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The Fusion Technology Facility site – between Rotherham and Sheffield at the Advanced Manufacturing Park – is the first new UKAEA research site (outside of Culham) since the 1950s.

The centre will work with industry to develop and test materials and components that can cope with the conditions found inside a fusion power plant.

From March, Jacobs will begin work on constructing the CHIMERA test rig facility, with its 250-tonne magnet a central part of the project.

Russell Gibson is overseeing the progress of this bold new venture as Operations Manager.

“We’re very pleased and excited to have Jacobs – a global engineering construction company – involved in the design and construction of this world class testing facility,” he says.

“The core components of fusion power plants will have to survive extreme temperatures, heat flux and magnetic field conditions, and so substantial testing of these materials is absolutely essential. It’s one of the key technological challenges for engineers seeking to make fusion commercially viable.”

Russell Gibson

Russell Gibson – UKAEA Yorkshire Operations Manager

Russell – an electronics engineer – comes from a similar operations role with ABB Electrical & Electronic Manufacturing. He started his career as a Radio Officer on Cruise Liners, and has spent the last two decades involved in operations of different projects, including working on the digital switchover for television and radio.

“I’m thrilled to have joined UKAEA at such a critical time – and particularly so working on the site in Yorkshire.

“Working in fusion energy research is something new to me, but is also an area where there are many exciting opportunities. Although it’s a different field of work for me, my core experience comes from project delivery, operations and cost management, and those are the key things I look after here.”

Russell – who is seven months into the role – is the primary lead for UKAEA Yorkshire’s team of plant engineers, technicians and facility operators. The first part of doing that will be recruitment.

“Recruiting a workforce is a key part of the project at the moment. One strand of that is bringing in lead operators for CHIMERA.”

Crucial for fusion power plants

Russell will also be UKAEA’s lead on safety during the installation and commissioning of CHIMERA. This key project is focused on researching the engineering design of critical fusion components, and is seen as crucial on the path to prototype power plants, for example the UK’s STEP device and the European DEMO programme. It will carry out substantial testing of components in fusion-related conditions.

As well as ensuring that large components for CHIMERA are installed smoothly, Russell will also be supervising additional work for UKAEA’s other Fusion Technology teams at the Yorkshire site – Joining & Advanced Manufacturing and the Materials Technology Laboratory.

Ensuring the right blend of staff will also be high on his priority list.

“Apprenticeships are an area I’ve seen the full benefits of before in my career. Training the next generation of young people so they can deliver projects which will benefit UK plc is something which I feel really enthused about. It just illustrates how the job is a great fit for me.”

He added: “I’m delighted to have been able to come on board over the last few months, despite the strangeness of 2020 brought about by the pandemic.”

Damon Johnstone, Head of UKAEA’s Fusion Technology Facility, comments: “Russell has immediately made an impact as we ramp up our efforts to deliver technology for fusion prototypes. It has been an unusual year for him to start as the Operations Manager, during a global pandemic and on a brand new site with few existing systems in place. But Russell has embraced this and built upon it with exemplary drive and enthusiasm to keep us all safe, secure, and focused on the challenges in hand.”

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