2021 Richard Glazebrook Medal and Prize
Professor Ian Chapman for outstanding leadership of the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the world’s foremost fusion research and technology facility, the Joint European Torus, and the progress it has delivered in plasma physics, deuterium-tritium experiments, robotics, and new materials.
Professor Ian Chapman leads the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in the operation of the Joint European Torus, the largest fusion research facility in the world. In 2020, Chapman oversaw world record-breaking performance in deuterium-only fuel, overtaking results set 15 years earlier.
Also in 2020, Chapman led UKAEA to deliver the first fusion plasmas in a world-first device, testing new ways to exhaust heat from fusion power plants. More than 300 companies were involved in delivering the project with 90% of contracts placed in the UK. Fusion experiments using the novel exhaust system have shown more than 20 times improvement on heat handling, offering a pathway to more compact, cheaper fusion power plants.
Under Chapman’s leadership, UKAEA has trebled in revenue and doubled in headcount to become the largest, most capable fusion organisation in the world. Chapman has overseen the growth of the largest nuclear robotics centre in the world, as well as the Materials Research Facility for radioactive samples, serving customers in the UK and overseas. He conceived both the Fusion Technology Facility in Yorkshire, and the H3AT facility, the largest tritium research centre in the world.
A long-term proponent of compact fusion power plant designs, Chapman devised the UK’s ambitious plan to deliver a prototype fusion power plant by 2040, announced by the prime minister in 2019 with £400m funding.
In 2020, a process was launched to select the site for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), which aims to be the first device to deliver fusion power to the electricity grid and place the UK at the vanguard of this low-carbon technology as we strive towards net zero.
He also played a leading role in securing the UK’s association agreement to the Euratom Research and Training Programme, continuing the UK’s participation in ITER – the largest ever scientific collaboration – and EUROfusion, which is the single largest EU collaborative science grant.
Chapman is a passionate communicator of science, appearing in the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.
He is also passionate about developing people. Having established the Oxfordshire Advanced Skills apprentice training centre in 2019, he has subsequently secured investment and partnerships to expand this to train 1,000 young people per year by 2025 as well as piloting a scheme to widen participation.
He champions diversity and inclusion, with 45% women in the UKAEA executive team and over 50 different nationalities in the workforce.