Canada-based SNC-Lavalin said on 18 January it had been awarded three new contracts by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to continue work on the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme to design and build a commercial-scale fusion energy plant.
Under the contracts, SNC-Lavalin will provide specialist engineering services and strategic advice to UKAEA, drawing on its global nuclear and fusion energy expertise and long-standing involvement with STEP.
SNC-Lavalin has been appointed Commercial Pathways Partner, to help pave the commercial route to realising fusion energy through a combination of engineering and techno-economic studies. A second contract for the STEP Integrated Plant Solution will see SNC-Lavalin develop the mechanical handling and maintenance strategy for this first-of-a-kind plant. The firm has also been appointed onto a new STEP Tritium Framework, drawing on SNC-Lavalin’s specialist tritium knowledge, acquired largely through the development of Candu technology, and supported by its international academic partners.
“Fusion energy has the potential to produce a stable, reliable and low-carbon power source that could be critical in a decarbonised energy future. Our involvement will bring together the best of UK and international expertise to solve the challenges associated with fusion energy,” said SNC-Lavalin President and CEO Ian L Edwards. “Developing engineering solutions and pathways to commercialise emerging, low carbon technology is an important part of our commitment to Engineering Net Zero.” Chris Ball, Managing Director, Nuclear & Power EMEA, SNC-Lavalin said the contracts “extend the scope of our involvement with the STEP programme”.
STEP is attempting to be the world's first commercial fusion power station, aiming to produce a concept design by 2024, leading to a prototype plant in the UK, targeting completion by 2040. In early 2021, SNC-Lavalin was awarded the STEP Cost Modelling and Siting and Development contracts. The Group already supports UKAEA across its major programmes through its position as an Engineering Design Services (EDS) framework supplier, as well as delivering the design of its H3AT Tritium recycling loop.
SNC-Lavalin brings extensive international nuclear expertise across the technology’s cycle, from international fusion science through its role as architect engineer for ITER within the Engage consortium to the design and delivery of large-scale new nuclear build and Small Modular Reactors, as well as widespread knowledge across asset operations, decommissioning and waste management.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK Government. UKAEA oversees the UK’s fusion program, headed by the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment. It also hosts the world’s largest fusion research facility, JET (Joint European Torus), which it operates for scientists from around Europe.
How STEP might look (Photo credit: UKAEA)