UKAEA signs multimillion-pound framework fusion energy agreement

Photo shows the Joint European Tokamak which is based at Culham
Close out Vessel Photographs – May 2011

The UK’s Atomic Energy Authrity (UKAEA), which is based at Culham Science Centre near Abingdon, has signed a four-year-long Engineering Design Services Framework with nine companies.

The framework will allow companies to work closely with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which researches the development of nuclear fusion energy and its related technologies.

The companies which are part of the framework are: Rolls-Royce, French engineering services provider Assystem, which is also working at Hinkley Point C, nuclear engineering professional advisory companies and  DBD International, Jacobs, Frazer Nash and design, engineering and project management consultancies Atkins, IDOM, Mott MacDonald, and M5tec.

The agreement will enable UKAEA to call upon a broad range of engineering and technical skills as UKAEA’s range of activities (in fusion research, powerplant design, robotics, materials and other technology areas) continues to flourish.

It will be vital in the UKAEA’s ambition  to develop commercial fusion power, and help to grow the UK economy by ensuring industry are fully involved.

There is also the opportunity for providers to work together on initiatives costing more than £100,000.

Paula Barham, UKAEA Head of Procurement, said: “This framework brings exciting opportunities for UKAEA; to work collaboratively with the Supply Chain and maximise the potential value within those relationships. This is vital to UKAEA succeeding and positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy.”

The collaboration features companies with a range of expertise in specialisms such mechanical engineering, process engineering, computer-based modelling and simulations, minor structural engineering for design, specialist nuclear services, and electrical, control and instrumentation (EC&I).

Last October, The UK Government committed £220 million to the conceptual design of a fusion power station – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

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.

STEP will be an innovative plan for a commercially-viable fusion power station – offering the realistic prospect of constructing a powerplant by 2040. The investment will allow engineers and scientists 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.

The STEP programme 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.

Gary Stables, Engineering Design Office Group Leader at UKAEA, said: “I look forward to working closely with our industrial partners, and working together to solve some of the challenges we will encounter on the road to a commercially viable fusion powerplant.”