostics.
Luckily for me the department is happy to help and teach me what I don’t know from the drawing office putting together the CAD models that check everything fits to power supplies checking I can get mains and high voltage in. That’s not to say I can rely on them forever though! An advantage of the graduate scheme is that I can allocate time to learning these skills through job shadowing and online or practical courses. Something I look forward to over the next two years.
For any would be physicists out there interested in getting into the nitty gritty of engineering I’d suggest dropping in on your local engineering society and seeing if they run courses outside of lectures. Look up if there’s any ‘hack’ societies in the area. The challenges tend to vary from computational to creating a robot that can complete a course. Perhaps consider taking a module within the engineering department if none of the physics ones take your fancy! There’s all kinds you can do to boost the skills that would be considered valuable as an engineer and the best way to do that is to look it up and ask around.
Then again there’s plenty of roles physicists have managed to infiltrate. Software engineering, chemical/processing engineering, scientist (okay that one is not so surprising). Perhaps you’ll hear more from them in another debrief… For now though that’s all I’ve got time for.
Over and out.
Agent M

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Graduates Look to Recruit


At this time of the year, the recruitment team are looking for the freshest batch of graduates from university to join us here at Culham. This isn’t a simple task though, and so to help, the graduates donned their UKAEA polo shirts and hit the careers fairs.





















This year we visited universities in Cardiff, Birmingham, Bath, Southampton, Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford in order to advertise the opportunities available at UKAEA and highlight the amazing development scheme which we are a part of.
The Graduate Scheme is based around an 80:20 split between Job Role and Graduate Development. The 80% Job Role allows new starters to settle into a role, gain confidence in their field and get involved in a variety of related projects, before taking on more responsibility within their teams and department. The 20% Graduate development focusses on a variety of training courses, both general and specific, soft skills and technical and, more importantly, tailored to the graduate. Graduates will also complete a team project which is typically outside their day to day job, allowing development in other areas.
This fully all-round development scheme is supported by a Graduate Panel, individual mentors and line managers and a forum or current graduates and ex-graduates.
If you are interested in joining the graduate scheme, you can apply now at www.ccfe.ac.uk/jobs by looking for ‘UKAEA Graduate Scheme’. The deadline for applications is 21st November 2018. Assessment Centres comprising of technical interviews and team challenges will be held in early December.
The profiles below highlight the graduates and the scheme they have taken part in:

·         Name – Helena Livesey
·         Department and Project – RACE Mechanical Engineering working on ITER Robotic Test Facility – Small Bore Welding and Cutting
·         Favourite part of the graduate scheme – Self-motivated learning - I've used it to go to Sweden for stratospheric balloon launch, learn how to use an arduino and how to design sustainably.
·         Any advice to potential applicants – Be enthusiastic about coming to UKAEA, there's lots of big science going on here so there's bound to be something you can show a genuine interest in.

·         Name - Chris Stuart, 2nd year graduate
·         Department and Project – Plasma Operations Group, Tokamak Science Department. JET Plasma Operations – developing real time data systems for plasma monitoring and control. As a Plasma Duty Officer I also get assigned to any JET experiment that needs real time control support.
·         Favourite part of the graduate scheme – Self-motivated learning – I’ve been able to study a few topics (deep learning, software testing frameworks, responsive HTML front-end design and others), in any down time from the day job that have varying strengths of connection to the work that I’m doing right now, but might open up some doors and opportunities in the future.
·         Any advice to potential applicants – Show that you’re enthusiastic about the overall mission of UKAEA. We want to bring a safe, abundant, renewable and carbon-neutral power source into commercial reality, and we’re doing some fascinating science and engineering to get us there. You don’t need to know the specifics to any of the various fields within fusion power, as long as you’re technically minded and can show you’re keen!

·         Name - Hannah Todd, 1st year graduate
·         Department and Project – H3AT (Hydrogen 3 advanced technology) – Commissioning the water detritiation system in readiness for the next deuterium tritium campaign.
·         Favourite part of the graduate scheme – Doing practical work in the active gas handling system
·         Any advice to potential applicants – Don’t let lack of experience hold you back. An interest in the work that UKAEA does and the potential for you to learn on the job are far more important qualities. I never thought I would get the job when I applied last year but thought there was no harm in trying. Now look where I am a year later!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The 2018 Graduate Intake

Over the past 2 months, the 2018 graduates have been settling in and meeting everyone on site. These graduates will be involved in all manner of different projects and teams and developing into the newest group of talented engineers. For those who haven’t had a chance to meet them yet, here’s a little bit about each of them.


