2 May 2024
by Sarah Morgan

UK and Czech Republic to advance fusion

An agreement has been signed for testing high-temperature superconducting tapes to develop a UK prototype fusion energy power plant.

© Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Czech Republic research organisation Centrum výzkumu Řež (CVŘ) have signed a multi-year facility agreement to enable testing and development.

UKAEA will work alongside CVŘ to deliver the test rig called Hi-CrIS (High neutron fluence Cryogenic Irradiation of Superconductors), to provide data on the effect of a fusion-relevant neutron spectrum on the superconducting properties of HTS tapes.

These tapes will be used in the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) prototype plant to confine the fusion plasma, which can reach temperatures of approximately 150mlnoC.

The rig is expected to be operational in 2026 and will produce test results inform the design and lifespan of STEP’s superconducting magnetic components.

UKAEA say these components will run under cryogenic temperatures (-253°C) and will be subjected to a high flux of high-energy neutrons because of their proximity to the fusion plasma.

The rig will allow samples of HTS tapes to be cooled to the same cryogenic temperatures expected for STEP’s superconducting magnets.

Maintaining the sample temperature during irradiation, transportation and measurement is critical in understanding how the HTS tapes degrade within their operating environment, according to UKAEA.

During the experiment, the samples will be irradiated with high-energy neutrons using CVŘ’s LVR-15 light water-tank-type research reactor. They will then remain at -253.15oC while being transported and measured within the test rig setup.

UKAEA say the test rig will have ‘globally unique capabilities’. They add that this could also enable alternative materials testing for the potential development of future fusion power plants.

STEP aims to demonstrate net energy from fusion and will be built at West Burton in Nottinghamshire, UK, targeting operations in 2040.

Fiona Harden, STEP Hi-CrIS Technical Lead for UKAEA, says, ‘We are excited to reach this agreement with CVŘ for building and operating a complex test rig using their LVR-15 research reactor. The objectives of Hi-CrIS are critical to fusion power plant design, and this importance is recognised by our partner who has worked openly with us to put this agreement in place.’

Marek Miklos, Business Development Manager from CVŘ says, ‘Working in partnership with the STEP team is a fantastic opportunity to support the UK’s world-leading programme to develop a prototype fusion energy plant. The Hi-CrIS testing rig will open lots of opportunities for further material studies for fusion applications.’

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