Leading systems and engineering technology consultancy, Frazer-Nash, has been appointed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to deliver a concept study for a lead-lithium flow loop cooling system, to underpin the design of the potential cooling blanket design in the UK’s new fusion reactor – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).
STEP is an ambitious programme to deliver a commercially viable prototype fusion reactor by 2040. The investment will allow UKAEA to produce a conceptual design for the reactor (known as a ‘tokamak’) that will generate fusion energy and convert it into electricity. The STEP programme will involve engineers and scientists from UKAEA and its supply chain, including Frazer-Nash, as well as academia and other partners.
Outlining Frazer-Nash’s contribution, Steve Lawler, New Build and Fusion Business Manager said:
“By heating plasma to hundreds of millions of degrees, a tokamak fusion reactor fuses its atoms together, confining the plasma with magnetic fields. Removing heat flux from the fusion reactor efficiently is key to producing a net energy gain. With a high boiling point temperature, tritium breeding capabilities and thermal properties, liquid lead-lithium is considered as a potential blanket coolant to deliver this heat removal by tokamak designers.
“Using our multi-disciplinary design and analysis capabilities, we will develop a concept study for a lead-lithium flow loop, investigating fluid properties and flow behaviour in representative blanket conditions. The concept study will play a key role in developing the UK’s knowledge and experience of flowing lead-lithium for use in a Tokamak.”
Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of cleaner electricity by copying the processes that power the Sun – the collision of hydrogen atoms to release large amounts of energy. Researchers around the globe are now developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s ever-increasing demand for energy.
Lead-lithium flow loop
Liquid lead-lithium has been considered as a blanket coolant by multiple fusion organisations due to its high boiling point temperature, tritium breeding capabilities and thermal properties. To develop further understanding in the United Kingdom, UKAEA has awarded a front-end engineering design contract for a lead-lithium flow loop, which can investigate fluid properties and flow behaviour in representative blanket conditions.
The main aims of the flow loop are to study the effects of a uniform magnetic field on flowing lead-lithium and measure corrosion within a defined test section. The test section will allow different materials and geometries of piping to be installed and tested.
What the UK Atomic Energy Authority does
UKAEA researches fusion energy and related technologies, with the aim of positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy. It is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
For more information, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-atomic-energy-authority/about
For the latest UKAEA news: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-take-a-big-step-to-fusion-electricity