Atkins to design nuclear fusion research centre

Artist’s impression of the fusion energy research centre (Image courtesy of Atkins)

Atkins, part of the SNC-Lavalin Group, has won a deal with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to help design the world’s first centre for researching tritium for use in fusion energy.

The Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) facility will be built at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire.

It will support work at ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment that is currently under construction in France. Academic and industrial users will use the facility to research how to process, store and recycle tritium, one of the fuels that will supply fusion power stations.

Atkins – supported by supply chain partners including Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Ansaldo Nuclear and FlexProcess – will deliver the preliminary and detailed design of the H3AT tritium recycling loop, comprising storage beds, a distribution system, impurity processing system, and systems to detritiate water and air. The H3AT facility will provide access to scientists and researchers to inform tritium processes for future fusion programmes including: ITER; its successor, the DEMOnstration Power Plant, which will move fusion energy a step closer to production on an industrial scale; and UKAEA’s Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) – a programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant, targeting operations around 2040.

Lee Patrick, UKAEA client manager, nuclear & power, at Atkins said: “Fusion has the potential to provide the world with a low-carbon, limitless and environmentally responsible energy source in the future.

“Recognising the complexity and scale of this project, we’ve put together a world-class team that is fully focused on playing its part in helping to recreate and harness energy based on the same principle that powers our sun and stars.”

Steve Wheeler, director of UKAEA’s Fusion Technology business unit, said: “H3AT is a truly unique facility to support UK science and the development of fusion fuel cycle technology. Atkins will bring proven engineering design capability to the delivery group, in addition to the valuable expertise of their supply chain partners.”

Atkins supports UKAEA across its major programmes through its position as an Engineering Design Services (EDS) framework supplier and has recently won two contracts on the STEP programme. It is also architect engineer for ITER as part of the Engage consortium.

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