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His Royal Highness the Duke of York visited the world-leading Orion laser facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Berkshire yesterday (November 4th).
The Duke toured Orion in his capacity as UK Patron of the International Year of Light 2015 - a United Nations initiative to raise awareness of light science and its applications.
Orion is a high-powered laser, the size of a football pitch and is one of the largest capital science investments in the UK. The laser can create conditions similar to those found at the heart of the sun and provides exciting opportunities for building and sharing knowledge. Laser physics is an area of research essential to maintain the UK’s nuclear warhead stockpile in the nuclear test ban era. While Orion was designed to support the UK’s Trident programme, it will also drive developments in fundamental science and support laser fusion energy research which could play a key role in developing clean and affordable energy for the future.
The Duke met with senior scientific figures from AWE and members of staff at Orion, who explained the capabilities and workings of the laser.
The Duke said: "It is not often that people get the chance to really appreciate the work that goes on at AWE. What you are doing is absolutely important. Your establishment and in particular Orion, present an exciting opportunity for young people interested in a career in science and technology."
Dr Graeme Nicholson, AWE Technical Director said: "AWE is delighted that The Duke of York chose to visit Orion in his role as patron of the International Year of Light. We are extremely proud of the work carried out at Orion which provides essential support to the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme. High-powered lasers enable us to replicate in the laboratory the physical conditions at the heart of a nuclear detonation – albeit on a minute scale and over a tiny fraction of a second. Working at pressures and densities found nowhere else on earth these plasma physics experiments underpin the UK nuclear deterrent programme."
As a leading UK employer in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), AWE has an active outreach programme with academia and local schools. The Orion laser is already making a significant contribution to UK science. The Ministry of Defence has agreed that up to 15% of Orion’s system time can be used by the UK academic research community for experiments which also contribute to the core programme. This creates a significant opportunity to encourage and excite a new generation of physicists both nationally and internationally.
AWE's Chief Scientist, Professor Andrew Randewich who met The Duke said: "It was a privilege to show His Royal Highness around Orion, a facility of which I am particularly proud. Recent government reports have indicated that an additional 820,000 STEM professionals will be required in the UK by 2020 to sustain our knowledge-intensive economy. UK organisations are therefore urged to do what they can to encourage young people to take up careers in science, engineering and related subjects. Orion provides that opportunity. With an increasingly demanding technical programme, this is a really important area of work for AWE."
Notes to Editors -
AWE plays a crucial role in national defence by providing and maintaining warheads for Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent
AWE is contracted to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) through a Government-owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) arrangement. Whilst our sites and facilities remain in government ownership, their management, day to day operations, and the maintenance of the nuclear stockpile is contracted to a private company AWE Management Limited (AWE ML). AWE ML is a consortium comprising three equal partners: Serco Group plc, the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group.
AWE is a centre of scientific, engineering and technological excellence, with some of the most advanced research, design and production facilities in the world.
For more information about the International Year of Light .
Link to the Duke of Yorks website / News.
AWE press releases are available on our website: www.awe.co.uk For further information contact Catherine Lynagh on Media@AWE.co.uk 0118 985 6414.