Nuclear fusionU.K. consortium to build nuclear fusion reactor

Published 30 March 2009

U.K. companies have formed a consortium to bid for construction of the main reactor vacuum vessel of the €5 billion (£4.6 billion) International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER) nuclear fusion reactor

There is growing interest in nuclear power — especially in nuclear fusion (see story elsewhere in this issue). U.K. companies have formed a consortium to bid for construction of the main reactor vacuum vessel of the €5 billion (£4.6 billion) International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER) nuclear fusion reactor being built in France. Korea and Europe will build ITER’s vacuum vessel, which will be made up of nine 450-ton D-shaped cross-section vessel sectors. Europe’s role will be to provide seven of the nine vacuum vessel sectors with the remaining two to be supplied by Korea.

Contracts for the vessel are expected to be placed during 2009 and 2010. The assembled structure is expected to be 11.3 meter high with fabrication tolerance for the structure at less than 20mm for height and width. Once completed, the vacuum vessel, including shielding and port structures, will weigh more than 5,000 tons

The U.K. consortium is being led by Davy Markham, a specialist in the fabrication and machining of large structures, precision fabricator Metalcraft and engineering consultancy AMEC. Davy Markham and Metalcraft have worked together previously on projects at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. According to Metalcraft, the main challenges of the project will be to meet the strict accuracies involved in constructing the vessels and minimizing metal shrinkage, necessitating the need to deploy electron beam welding.

Peter Kenny, managing director of Metalcraft, said: “Our colleagues at the Welding Institute have significant experience of electron beam welding techniques, which will be invaluable in ensuring the consortium addresses many of ITER’s technical concerns.”

ITER is expected to produce 500 MW of power and will be twice the size of the Joint European Torus (JET) reactor vessel in Oxfordshire. Kevin Parkin, managing director of Davy Markham, said: “Fusion represents an exciting business opportunity both for ourselves and the rest of U.K. engineering. The ITER vacuum vessel is a significant engineering challenge that no one company is able to supply. We’ve put the consortium together with fabrication specialist Metalcraft, AMEC providing design and program management services, and the Welding Institute’s technical support, to enable us to present a solid technical and commercial case as the supplier of ITER vacuum vessel sectors.”