Atkins awarded contract for nuclear project

Article by Amanda Jasi

ATKINS has been awarded a contract for front end engineering design (FEED) of coolant loops for the National Thermal Hydraulic Facility (NTHF), a nuclear test and research facility to be built in North Wales, UK.

The UK and Welsh Governments are working together to develop the £40m (US$50.1m) facility that will focus on thermal hydraulics – the movement of heat and fluids in reactor systems during the conversion of nuclear energy into electricity. The facility is being designed by the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which aims to make the UK a leader in sustainable nuclear energy.

Coolant loops are used in nuclear reactors to carry coolant, which removes heat from the reactor core and transfer it to electrical generators and the environment. The coolant ensures that a stable temperature is maintained in the reactor system as it captures heat and converts it into power.

Atkins will use state-of-the-art digital design and collaboration tools to design and test coolant loops for NTHF that will allow developers of new nuclear reactors to trial prototype reactor coolant systems that use water and gas.

Atkins intends to develop a unique water loop design that will allow safe tests to be carried out in two-phase flows, in which water and steam are present at the same time. The gas loop will be designed to allow tests to be carried out at temperatures up to 950°C. According to Atkins, this could allow other industrial processes, such as hydrogen production, to use some of the heat from the system.

The FEED outputs will be analysed and compiled into a report for the NTHF’s next phase of design and construction.

According to Atkins, understanding thermal hydraulics in nuclear power stations is essential to enable the design of safe and efficient future power stations and ensure safe operations throughout their lifecycles.

Jason Dreisbach, Chief Engineer of Nuclear and Power at Atkins, said: “This important work facilitates the development of new, low carbon reactor designs within the UK, including UK SMR [Small Modular Reactor], which will be key to helping the UK reach its net zero targets by 2050.”

“Not only will we focus on designing a viable facility with maximum usefulness and cost efficiencies to new reactor developers, we will also support UKAEA in making NTHF the test bed for use of digital tools in future major UKAEA development projects.”

The UK SMR Consortium is working to develop a compact nuclear power station to help decarbonise the UK’s energy system to tackle climate change.

The NTHF, intended to be the most modern facility of its kind in the world, is to support the design and development of advanced nuclear technologies. It was announced as part of the £200m Nuclear Sector Deal unveiled in 2018, a partnership between the UK Government and the nuclear industry that aims to reduce costs, and increase innovation and workforce diversity.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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