Atkins will help Tokamak Energy design the first nuclear fusion power plant

Institute of Mechanical Engineers 28 Sep 2017
Amit Katwala

The tokamak reactor controls the nuclear fusion reaction

Atkins will help Tokamak Energy to plan and design the UK’s first nuclear fusion power plant.
The project, which was announced today, is the first stage of a partnership that will seek to develop the first ever fusion facility that generates more energy than it consumes.

The global engineering firm will develop a timeline and strategy for the facility, as well as designs and cost estimates for the infrastructure around it.

The facility will be centred around a new tokamak – a device designed to contain and control a fusion reaction and generate power. Tokamak Energy’s current prototype, the ST40 is four metres tall and 2.5m in diameter. It contains the reaction using magnets within a donut-like shape, and next year it’s hoped it will be able to reach temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius. The reactor in the new installation is expected to three or four times larger.

The partnership could accelerate the development of viable nuclear fusion as a source of electricity, said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy. “By working with one of the world’s most reputable engineering organisations, and one with an extensive history in nuclear development, we will turn the question over fusion energy from ‘if’ to ‘when’,” he said. “The success of our compact spherical tokamaks and our theoretical work has established a clear route to fusion power, with an aim to get energy into the grid by 2030. With Atkins on board, we can now outline in detail how we will do this.”

Martin Grant, CEO of Atkins’ energy business, said: “We are excited to be working with Tokamak Energy and we fully support their novel approach that seeks to make fusion power a cost effective and affordable reality.”

Tokamak Energy is following a five-stage plan towards producing fusion power. The next stage is to reach fusion temperatures of 100 million degrees in the ST40 next year, following by further development in 2019 to produce high density plasmas. It’s hoped that the first electricity will be generated by 2025, and commercially viable fusion power will be available by 2030.