Systems, engineering and technology consultancy, Frazer-Nash, a KBR company, has undertaken a viability study for the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) into an isotopic separation technique that could support the future delivery of nuclear fusion energy.
As part of the ambitious Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme, led by the UKAEA, Frazer-Nash experts have undertaken a viability and optioneering study of an isotopic separation technique known as a Thermal Cycle Absorption Process (TCAP). TCAP is a technique for separating and recycling hydrogen isotopes (protium, deuterium and tritium) from a gaseous mixture. Tritium handling – separating and recycling the tritium present in the tokamak exhaust stream – is a key element of the STEP programme’s requirements for demonstrating a concept design.
Senior Consultant, Ross Haddow, who has been working with UKAEA on the project said:
“The exciting STEP programme aims to deliver net-energy demonstration by 2040, and we’ve been proud to support Tranche 1. The development and realisation of commercial fusion energy is at the heart of our value and commitment to do things that matter, and make a difference in society, as it will contribute to a net-zero carbon future.
“Our subject matter experts have been helping UKAEA, by researching and assessing both existing TCAP designs and configurations currently in use, and those in development globally, to support further development of a TCAP for the UKAEA’s STEP project. We have recommended the TCAP design we believe will be most suitable for the programme, as well as areas that will require further development in pursuit of a bespoke TCAP for the STEP project.”
Tranche 1 of the STEP programme has been funded by the UK government, with aims to achieve a concept design (known as CML 5 – Concept Maturity Level 5) by the end of March 2024. Frazer-Nash has supported Tranche 1 through its Tier 1 supplier positions on the Engineering Design Services framework, the Tritium Engineering framework and, more recently, the Manufacturing Support Services framework.
Elaine Loving, STEP Fuel Cycle Separations System Lead, at UKAEA said:
“Understanding the technology landscape is critical to developing the concept design of a fit-for-purpose fuel cycle. Through conducting this detailed literature review, Frazer-Nash Consultancy has advanced this process for the Thermal Cycling Adsorption Process.”
STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion energy plant, targeting operations in 2040. It is a UKAEA programme with initial aims to produce a concept design and choose a site by 2024.
The STEP prototype will be used to develop the technology and enable a fleet of commercial plants to follow in the years after 2040.
STEP builds on UKAEA’s expertise in developing so-called ‘spherical tokamaks’ – compact and efficient fusion devices that could offer an economical route to commercial fusion power.
The new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment began operations at Culham in October 2020 and plays a key role in the STEP design.
UK Atomic Energy Authority
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK Government at Culham Science Centre near Oxford. UKAEA oversees Britain’s fusion programme, 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 European scientists under a contract with the European Commission.
Fusion research at Culham is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC – www.epsrc.ac.uk) and by the European Union under the EURATOM treaty.
More information: www.gov.uk/ukaea.