AtkinsRéalis to design UK tritium processing facility

21 May 2024

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has appointed Canadian engineering firm AtkinsRéalis to deliver the detailed design of an isotope separation system to strengthen research into sustainable fusion delivery.

A rendering of the H3AT facility (Image: UKAEA)

The Isotope Separation System will form part of UKAEA's Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) facility, a world-first tritium fuel cycle research facility to include a prototype-scale process plant and experimental platform, which is a scaled version of the design for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

AtkinsRéalis said the tritium capacity of this "highly complex Isotope Separation System will make it the most advanced research facility of its kind, helping to enable the development of tritium fuel cycle infrastructure necessary for sustainable fusion power".

The company has already completed the concept and detailed process design of the main H3AT facility - currently under construction at UKAEA's Culham Campus, in Oxfordshire - alongside the concept and preliminary design of the Isotope Separation System. The AtkinsRéalis team will now deliver detailed process and mechanical designs for the system, including the vital cryogenic and ambient temperature equipment that will be required to collect, process, and recycle the tritium fuel.

"The H3AT facility will be a first-of-a-kind research facility to strengthen UK and international efforts to advance tritium fuel cycle technology," said Jason Dreisbach, head of advanced energy technologies at AtkinsRéalis. "The Isotope Separation System is a key element to demonstrate fusion fuel cycle performance at scale, and we look forward to contributing our significant experience in fusion engineering and tritium to help realise UKAEA's ambitions."

Framework renewal

The announcement came as UKAEA renewed its multimillion-pound Engineering Design Services Framework with nine companies. The renewal is based on a successful four-year delivery of various engineering and design desk-based projects.

Representatives from UKAEA and companies supporting the Engineering Design Services Framework, at UKAEA's Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham (Image: UKAEA)

The framework, with a value up to GBP9 million (USD11.4 million), supports the development of a UK industrial supply chain capability by allowing the companies to work closely with UKAEA as it undertakes fusion energy research. "It is vital in the mission to develop commercial fusion energy, while also helping to grow the UK economy by ensuring industry are fully involved," UKAEA said.

The companies which are part of the renewed framework are: Assystem, AtkinsRealis, Demcon, Eadon, Frazer Nash, IDOM, Jacobs, M5tec and Optima. UKAEA said these companies have expertise in some, or all of the following disciplines: mechanical engineering; process engineering; systems engineering; electrical, control and instrumentation engineering; computer-based modelling; and specialist nuclear services.

"This framework has enabled UKAEA to work collaboratively and with maximum efficiency with the fusion supply chain," said Colette Broadwith, Strategic Procurement Business Partner for UKAEA. "By renewing it for another four years, UKAEA can continue to leverage the engineering and technical expertise of our industrial partners to help accelerate fusion energy's commercialisation, for the benefit of all."

Last week, UKAEA awarded six organisations GBP9.6 million of contracts to advance their concepts to support fusion energy development. The contracts were awarded to three universities and three companies focusing on digital engineering and fusion fuel cycle developments dedicated to addressing fusion energy challenges. The contracts will develop next-generation digital tools for future fusion power plant designs, and advanced production and handling of hydrogen isotopes.

The contracts range between GBP460,000 and GBP1.9 million, and are funded by UKAEA's Fusion Industry Programme, an initiative launched in 2021 to develop the necessary technology and skills for the future global fusion power plant market.

The UKAEA carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government, overseeing the country's fusion programme, including the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment as well as hosting the recently closed Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham, which operated for scientists from around Europe. It is also developing its own fusion power plant design with plans to build a prototype known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) at West Burton in Nottinghamshire, which is due to begin operating by 2040.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News