UKAEA signs two new deals to develop fusion

Article by Amanda Jasi

TWO multimillion-pound frameworks will see experts join the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to help realise its mission of leading delivery of sustainable fusion energy.

Fusion power has the potential to contribute to tackling climate change. It offers a cleaner alternative to nuclear fission and could provide near limitless clean energy for the long term. According to UKAEA, fusion creates nearly 4m times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil, or gas. Once commercially realised, it could transform global power generation and help achieve a lower carbon economy.

UKAEA, which aims to position the UK as a leader in sustainable energy, signed the deals to aid the development of safe, efficient, and low carbon fusion energy. The frameworks will see companies embed specialists in project roles or add experience and expertise to UKAEA to develop fusion energy.

The four-year, £4m (US$5.4m) engineering embedded resource framework, involving seven other companies, covers fusion research, power plant design, robotics, modelling, materials, and other specialist technology. It will see UKAEA work with Assystem, Atkins, IDOM, Morsons, Nuvia, Engineering Analysis Services Limited (EASL), and Norton Straw.

The second, £3.5m Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) manufacturing support service agreement, will advance UKAEA plans to deliver the first prototype fusion energy plant in the UK. STEP is a UKAEA programme aimed at delivering a prototype fusion energy plant by 2040.

That agreement involves Ansaldo, Doosan Babcock, Frazer Nash, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), and Rolls-Royce. Until March 2024, the companies will be supported in their work by more than 25 collaborators from academia, industry, research, technical organisations, and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (a group of manufacturing research centres in the UK). Nuclear AMRC forms part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

In addition to demonstrating fusion power through its prototype power plant, the STEP programme will also determine how the plant will be maintained through its operational life and demonstrate the potential to recycle its fuel. Five UK sites have been shortlisted, and a final decision is expected around the end of 2022.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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