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Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) (CCFE)

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Description of the legal entity

United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) researches fusion energy and related technologies, with the aim of positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy. UKAEA is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK. UKAEA contributes to work being carried out worldwide on the technology and materials needed for the future ITER facility and EU DEMO fusion power stations. Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) is the UK’s national laboratory for fusion, owned and operated by the UKAEA. CCFE participates in EUROfusion programmes on the conceptual design of fusion power stations.

The materials technology group at UKAEA focuses on the development of materials testing, characterisation techniques for non-radioactive work and aims to build structure integrity procedures for fusion reactors. A lot of work involves advanced small-scale testing, complementing work at large-scale facilities such as ISIS and Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, and ESRF in France.

The Materials Research Facility (MRF) at the UKAEA established for radioactive materials fabrication for advanced characterisation will also be used for advanced sample preparation to generate samples for in-situ characterisation. This facility is part of the UK National Nuclear User Facility (NNUF) initiative. Launched by the Government and funded by the EPSRC, to set up a multi-site facility giving academia and industry access to internationally-leading experimental equipment. The detail for this facility can be found in the link here (

From a global perspective of the Fusion industry and in particular, of UKAEA, efforts to define suitable design and constructions rules appear very much fragmented. In particular, in the area of SSTT it is important to keep in mind that the construction of new facilities for Fusion materials testing, where the irradiation volume is severly limited and data obtained will be worldwide used, will demand a well stablished set of test techniques to be able to extract full information from their analysis by different parties. As a result, the development of the tests on 0.16T CTs and other small-scale testing techniques for the determination of the fracture toughness and the characterization of the ductile to brittle transition temperatures is one of the key priorities. Proof of the commitment of UKAEA to the task can be the recent funding of a CCFE fellowship for the development of small punch for the characterization of the DBTT region and the estimation of fracture toughness.

Profile of staff members involved

  • Dr David Andres (male): PhD in Civil Engineering.
    For more than 8 years contributing to the development and standardisation of small scale testing techniques, mainly small punch tests on metallic materials. Present position: Materials Fellow (EUROfusion Researcher Grant) in UKAEA.
  • Dr Yiqiang Wang (male): PhD in Solid Mechanics.
    Dr Wang is an expert has an expert in the experimental investigation of microstructure, residual stress and plastic deformation interaction effects on the high temperature structural integrity of nuclear power plants. He also has nine years’ experience using Synchrotron X-ray and Neutron at large-scale research facilities included DLS and ISIS in Oxfordshire, ESRF in Grenoble and PSI in Switzerland.
    Present position: Senior Materials Engineer at the UKAEA.
  • Dr Chris Hardie (male): PhD in materials for fusion applications.
    Dr Hardie is an expert on radiation damage of crystalline materials and micro-characterisation techniques. He has extensive experience in the simulation of radiation damage by heavy ion implantation, the effects of neutron irradiation and micro-mechanical testing methods for the investigation of mechanical properties at the micron-scale.
    Present position: Mechanical Engineer.
  • Ms Becky Lewis (female): BSc in Chemistry. Working on the small punch and small punch creep techniques on various metallic materials, and compositional and elemental analysis using EDX and EBSD techniques focussing on fracture surfaces. Present position: Materials Technology Laboratory Technician at UKAEA

 Relevant publications, and/or products, services

  • Andres D., Lacalle R., Cicero S., Alvarez J.A., “Application of the small punch test in combination with the master curve approach for the characterisation of the ductile to brittle transition region” (2019), Journal of Nuclear Materials: 409-418, DOI: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2019.03.011
  • Lacalle R., Andrés D., Álvarez J.A., Gutiérrez-Solana F., “Transition region of nuclear vessel steels: Master Curve approach using small punch notched specimens” (2017), Key Engineering Materials, 734:77-86. DOI:10.4028/
  • Lessmann M.T., Sudic I., Fazinic S., Tadic T., Calvo A., Hardie C.D., Porton M., Garcia-Rosales C., Mummery P.M., “The effects of ion irradiation on the micromechanical fracture strength and hardness of a self-passivating tungsten alloy” (2017), Journal of Nuclear Materials, 486: 34-43, DOI:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2016.12.030
  • Andrés D., Dymáçek P., “Study of the upper die clamping conditions in the small punch test” (2016), Theoretical and Applied Fracture Mechanics, 86:117-123, DOI: 10.1016/j.tafmec.2016.07.012
  • Andrés D., García T., Cicero S., Lacalle R., Álvarez J.A., Martín-Meizoso A., Aldazábal J.,  Bannister A., Klimpel A., “Characterisation of heat affected zones produced by thermal cutting processes by means of small punch tests” (2016), Materials Characterization, 119: 55-64, DOI: 10.1016/j.matchar.2016.07.017

Relevant previous projects or activities

  • “Strength Achieved by Length-scale Engineering”, funded by EURAMET and part of the EU Horizon 2020 research programme.
  • Contribution to the small punch standard in Europe as members of the CEN Standardisation Committee for the small punch testing technique (ECISS/TC 101/WG 1).
  • “Towards the Standardization of Small Specimen Test Techniques For Fusion Applications”, Coordinated Research Project of IAEA (F13017)
  • “Fusion’s materials challenge: mechanical characterization by means of the small punch test”, Culham Fusion Research Fellowship 2018
  • “Fusion’s materials challenge: mechanical characterization by means of small sample test techniques”, 2019-2020 Eurofusion Researcher Grant Proposal H2020 ATLAS+ Advanced Structural Integrity Assessment Tools for Safe Long-Term Operation (Grant agreement ID: 754589)

Significant infrastructure and/or any major items of technical equipment

  • Phoenix universal testing machine with a 5 kN hydraulic load frame operating in tension or compression
  • Phoenix universal testing machine with a 7.5 kN hydraulic load frame operating in tension or compression
  • LaVision micro digital image correlation (DIC) system allowing micron-sized tracking of sample movement
  • Zeiss Evo 10 SEM + EBSD and EDS capability
  • Mira3XMH Scanning Electron Microscope + EBSD Detector
  • Instron uniaxial 10 kN electromechanical load frame
  • Instron uniaxial 5 kN electromechanical load frame
  • Severn Thermal Solutions environmental chamber for temperatures in between -170C and 550C
  • Fronctis AIS3000HD instrument indenter tester. Allows macroscopic mechanical properties to be measured using indentation
  • LECO LM 100AT microhardness tester
  • Auto-polisher, wire saw and other sample preparation equipment
  • Shimadzu AGS-x static load frame 10kN
  • TA Electroforce 3500 dynamic load frame 15kN
  • Instrumented indenter

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