leading systems and engineering technology consultancy Frazer-Nash has been appointed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to deliver the concept design for a key component of the UK’s new fusion reactor – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).
STEP is an innovative plan for a commercially viable fusion power station – offering what the agency says is a realistic prospect of constructing a power plant by 2040. The investment will allow engineers and scientists, including Frazer-Nash, to produce a conceptual design for the reactor (known as a ‘tokamak’) that will generate fusion energy and convert it into electricity. UKAEA and partners from industry and academia will pool their expertise to complete the design by 2024.
Commenting on Frazer-Nash’s contribution, Neil Leggatt, Nuclear Group Business Manager said:
“A tokamak fusion reactor heats plasma to hundreds of millions of degrees to fuse atoms together, confining the plasma with magnetic fields. The divertor handles the heat exhaust from the fusion reaction – managing this heat is one of the most pressing challenges facing those seeking to realize a commercially-viable power plant design.
“We will combine our experience with high-performance heat exchanger technology with our multi-disciplinary design and analysis capability to develop a divertor heat exchanger design that can manage the increased heat exhaust requirements of STEP and can be easily manufactured for a commercial power station.”
In theory, fusion offers a virtually limitless source of cleaner electricity by copying the processes that power the sun – the collision of hydrogen atoms to release large amounts of energy. Researchers around the globe are now developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s ever-increasing demand for energy.
In early October, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, announced the funding package during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre HQ in Oxfordshire – the UK’s fusion research laboratory.
The STEP program will create 300 jobs directly, with even more in the UK fusion supply chain. In addition, the spin-outs from the design work are expected to be enormous – both in terms of synergies with other fusion powerplant design activities (such as Europe’s ‘DEMO’ prototype power station) and other hi-tech industries.
STEP builds on UKAEA’s expertise in developing so-called ‘spherical tokamaks’ – compact and efficient fusion devices that could offer an economical route to commercial fusion power. The new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment is due to start operations at Culham early in 2020. Its work will play a key role in the STEP design.
Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy called the initiative "bold and ambitious ... Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the U.K."
“This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new hi-tech jobs and exports.”
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TFTR at PPPL was decommissioned in 1999-2003 time frame.