Name: Jess Korzeniowska
Department: Central Engineering – Systems Engineering Group
University and Degree: University of Southampton – Aeronautics and Astronautics
Favourite part of degree: 3D printing satellite structures to vibration test
Why UKAEA? They’re not afraid of huge engineering challenges
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Developing my career and becoming part of an engineering community
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Teleportation because think of all the time you would save not travelling places. Also because star trek.
If you could be any animal, what and why? A pufferfish. They are the only animals I can tolerate.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I picked up a conker (or several) each time I walked to J20 this month and now my desk is covered in conkers

Name: Jonathon Witty
Department: RACE Cybernetics
University and Degree: University of Oxford - General Engineering (Control and computer vision specialisation)
Favourite part of degree: Being able to stop doing fluid mechanics. Alternatively, gradually starting to learn about engineering I could see being actively used in the real world.
Why UKAEA? I find the challenges faced by UKAEA surrounding robotics and computer vision really interesting, and having spent time at RACE as a summer student I know it is a really friendly and interesting place to work.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme?
Getting involved with the outreach and publicity events, letting more people know about where fusion is now.
If you could have any superpower, what and why?
Telekinesis, being able to manipulate matter by adding forces encompasses so many other super powers (Flight, super speed, super strength).
If you could be any animal, what and why?
Peregrine falcon, being able to fly and be the fastest animal would be cool.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself:
I ran the Society of Oxford Ukulele Players (SOUP) for 2 years.

Name: Mike Robson
Department: MASTU diagnostics
University and Degree: University of Nottingham - Physics
Favourite part of degree: Final year project looking at geomagnetic variation. It was pretty cool learning about the plasma physics going on just above our heads and then correlating our small oscillations to sun spots 150 million km away.
Why UKAEA?: Commercial fusion is going to happen one day! As a cleaner source of energy (that the planet direly needs) it ticks most of the boxes and I’d love to help make that happen.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme?: Perhaps winning a pub quiz for once in my life. Also getting to grips with such a massive engineering challenge and hopefully absorbing some of the specialist plasma physics knowledge on site.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Teleportation. It’s faster than flying and you still get to see the world.
If you could be any animal, what and why? Binturong AKA bear cat. They’re just big cats with an opposable tail. OPPOSABLE TAIL!
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: My nickname for the majority of secondary school and sixth form was Pablo because I resembled a sexy Italian man someone saw on tv once… apparently.

Name: Timothy Erskine
Department: Electrical Engineer
University and Degree: BEng Electrical/Electronic at Cardiff University, MSc Power Electronics, Machines and Drives at University of Manchester
Favourite part of degree: Seeing my JET flywheel simulation produce results I’d wanted for 2 years
Why UKAEA? Unparalleled variety of electrical engineering challenges all on one site. And the sense of purpose from fusion.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Attending the KIT School on Fusion Technologies to learn more about fusion and meet those working in it from around the world.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Omniscience, mainly for volleyball refereeing
If you could be any animal, what and why? A sea turtle, to do what sea turtles do.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I named my first pet rabbit run away bunny.

Name: James ‘I was called JLS before it was cool’ Lawton Smith
Department: RACE
University and Degree: Mechanical Engineering at University of Bath
Favourite part of degree: Uni societies
Why UKAEA?
Shout out to Ian and Ronan for convincing me to apply at Bath careers fair. The rest is history.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme?
I enjoy outreach.
If you could have any superpower, what and why?
I’d like to be able to sprout yellow balls of happiness in my hand that I could throw at people and make them cheery.
If you could be any animal, what and why?
A chimp. With a good shave and a few elocution lessons I could probably convince the authorities not to evict me from my house. Plus might even be dextrous enough to use Google.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself:
I write with my left hand, but throw with my right, but play snooker with my left, but bat with my right. And for tennis and badminton, well, I switch hands between shots.

