AtkinsRéalis expands role on UKAEA tritium facility

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has appointed AtkinsRéalis to lead the design of a core component of a new tritium research centre to enable sustainable fusion.

H3AT facility
H3AT facility - AtkinsRéalis

The Isotype Separation System will form part of UKAEA’s Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) Facility, currently under construction at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire based on designs delivered by AtkinsRéalis. Claimed to be a world-first, H3AT is a tritium fuel cycle research facility that will include a prototype-scale process plant and experimental platform, which is a scaled version of the design for ITER, the world’s largest experimental fusion project. 

Since tritium is practically non-existent in nature, a fusion power plant must breed its own tritium using the neutron produced in the fusion reaction and the light metal lithium, generating one tritium and one helium nucleus. According to AtkinsRéalis, the tritium capacity of the complex Isotope Separation System will make it the most advanced research facility of its kind, helping to enable the development of tritium infrastructure necessary for sustainable fusion power. 

“The H3AT Facility will be a first-of-a-kind research facility to strengthen UK and international efforts to advance tritium fuel cycle technology,” said Jason Dreisbach, head of Advanced Energy Technologies at AtkinsRéalis.

“The Isotype Separation System is a key element to demonstrate fusion fuel cycle performance at scale, and we look forward to contributing our significant experience in fusion engineering and tritium to help realise UKAEA’s ambitions.”

AtkinsRéalis has already completed the concept and detailed process design of the main H3AT facility, alongside the concept and preliminary design of the Isotype Separation System. The team will now deliver detailed process and mechanical designs for the system, including the vital cryogenic and ambient temperature equipment required to collect, process, and recycle the tritium fuel. AtkinsRéalis says it will incorporate the use of the latest digital technology, including 4D design, digital twinning and AR/VR simulation to optimise delivery. 

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with AtkinsRéalis to deliver the Isotope Separation System at UKAEA’s H3AT Facility,” said Stephen Wheeler, UKAEA executive director.

“This system will be the first industrial-scale tritium facility for fusion in the world and will enable industry and academia to study how to process, store and recycle tritium, a key fusion fuel."