Women in Fusion Profile - Rhiann Canavan
Women in Fusion on Instagram is a celebration and showcase of women working in the pursuit of fusion energy. It exists to inspire and inform people about the varied opportunities in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) and to show young women, and others from diverse backgrounds, that science is for everyone. It was set up by Dr Melanie Windridge and is run by Fusion Energy Insights.
11th February is the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and this week there was a big announcement about the JET tokamak achieving record fusion energy output sustained for 5 seconds. So we decided to take the opportunity to share this profile of a young fusion scientist who contributed to the recent record-breaking JET campaign.
Rhiann Canavan is a Research and Development Engineer, providing services on behalf of United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, UK. She has spent the past few months working shifts on the Active Gas Handling system, during the Deuterium-Tritium-Experiment-2 campaign.
Rhiann studied an MSci Physics at the University of Birmingham, where she discovered her passion for Nuclear Physics. She then did a PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics with the National Physical Laboratory and University of Surrey – with most of her thesis work carried out in European laboratories, using radiation detector arrays to study properties of nuclei produced in reactions, such as, fast-neutron induced fission.
Before her current role, Rhiann spent a year working for a fusion start-up company, managing their experimental campaign to test their research reactor.
We spoke to Rhiann about her work at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, how she got into fusion and a little bit about herself outside of the fusion world.
What in fusion do you work on?
I work shifts on the Active Gas Handling System at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. I help to supply the deuterium and tritium fuel which JET uses to create fusion events during its pulses. We also recover and process the exhaust gases from the torus, to complete the fuel cycle and enable us to re-supply the tritium which doesn’t get used up during pulses.
While on shift we have a live feed from inside the torus – it has been incredible watching the pulses happen and knowing that I supplied the fuel which made them possible!
Why did you get into fusion?
I believe that the climate crisis is the most important challenge which humanity faces right now, and I wanted to help work towards the solution! Fusion energy will enable us to power the planet for millions of years, without damaging the environment, and allowing us to maintain our energy consumption levels and standard of living. Developing fusion technology allows me to take part in exciting experiments, and work with interesting and passionate people.
Any advice for others looking to get into fusion?
Never be afraid to ask questions or show enthusiasm! Contact people if you are interested in their work or research – see if they can explain or show you more about what they are doing. Most scientists and engineers are so passionate about what we’re working on, we love having the chance to share it with someone who is keen!
Share something about yourself and what you do outside of work.
I love practicing yoga, it clears my mind and helps me to feel healthy and relaxed – plus, one of my best friends is the instructor, so seeing her brings an added joy. I love going for walks in the countryside, especially in places where there are lots of dogs to make friends with!
Thank you to Rhiann for her contributions to fusion and for stepping up to inspire others! You can see more Women in Fusion on Instagram.