Name: Ben Quirk
Department: RACE Mechanical Design (DEMO RM)
University and Degree: University of Bristol - Mechanical Engineering
Favourite part of degree: Design and manufacture modules
Why UKAEA? Passion for renewable energy and because realistically who doesn’t want to make a mini sun?
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Developing my engineering skills, working with a wide range of people and having real world responsibility on projects.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Super speed
If you could be any animal, what and why? A kingfisher because they are cool looking and they sit about fishing all day, what’s not to love?
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I’m very sensible

Name: Oliver Moore
Department: RACE
University and Degree: UOL, Mechatronics & Robotic Systems
Favourite part of degree: There is no short answer to this and it is hard to not make it corny, it’s probably easier to name some topics which I enjoyed least. I enjoyed how my degree touched upon a wide range of Electrical topics, in addition to some mechanical engineering topics. I particularly enjoyed programming, digital electronics and transistors. I also enjoyed the mechanical topics which touched upon structural engineering as well as dynamics.
Why UKAEA? Again, another corny answer, sorry. I wanted to be at the forefront of engineering, playing a role in developing solutions to the world’s engineering problems, bettering the future of our civilisation. Therefore, Fusion research instantly drew in my attention. As it happens, I now work in RACE on exciting robotics and RH projects which are not directly linked to JET.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? I am looking forward to learning about the engineering industry and bridging the gap between my university theory knowledge and real-world problems. I also look forward to using the self-motivated learning to learn about other topics of engineering which I may not have directly learnt about within the projects I am working on.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Invisibility would be useful, any difficult situation and I could just disappear.
If you could be any animal, what and why? A Komodo dragon because they are stealthy, smart and fearless. They are at the top of the food chain and they can also consume 80% of their body weight in one sitting.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: e.g. I have a fake tooth - I do actually have a false tooth, at the time I could not afford gold though unfortunately.

Name: Jimmy Measures
Department: MASTU
University and Degree: Surrey, Physics
Favourite part of degree: Placement
Why UKAEA? They offered me a job
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Being paid
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Run fast, dunno.
If you could be any animal, what and why? Narwhale, first animal I thought of.

Name: Mohammad
Department: MAST-U Power Supplies
Degree: MEng Electrical/Electronic Engineering (Power)
Favourite part of degree: Being invited to the DEMSEE`16 - The 11th Jubilee International Conference on Deregulated Electricity Market Issues in South Eastern Europe, Heraklion, Greece - as the Prize Winner of the IET/Power Academy Essay Competition in 2016
Why UKAEA? To look ahead and change the traditional technologies of the Electricity Generation
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Developing my fundamental Power Engineering skills allowing me to work in this field and confidently starting my professional career
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Time Traveling; to be able to live in the Past, the Present and in the Future simultaneously
If you could be any animal, what and why? A horse, because in my opinion, horses are the most genteel animals in nature
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I leave in a “Black Hole”

Name: Alex Howe
Department: Property
University and Degree: Leeds Beckett University, Bsc (Hons) Construction Management
Favourite part of Degree: Building Information Modelling
Why UKAEA: I think it would be amazing to be a part of something that would have the ability to change the world in many ways.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme: I’m most looking forward to putting the things I’ve learnt in university in to practice on real jobs. I think that going from classroom based learning to then managing projects on your own accord is a great way to learn, develop and gain confidence in your career.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Teleportation. Because I could go from one end of the world to the other whenever I wanted (and it’s cheaper than a plane ticket).
If you could be any animal, what and why? Some sort of bird. Because it’d be cool to have the ability to fly (although I’m pretty scared of heights).
One silly fact about myself: I once misjudged the time it took to get from Oxford to Abingdon after a night out and ended up walking for five hours to get home, so that was fun. (The teleportation superpower would’ve come in handy that night too).

