Fusion machines following ITER, such as DEMO, will need to re-generate the tritium consumed during reactions. To this aim, they will dispose of a breeding blanket, a device that uses fusion neutrons and lithium to produce tritium. Although ITER will have its own supply of tritium, it will provide a unique opportunity to test mock-ups of different breeding blanket concepts. The European Test Blanket Module (TBM) programme is working on the design and manufacturing of two of them.
The TBM set is the plasma-facing component where tritium is generated. Designing such first-of-a-kind piece of equipment is a challenge for the team led by Joelle Vallory, F4E Technical Responsible Officer. Engineers will use novel materials – such as EUROFER97 – and non-standardised processes in the fabrication of these components, following either Pressure Equipment or Nuclear Pressure Equipment regulations. “To address all these challenges and develop a TBM that can be manufactured and controlled by an accredited organisation – a Notified Body –, the designing and manufacturing teams have worked in close collaboration since the conceptual design,” she explains.
Both teams held a joint meeting on Tuesday 14 June, the sixth of such kind since they started in 2016. Designers had the possibility to explain their latest advancements, and manufacturers were there to point out possible constraints from the point of view of fabrication. This continuous feedback allows to prepare a design that is actually manufacturable, minimising delays. Apart from the F4E teams, our contractors CEA/Framatome (France) and Esteyco (Spain) also participated in the exchange. In total, 17 people (12 physically and 5 online) joined the discussion to advance on the current preliminary design phase of the TBM set.
Milan Zmitko, F4E Technical Responsible Officer for TBM Fabrication Development, shares with us his thoughts. “This kind of joint technical meeting is recognised by both teams as a very important and useful tool for mutual collaboration. A similar one will take place by the end of 2022, during which we will follow up on welding and inspection issues that we have discussed. In addition, the integration of the TBM-set instrumentation is going to be another task where both teams will need to work very closely.”