Cerberus, Assystem for the design of STEP shielding: New Nuclear


April 12, 2022

Cerberus Nuclear and Assystem have been selected to provide the onboard shielding design for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) reactor under the STEP Engineering Framework. STEP will be the UK’s prototype fusion power plant.

A sectional view of the STEP reactor building (Image: UKAEA)

The project addresses the extreme environment within the central column of the STEP fusion reactor, where temperatures can range from over 100 million degrees Celsius in the plasma to below -200 degrees in just a few meters.

Cerberus Nuclear and Assystem are working closely with the UK Atomic Energy Agency’s (UKAEA) STEP research team – which conducts fusion energy research on behalf of the government – to develop radiation protection and cooling within the in-board shielding section of the column unit.

The overall purpose is to protect the sensitive toroidal magnets in the center column which function to contain the high temperature plasma. Cerberus’ role is to optimize shielding to maximize the operational life of these critical reactor components. Using its knowledge and expertise in the field of neutron transport, as well as interaction cross sections, the Warrington-based company will simulate a wide variety of arrangements to support continued development.

“We are delighted to work alongside Cerberus Nuclear on this key aspect of STEP. Collectively, we will bring together the engineering and design expertise and specialist knowledge necessary to ensure the success of this project,” said Gary Reed, Chief Commercial Officer of Assystem Transitional Energy. “Assystem is a well-established fusion engineering company working on multiple international projects, and we are invested in the UK’s ambition to accelerate progress in the development of this breakthrough technology.”

“Cerberus is very proud to contribute to such a remarkable project of global significance,” added Cerberus Nuclear Director Daniel Cork. “The skills and experience we have in-house in radiation protection are particularly suited to support the project. Working closely with our colleagues at Assystem, we look forward to the challenge of what will be a project very important and exciting.”

The objective of the first phase of work on STEP is to produce a conceptual design by 2024. The next phase will include a detailed technical design, while all relevant authorizations and consents to build the prototype will be sought. The final phase is construction, with operations scheduled to begin around 2040. The goal is to have a fully evolved design and approval to build by 2032, allowing construction to begin.

In December 2020, the UK government called on local communities across the country to submit proposals to host STEP. Communities had until the end of March 2021 to submit their applications and had to demonstrate that their local area had the right mix of social, commercial and technical conditions to host the new plant – such as adequate ground conditions, grid connection and a water supply.

In October last year, the UKAEA announced that five sites – one in Scotland and four in England – had been shortlisted to host STEP. They are: Ardeer in North Ayrshire; Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire; Moorside in Cumbria; Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire; and the so-called ‘Severn Edge’ supply from South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.

At the end of its assessment, the UKAEA will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with the successful site announced towards the end of 2022.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News


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