UKAEA have announced that a team of Norton Straw Consultants and HiETA Technologies have won a key concept design contract on the new STEP fusion reactor project. STEP, or Spherical Tokamak Energy to Power, is the UK’s own fusion programme, occurring in parallel with the international ITER project and intended to deliver power to the grid by 2040.
The contract is to develop concepts for the heat exchanger that cools the wall of the diverter, a crucial zone of the torus that experiences incredibly high temperatures. The team will combine Norton Straw’s high-temperature engineering analysis skills with HiETA’s expertise in using additive manufacturing to produce highly efficient heat exchangers. Additive manufacturing, often mistakenly called 3D printing, uses lasers to fuse metal particles into shapes that cannot be manufactured in any other way. It is believed that this will be the first time the technique has been used for a fusion reactor component.
Fusion power releases energy from the fusion of atoms together, rather than the fission reactions used in conventional nuclear power. Unlike conventional nuclear, it generates no long-term radioactive waste and offers the hope of plentiful clean energy.
Norton Straw will use their rapidly growing team in Bristol city centre and HiETA are based at the Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emerson’s Green.