Name: Sohabe Richyal
Department: RACE – Cybernetics
University and Degree: University of Birmingham – MSc Robotics
Favourite part of degree:
After spending about 2 months building, programming and testing a drone. It was great to finally see it fly. Too bad I flew it straight into wall.
Why UKAEA?
Having an engineering and robotics background, I felt that the UKAEA would provide the perfect mix between the two.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme?
The chance to work on interesting/challenging projects and to put some of the theories from university into practice. Also, the chance to work with some very clever people.
If you could have any superpower, what and why?
It has to be teleportation. Why, because being able to spend every weekend in a different country or place would be amazing.
If you could be any animal, what and why?
Any of the B-list animals, I’m not one for being in the limelight.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: My left leg is shorter than my right

Name: Chris Jarrold
Department: Electrical Engineering Dept working on Neutral Beams
University and Degree: Uni of Birmingham, Electrical and Energy Engineering
Favourite part of degree: Having one determined railway engineering professor who would always take examples from trains when explaining theory. Control theory? Train bogeys. Energy Efficiency? Train power supplies. Power converters? Trains. Final year project? Batteries on trains, logistics for railway lines …
Why UKAEA? I like the idea of contributing towards a future energy source for humankind! I also appreciate the opportunities to develop professionally and personally from the grad scheme.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Cycling in through the winter; the ability to choose some of my own training; becoming a better engineer!
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Oh jeez. Plagiarising Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who for a moment - I’d really like to have eternal life, but not the kind that makes you become a big boe head after a few million million million years! That’ll give me a good chance to understand the universe and to see it all. Hopefully I can share the experience with others too.
If you could be any animal, what and why? That’s easy. A cat. You don’t have to go further than the next few gardens to find your next free meal so you can focus on the more important things in life. Like building a revolution, mitigating climate change, growing resilient communities!
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: When I was a kid I jumped off a shed roof onto some grass, landing on my elbow (which definitely wasn’t inspired by wrestling on TV!).

Name: Dillon Morgan
University and Degree: University of Bath, Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
Favourite part of degree: Happy hour (wheeey beers.)
Why UKAEA? I just fancied calling myself a government scientist really. Keeps people on their toes.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Having a chance to focus all the hard work I put in at uni on helping the world achieve the means to harness commercial fusion energy and putting in a record breaking performance at the yearly softball comp.
If you could have any superpower, what and why? I dunno but it would have to be a pretty lame super power. Anything even slightly impressive would cause me to get drunk on power and turn evil before the week is out.
If you could be any animal, what and why? Snake. Or some other reptile which eats birds. So all the people who say bird for this question know who’s higher in the food chain.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: When I was a baby the abnormal shape and size of my head was such that it became the topic of a research paper.

Name: Peter Cooper
Department: Engineering Analysis Group
University and Degree: Mechanical Engineering, Loughborough University
Favourite part of degree: Design, build and test type projects like the bicycle powered watercraft I created and rode.
Why UKAEA? Fusion seems like a real possibility in my lifetime now and I want to be part of the team that makes it happen.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? The softball tournament!
If you could have any superpower, what and why? Teleportation. Buy a wing suit and you get all the advantages of flying whilst still being able to teleport if you’re feeling lazy or it’s raining.
If you could be any animal, what and why? A shearwater. Swimming and flying – the best of both.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I can wiggle my ears.

Name: James O’Callaghan
Department: H3AT (specifically Tritium Process Group)
University and Degree: University of Surrey, Physics
Favourite part of degree: I liked fractals, anytime you can talk about broccoli in an academic setting is a good time.
Why UKAEA? I’ve had an interest in fusion for a long time. Fortunately I had the opportunity to do a placement here for a year as part of my degree. I really liked the work and the atmosphere so I decided that I wanted to work here after university.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? I’m looking forward to being able to take time away from the job role to develop other skills that might not necessarily be directly related to the job role. Also getting to know the graduates!
If you could have any superpower, what and why? To be able to download skills into my brain like in the Matrix, because it would have made GCSE French less of a nightmare.
If you could be any animal, what and why? Manta ray, they look so relaxed flying through the water.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: My best friend is a rubber plant.

Name: Edward Litherland-Smith
Department: Spectroscopy, Tokamak Science
University and Degree: MSc Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors, University of Birmingham
Favourite part of degree: The 3 month industrial project/placement in the 4th semester
Why UKAEA? I find the work being done here really interesting
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? Developing my skills and getting to meet a bunch of new people
If you could have any superpower, what and why? The ability to fly because I love the freedom and the feeling of it
If you could be any animal, what and why? An owl, pretty much for the same reason as above and they’re really interesting animals
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: I have a pet cat with some very dog-like traits (loves being taken out for walks, playing fetch, etc…)

Name: Leah Morgan
Department: Diagnostic and Fusion Engineering
University and Degree: Physics MPhys at the University of Sheffield
Favourite part of degree: My favourite part of my degree was the large amount of problem solving that was encouraged, it’s always fun trying to find new ways of working around a problem. I also really enjoyed my fourth year project. I was helping to design a detector that could locate clandestine nuclear reactors based on their anti-neutrino signature, the real-world application of this project was one of the things that encouraged me to apply to a company like UKAEA.

