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Assystem's Sunderland engineering team to lead two crucial aspects of STEP project

10 February 2020

Assystem’s Sunderland engineering team will lead two crucial aspects of the STEP project – Breeder Blanket and Materials Database

Assystem, the world’s second largest nuclear engineering organisation with UK headquarters in Blackburn, has confirmed its role in two crucial elements of the government’s £220M nuclear fusion power station design project.

As Architect Engineer of ITER, the world’s largest nuclear fusion prototype, Assystem is well paced to support the UKAEA’s conceptual design development of STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), a key milestone project in the development of commercial nuclear fusion technology internationally and in the UK.

On the STEP project, Assystem will be creating designs for the new Breeder Blanket and developing a Materials Database that will be key in assessing the theoretical performance and manufacturing readiness of a new nuclear fusion reactor.

The breeder blankets will be pivotal in the success of the new nuclear fusion designs by generating fuel and usable heat. Encasing the inner reactor, the breeder blankets will play three key roles within the power plant.

Firstly, by encompassing the nuclear reactor, the breeder blanket will maintain the most efficient heat for the reactor to operate, secondly, it contains and absorbs radiation. Thirdly, the blanket captures, slows and multiplies fusion neutrons using them to convert lithium into tritium to fuel the reactor. The blanket will continually produce the same amount of tritium which is required to fuel the reactor.

The materials database being developed by Assystem will gather and scrutinise information generated from the testing of materials in different parts of the STEP reactor. Assystem will provide a detailed review of the STEP programme’s current delivery tools, processes and procedures to help produce a set of recommendations based upon its own digital asset management experience.

Whilst STEP is being designed at the UKAEA’s site in Oxfordshire, Assystem’s expert team of engineers will be contributing form their bases in Sunderland, Derby and Blackburn. Assystem’s Sunderland office has a long history delivering fusion projects including leading the design of the DRHS for ITER (Divertor Remote Handling System), a robotic arm that can operate inside the extremely hot environment of the fusion reactor.

Kevin Wilkinson, Business Unit Director, Assystem said, “With global dialogue on reducing carbon emissions becoming an urgent priority, we commend the nation’s commitment to investing in the development of fusion energy and are proud to be associated with STEP. We firmly believe this project has the potential to help the nation take a giant leap towards achieving its net zero targets. We are also positive that bringing Assystem’s learnings and expertise from working on ITER will help us in creating a functional, strong and steady plant.”

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