Atkins and Tokamak Energy join forces to plan for next fusion reactor
“By working with one of the world’s most reputable engineering organisations we will turn the question over fusion energy from if to when.”
28th September, London – Tokamak Energy today announces that it has engaged Atkins, member of the SNC-Lavalin group, to help establish the costs, concept design and timeline for the first ever fusion facility to generate more energy than it consumes. This is the first stage of a partnership that should evolve to deliver a fusion device to put energy into the grid.
The project will:
- Develop a timeline and strategy to secure the required authorisations and approvals for the facility. These include (where necessary) Development Consent Orders and Environmental Permits
- Develop a scheme design for the entire development, including designs for the reactor and all relevant infrastructure required to run it
- Develop a credible cost estimate, schedule and risk evaluation for the project, including design and construction of the facility as well as operations and decommissioning
The tokamak at the centre of this installation is expected to be about 3-4 times larger than Tokamak Energy’s current prototype device, the ST40, which is 4m tall and 2.5m in diameter.
If this project is successful, there will be scope to develop Tokamak Energy’s plans further with Atkins looking at how it can help support and enable the design of a fusion power plant ready for use in the energy network.
Tokamak Energy has established itself as the world’s leading private fusion energy venture, having already designed and built three experimental tokamak devices to prove the potential of its spherical compact design. With the science behind the spherical compact design well-established, Atkins will use its considerable expertise to help tackle the regulatory and engineering challenges in bringing the technology to market in the future.
Tokamak Energy, through scientific research and engineering developments, makes use of novel superconducting materials to reduce the scale of a fusion reactor whilst still maintaining the power necessary for fusion. It is aiming to produce temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius in its current prototype – the ST40 – in 2018. This is in the temperature range required to sustain a fusion reaction. To this Atkins brings more than 50 years of experience across the nuclear sector, including a multidisciplinary role on EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C, as a founder of the Nuclear Safety Baseline and Design Authority and, since 2010, as Architect Engineer as part of the Engage consortium at the ITER fusion project in France.
This brings together an unparalleled collection of scientific and engineering capabilities that ultimately aims to overcome the challenges of developing a commercial fusion power plant.
By tackling these engineering challenges, fusion energy can finally move from an industry viewed with scepticism to one with the potential to deliver our future energy needs, says Dr David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy:
“By working with one of the world’s most reputable engineering organisations, and one with an extensive history in nuclear development, we will turn the question over fusion energy from ‘if’ to ‘when’. The success of our compact spherical tokamaks and our theoretical work has established a clear route to fusion power, with an aim to get energy into the grid by 2030. With Atkins on board, we can now outline in detail how we will do this. Such speed and pace has been achieved before in UK engineering – Rolls Royce began development of a commercial jet engine in the 40s, with it gaining universal market acceptance in the 50s. Atkins allows us to match this vision and speed for fusion energy.”
Martin Grant, CEO of Atkins’ Energy business, said: “We are excited to be working with Tokamak Energy and we fully support their novel approach that seeks to make fusion power a cost effective and affordable reality.”
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Notes for editors:
- About Tokamak Energy
Tokamak Energy is a private company working to develop compact fusion power. The firm is led by a team of magnet engineers and fusion experts from globally renowned public and private institutions, and an experienced CEO with a physics research background and over thirty years of high-tech business experience.
Tokamak Energy grew out from Culham Laboratory, which is the world’s leading centre for magnetic fusion energy research and home to the world’s most powerful tokamak, JET, which produced 16MW of fusion power in 1997. Tokamak Energy is particularly focused on spherical tokamaks, pioneered at Culham, because these compact devices can achieve a much higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field than conventional tokamaks, i.e. they are more efficient.
Adding to this design, Tokamak Energy is deploying high temperature superconductors as magnets to control the plasma within its devices. These allow high magnetic fields to be created in compact tokamaks, further improving the efficiency of the device. Tokamak Energy has proven the ‘compact, spherical tokamak’ is a viable route to fusion through two of the most widely-read papers in the Nuclear Fusion Journal:
Tokamak Energy is following a five-stage plan towards producing fusion power:
- Stage 1: Build a small prototype tokamak to demonstrate the concept (the ST25) – achieved 2013.
