Sunderland scientists help to create world’s second sun

Energy & Low Carbon Industry | International | North East | Technology

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The world’s largest fusion device, ITER, is being designed with help from Assystem’s engineers in Sunderland.

ITER is located in the south of France.

Fusion is the process that powers the sun. Scientists believe that if they replicate the same reaction on Earth it will provide an unlimited source of energy to the world.

In Sunderland, a small team has been working on designing robotic equipment that can safely remove irradiated components and dust from the heart of the machine.

Known as remote handling, the system will be key to the maintenance of the machine when it is time to replace components exposed to extremely high temperatures in the range of 250 °C. In fact, the hot gas resulting from the fusion reaction, known as plasma, is expected to reach 150,000,000 °C, ten times the temperature in the core of the sun.

In Sunderland, Fanny Fouin, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Assystem, said: “Our focus is on creating robotic equipment that can operate in such harsh environments e.g. high temperatures and very high levels of radiation in the world’s largest fusion experiment.

“ITER will be the world’s biggest experiment on the path to fusion energy and it will help us to develop fusion reactors putting an end to our excessive reliance on fossil fuels.”

Assystem, the third largest nuclear engineering firm in the world, has five offices in the UK employing hundreds of staff.

35 countries are involved in the design and build of the experiment. The first big ITER tests are planned for 2025. Specialists predict that it will take 30-40 years to see fusion on the commercial scale.

As well as designing the robotic equipment, Assystem is responsible for the construction management at ITER, overseeing the installation of ITER components from all over the world.

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