Why UKAEA? I was very keen to join an industry that was actively working towards making the world a better place, and fusion was definitely the coolest option. Additionally, no other graduate scheme offered me a place…
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? I’m most looking forward to making my own additions to JET, it’s going to be very cool knowing that my work is part of such a collaborative effort. I’m also looking forward to getting involved with outreach and communications, science communication is a lot of fun!
If you could have any superpower, what and why? I’d definitely like to be able to control the elements in an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” way. I’d be able to mess with JET from the outside without getting irradiated which is pretty sweet.
If you could be any animal, what and why? I’m a big fan of foxes, they’re dumb cat-dogs, and I like the way they communicate by screaming. 10/10 can relate.
And finally, one silly fact about yourself: Wow, so many ridiculous facts to choose from… while living in Derby I morris danced with Makeney Morris but had to quit when I moved to University – I also injured my knee quite badly while dancing!

Name: Hannah Todd
Department: H3AT
University and Degree: Durham University – Chemistry
Favourite part of degree: 7 hour practicals twice a week, the chemistry life
Why UKAEA? Fusion power!
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA Graduate Scheme? In the future being able to say that I contributed to making nuclear fusion a commercial energy source, however small that contribution was.
If you could have a superpower, what and why? Apparation – No more travelling! I could get to see friends who are off in other countries and take them somewhere completely different in the click of my fingers.
If you could be any animal, what and why? Black Bear, so I could cuddle bear cubs and not get mauled or a bat so I could fly and get to use my ‘great listening skills’.
Silly Fact: I can name all the European capitals.

And last but not least...
Name: George ‘polishes for fun’ Fulton
Department: Materials Research Facility
University and degree: University of Oxford - Materials Science
Favourite part of degree: Successfully designing and manufacturing a GRIN lens based on a filled voxel approach with a modified off-the-shelf FDM printer. Yeah, nothing to do with fusion….
Why UKAEA: It’s great to see an organisation fully realising the importance of materials science and with the recent creation of the materials facility, it is a really unique place to work.
What are you most looking forward to on the UKAEA graduate scheme: There’s such a variety in the graduate scheme covering so many different areas, I’m looking forward to learning completely new skills and creating a more holistic view on fusion.
Superpower and why? Light manipulation who wouldn’t want to be a human torch!
Animal: what and why? Green sea turtle - what a life!
Silly fact: I’m 1/32 Indian….


Please join me in wishing these new graduates the best of starts to their careers at UKAEA!




Written by: Mark Ascott

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

2018 Graduates ITER Trip

This summer the graduates got the chance to go to ITER where Ian has been on secondment for a number of months. After a smooth flight we picked up our hire care in Marseille and headed to Aix-en-Provence (we learnt to just say 'ex' to hide our frenglish). Aix is an amazing city, there is a wide central street that seemed to have a new type of market each day. Every night these markets would pack up and the restaurants would replace them with their tables outside on the plaza.

Enough of the tourist blog this is about Fusion! The ITER site is another 30 minutes drive from Aix through some beautiful mountainous french countryside. Once we arrived, after a wait we were met by our guide who took us to the main visitor centre. As experts in Fusion we immediately grilled our guide about breeder blankets and diverter configurations but she held her ground and made Joe look silly multiple times.


We then had a drive around the site to where the pulsed power is supplied from the supergrid. This is a particular area of interest for Joe and Chad who both work on power supplies at JET. The main difference with ITER is that JET uses Flywheels as it cannot legally take all the power it needs straight from the grid during a pulse, ITER however takes all it's power straight from the grid. Joe and Chad were very impressed with this, particularly by the apparent robustness of the European grid to deliver such high power capability to a relatively remote site. Doug and Ian didn't know what was happening at this point.

Next we were taken to the most developed part of ITER; the Poloidal Field Coil Winding Facility. Most of the buildings at ITER are not yet built, or have to remain so clean they do not allow visitors, or are actually dangerous. Meaning the PF winding building is the only operational building which is allowed for visitors, luckily it's very big.