- Stage 2: Build a tokamak with exclusively high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets (the ST25 HTS) – achieved 2015.
- Stage 3: Reach fusion temperatures of 100 million degrees in a compact tokamak (the ST40), in 2018, followed by further development of the ST40 in 2019 to produce high density plasmas and get close to fusion energy gain conditions.
- Stage 4: Achieve first electricity with a ‘Fusion Power Demonstrator’ by 2025.
- Stage 5: Produce commercially viable fusion power with the first ‘Fusion Power Module’ by 2030.
In 2017, Tokamak Energy was selected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as one of three leading innovative ideas in fusion. It was the only UK representative invited to speak at the IEA’s meeting on developing fusion power, and Tokamak Energy’s CEO Dr David Kingham presented the company’s vision and why it is the most realistic route to fusion power.
Tokamak Energy has raised private investment of £22 million to date, with investors including Oxford Instruments, Legal & General Capital and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Tokamak Energy has an eminent Scientific Advisory Board chaired by Lord Julian Hunt FRS. Members include Professor Jack Connor FRS (one of the most influential theoretical plasma physicists in fusion), Professor George Smith FRS (emeritus professor of materials at the University of Oxford), Professor Bill Lee FREng (Director of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College London) and Professor Colin Windsor FRS (a neutronics and neural networks specialist).
Tokamak Energy has science and engineering offices at Culham and Milton Park, Oxfordshire and a tokamak engineering facility and superconducting magnet development laboratory at Milton Park.
- About Atkins
Atkins (www.atkinsglobal.com) is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing some 18,300 people across the UK, North America, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. We build long term trusted partnerships to create a world where lives are enriched through the implementation of our ideas. You can view Atkins’ recent projects on our website.
Founded in 1911, SNC-Lavalin is a global fully integrated professional services and project management company and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure. From offices around the world, SNC-Lavalin’s employees are proud to build what matters. Our teams provide comprehensive end-to-end project solutions – including capital investment, consulting, design, engineering, construction, sustaining capital and operations and maintenance – to clients in oil and gas, mining and metallurgy, infrastructure and power. On July 3, 2017, SNC-Lavalin acquired Atkins, one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies. www.snclavalin.com
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- About fusion
Fusion is the reaction that powers the stars. Energy is released when two small particles come together and fuse into one larger particle. In experiments on Earth, these small particles are the nuclei of deuterium and tritium – types of heavy hydrogen – and they fuse together to make a helium nucleus. The waste product of fusion is helium, which is perfectly safe. Fusion produces no greenhouse gases and no long-lived radioactive waste yet it produces vast amounts of energy from very little fuel. The lithium from a laptop battery combined with the deuterium in half a bath of water could supply as much energy at 70 tonnes of coal. As such it offers a clean, green and plentiful energy solution if it can be harnessed on Earth.
For fusion reactions to happen the deuterium and tritium must be very hot, so that the particles are moving so fast that if they collide they will overcome the mutual repulsion they feel for each other and get close enough to fuse. At JET, the world’s largest operating tokamak, which once produced 16MW of fusion power, the fuel is heated to more than 100 million degrees – 7 times hotter than the centre of the Sun! Tokamak Energy, based just 5 miles away from JET, is now aiming to achieve this temperature in much smaller, cheaper tokamaks.
Magnetic fields are used to keep the superheated fuel (now an electrically charged gas called plasma) from touching the walls of its container and so keep it hot enough for fusion to occur. If the plasma does hit the wall it is not dangerous, it just cools down and everything stops. The specialised machines used for fusion are called ‘tokamaks’.
- About tokamaks
‘Tokamak’ is a Russian acronym that stands for toroidal chamber magnetic coils, which concisely describes the machine – a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) vessel with magnetic coils to trap and control the plasma. When they were introduced in the 1960s, tokamaks showed dramatically improved performance over the other methods being investigated. They heated and trapped the fuel much better than other approaches such as pinches. Tokamaks were rapidly adopted by many international research teams and have remained the front runners in fusion research ever since.