Assystem wins contracts for UK’s STEP fusion project

24 December 2019

Assystem’s Sunderland engineering team will lead two crucial aspects of the UK’s STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) fusion project – Breeder Blanket and Materials Database, Assystem said on 20 December.

STEP is being designed at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA’s) site at Culham in Oxfordshire. Assystem’s team of engineers will be contributing from their bases in Sunderland, Derby and Blackburn.

Assystem has experience delivering fusion projects including leading the design of the Divertor Remote Handling System (DRHS)  for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), under construction in France. The DRHS is a robotic arm that can operate inside the extremely hot environment of the fusion reactor.

Assystem, with UK headquarters in Blackburn, confirmed its role in two crucial elements of the government’s £220 million ($286m) nuclear fusion power station design project. Assystem will be creating designs for the new Breeder Blanket and developing a Materials Database that will be key in assessing the theoretical performance and manufacturing readiness of a new nuclear fusion reactor.

The breeder blankets will be pivotal in the success of the new nuclear fusion designs by generating fuel and usable heat. Encasing the inner reactor, the breeder blankets will play three key roles within the power plant.

Firstly, by encompassing the nuclear reactor, the breeder blanket will maintain the most efficient heat for the reactor to operate, secondly, it contains and absorbs radiation. Thirdly, the blanket captures, slows and multiplies fusion neutrons using them to convert lithium into tritium to fuel the reactor. The blanket will continually produce the same amount of tritium which is required to fuel the reactor.

Assystem will also deliver a requirements capture exercise engaging key stakeholders within the STEP team to ensure that materials data collection and analysis is managed efficiently through the life of the programme.  Whilst delivering the requirements, Assystem will undertake a review of the STEP delivery tools, processes and procedures that interact with the Materials database, ensuring that the proposed operational solution caters for all interactions with the minimal amount of manual effort. The defined requirements will support a procurement exercise due for tender in May/June 2020.

Kevin Wilkinson, Business Unit Director, Assystem said, “With global dialogue on reducing carbon emissions becoming an urgent priority, we commend the nation’s commitment to investing in the development of fusion energy and are proud to be associated with STEP.”

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