Poloidal describes a magnetic field confined to a 'radial or meridian plane', although it's easier to remember it just as the shape of a polo. There are two main types of poloidal field coils on JET and ITER There is the central solonoid which is used mainly for initial ohmic heating of the plasma. The other coils are much larger and wrap around the exterior of the Tokamak, they are used more for the control and shaping of the plasma. What we saw was the winding of these large exterior coils, an incredibly long and slow process which requires very high precision. The reason for this precision is that these coils will very likely never be removed from ITER so any defects would affect the machine for it's whole lifetime which is on the order of decades. So clearly it's worth getting it right, let's go through the process of winding a perfect PF coil.

Stage 1: Conductor checks; cleaning, bending and sandblasting the outside of the conductor. This is the first stage where the prefabricated conductor is rolled into a poloidal shape while being treated. The sandblasting is to create a slight texture on the exterior of the conductor which helps the insulation stick.
Stage 2: Insulation and winding of the Double Pancake (DP). Each PF coil is made up of a number of 'Pancakes' which are like single layers, each tested to their own high standards then combined to form a stack.

Stage 3: Vacuum impregnation of the DP. In this stage the DP is lowered into a mould and impregnated with epoxy resin. The coil is cured under vacuum while the resin fills every crack, when it hardens the DP is much stronger and more insulating.
Stage 4: Forming a Winding Pack. This stage is simply stacking multiple DP's and impregnating the stack with resin under vacuum as before to ensure rigidity, other components are added at this stage such as clamps and helium pipes.
Stage 5: Cold testing. The stack is then cooled to 80 Kelvin to simulate some of the thermal stresses that it will undergo on ITER. Once a stack passes this test then it is ready.





 The most impressive part of the winding facility for me were the cranes. The PF coils weigh up to 400 tonnes, part of the reason they are being manufactured on site as opposed to being shipped in like many of the other ITER components. The cranes are designed to lift this huge weight in a perfectly symmetrical way to avoid any stress or damage.

Visiting ITER was a great experience for all those involved, we learn a lot and got to see the reality of the biggest engineering challenge in the world. Until it is complete ITER will be visually similar to a regular building site on a massive scale. We can't wait to go back when it's finished and see how it's changed and what it can achieve for fusion research, also the beaches are nice.


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Inspiring the future generation of engineers



UKAEA has recently hosted its first batch of work experience students, all fresh from their GCSE exams and all aspiring young engineers. Each of these students were supervised by someone within the company, three of these supervisors were UKAEA graduates (Mark, Adomas and Joe), and given work to do throughout the week.

The students got involved in a wide variety of work such as impact analysis in the Central Engineering department, C++ and Python programming in CCFE, conceptual design development in RACE and much more. Each of these students were very professional in their approach and were keen to make the most of the week at UKAEA.
They also got to go on tours of the two tokamaks, JET and MAST-U, along with RACE and UKAEAs new apprentice training centre, OAS. They even got to interview UKAEA CEO himself, Prof. Ian Chapman. They got to quiz him on the future of UKAEA after Brexit and his opinion on the future of fusion.
 



These students got a huge amount out of their week here at UKAEA, but these work experience schemes are extremely worthwhile to industry as well. Not only do we get to experience mentoring young people, but we get encourage more and more young people to pursue STEM careers. As recent departmental talks have shown, the statistics on women in STEM careers is astonishing, and this shows UKAEAs dedication to making a difference at an early age. Over half of the work experience students were young women; hopefully they were inspired to continue further.

Further to this, the fusion industry is rapidly becoming full of an older generation, and this knowledge must be passed on. DEMO is currently advertised at power on the grid by 2060; even as a first-year graduate, I will be approaching retirement by then. As a graduate engineer, I am well aware of the benefits to a graduate scheme such as the one I am currently partaking in. In addition to the Graduate and Apprenticeship scheme, the Year in Industry, Summer Placements, Culham Plasma Physics Summer School and Power Academy all aid the development and knowledge transfer to new and upcoming engineers and scientists and is vitally important if fusion power is to succeed.

UKAEA will be welcoming another group of work experience students in August and we wish them the best of luck. The future of fusion is bright if we continue to encourage young people from all backgrounds to pursue STEM careers.