VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and Tampere University of Technology (TUT) have secured a significant role under a contract signed by Amec Foster Wheeler concerning the development of a remote handling system for ITER, the world's largest fusion energy project.
Amec Foster Wheeler has signed a seven year contract with Fusion For Energy (F4E), the EU organisation responsible for Europe's contribution to ITER, the world's biggest fusion energy project to date, for the development and delivery of the Neutral Beam Cell Remote Handling System (NB-RHS) on the ITER fusion reactor being built in the South of France.
The multi-billion project aims to demonstrate the technical feasibility of nuclear fusion as a future power source.
VTT's tasks concern the design and testing of devices and control systems related to ITER's Remote Handling System. The work is conducted in collaboration with TUT using a facility known as the Divertor Test Platform (DTP2) located in Tampere, Finland. The ITER reactor relies heavily on the Remote Handling System, because the reactor components must be regularly maintained and replaced, but human operators are not allowed inside ITER once the reactor is powered up.
"The construction of ITER and the development of the necessary maintenance robots present unprecedented challenges even on a global scale. Finland has a prominent role in the project, largely as a result of the research and development work that has been conducted at VTT and TUT for more than 15 years. The mechanical designs and viewing, control and virtual technologies related to ITER can also be applied across a wide range of different industries worldwide," says Jouko Suokas, Executive Vice President of Smart Industry and Energy Systems at VTT.
"The decision to choose TUT and VTT as the collaboration partners demonstrates that both organizations are firmly established as world-leaders in the field of Remote Handling Systems. This is also a prime example of how the results of scientific research can be applied for the benefit of society and industry," says Markku Kivikoski, President of Tampere University of Technology.
The 70 million euro contract is believed to be the largest nuclear robotics contract ever awarded to a UK company. The contract highlights Amec Foster Wheeler's world-leading expertise in this field and further reinforces the company's relationship with F4E as a key player in the development of nuclear fusion on a commercial scale.
The contract covers the design, manufacturing, delivery, on-site integration, commissioning and final acceptance tests for ITER's Neutral Beam Cell Remote Handling System.
Amec Foster Wheeler will lead the project as prime contractor with specialist sub-contractors, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Tampere University of Technology (TUT) of Finland, CCFE - Culham Centre for Fusion (the UK's Fusion National Laboratory), Reel SAS of France, Wälischmiller Engineering GmbH of Germany, Hyde Group of UK, Capula of UK, and Magyics of Belgium.
What is Remote Handling?
ITER's Remote Handling System will allow operators to perform tasks without being physically present at the work location. Similar technologies are widely used in space exploration missions and underwater and underground environments. The system brings together high tech robotics, advanced technological tools, powerful computers and virtual reality platforms.
Fusion for Energy, F4E
Fusion for Energy (F4E) is the European Union's Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy. Established in 2007, F4E is responsible for providing Europe's contribution to ITER. One of F4E's main tasks is to work together with European industry, SMEs and research organisations to develop and provide a wide range of high technology components together with engineering, maintenance and support services for the ITER project. F4E also supports fusion research and development initiatives through the Broader Approach Agreement, signed with Japan – a fusion energy partnership which will last for 10 years. Ultimately, F4E will contribute towards the construction of demonstration fusion reactors.
ITER fusion reactor
ITER will be the world's largest experimental fusion facility. It is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power. ITER is expected to produce 500MW of fusion power with pulses of around seven minutes occurring every 30 minutes. The Sun and other stars use nuclear fusion to release energy. When hydrogen nuclei fuse to create heavier elements, they release tremendous amounts of energy. The goal of fusion research is to develop a safe, limitless and sustainable source of energy. Europe will contribute almost half of the costs of ITER's construction, while the remaining costs will be equally split between the other six members (China, Japan, India, South Korea, Russia, and the USA). The ITER reactor is currently under construction in Cadarache in the South of France.