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Media Corner
26 June 2012

F4E signs contracts for TBM EUROFER subcomponent manufacturing procedures

Three-dimensional view of the Helium-Cooled Lithium-Lead (HCLL) Test Blanket Module (TBM) which will use liquid lithium-lead metal to produce tritium

F4E signed two contracts for the Test Blanket Module (TBM) EUROFER subcomponents manufacturing procedures (fabrication) during the month of March and April. The contracts, worth a total of approximately 5.2 million EUR, cover the establishment of detailed and standardised fabrication procedures for different kinds of TBM subcomponents (cooling plates, stiffening plates and TBM box). These procedures will be developed and formalised according to Nuclear/European Codes & Standards and validated through the manufacturing of ‘feasibility mock-ups’ (FMU) for these subcomponents.

The TBMs are test versions of the Blanket modules and will be tested in ITER in order to assess their technical potential. The Blanket module, an integral part of the future DEMO machine, will transform lithium into tritium, the fuel needed for the fusion process to occur. It will also transform the energy of the neutrons produced in the plasma into heat with the objective of ensuring that this heat can be recovered and transformed into electricity. For this purpose, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)  as well the TBM Consortium of Associates , together with the support of EFDA and F4E, have developed two reference Blanket module concepts for ITER and DEMO: the Helium-Cooled Lead-Lithium (HCLL) concept which uses liquid lithium-lead metal to breed tritium and the Helium-Cooled Pebble-Bed (HCPB) concept using lithium in the form of ceramic pebbles.

Atmostat, a company based in France, is the recipient of the first contract of some 4 million EUR. The company will establish detailed and standardised manufacturing procedures and will fabricate several FMU for the HCLL TBM cooling plates (i.e. the subcomponent that, using pressurised helium, extracts the heat generated in the TBM), the TBM external box (the envelope that hosts the lithium-containing material) as well as the stiffening plate (which stabilises and strengthens the structure of the box). The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is the recipient of a 1.2 million EUR contract which will develop a manufacturing procedure and FMU for the other type of cooling plate used in the HCPB TBM. All of these TBM subcomponent FMUs as well as the future TBMs will be manufactured using EUROFER-97 material, a steel especially developed to withstand high temperatures and neutrons irradiation, while producing a lower amount of radioactive waste in comparison to conventional steels used in nuclear industry.

The signing of these contracts is a significant milestone for F4E’s TBM Project Team as this is the first step towards standardised manufacturing and qualification of the TBMs for installation and operation in the ITER machine. It is a clear sign that the project has started a transition to the procurement phase where European industry, and not only laboratories, is involved.