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Non-nuclear energy

Industrial Involvement in Fusion projects

Fission and radiation protection

The fusion experimental devices and auxiliary facilities of the European fusion research programme have almost exclusively been constructed by European industry. This has involved a high standard of engineering and frequently the development of subsystems and components at the cutting edge of existing technologies.

Many companies of varying sizes, not only large firms but also small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs), have been involved either directly or as sub-contractors. Industry has supplied also engineering support and socio-economic studies and costing activities.

The Joint European Torus (JET) © Image: UKAEA

© Image: UKAEA

A good example of industrial involvement is the JET project. Up to the end of the JET Joint Undertaking Agreement in1999 the total value of “high tech” contracts for construction and operation was 540 million Euros. Hundreds of companies were involved in projects covering the whole range of systems including the vacuum vessel, pumping and gas systems, cryogenic equipment, magnetic field systems, the mechanical structure, power systems, control and data acquisition, remote handling, diagnostics and additional heating systems.

The following three examples of Industry supplied technologies for JET Systems illustrate the sort of value that industry brings to advanced fusion technology projects and the benefits derived by the companies.

Vacuum technology and high precision mechanics - SERP (France)

SERP is a French company, and at the time of the JET contract had 25 employees. It specialised in electron beam welding technology for the nuclear, space, automotive and petroleum industries.

The work for JET involved the development of its technology for joining dissimilar metals, such as copper and inconel, copper chromium to nickel, and inconel to stainless steel. The company is now fully qualified for such welds.

To meet the standard of cleanliness required by JET, the company invested in a fully-enclosed clean room which has since given it the potential to increase its business, particularly with the nuclear and space industries.

Pulsed, high electrical power technology - OCEM SpA (ltaly)

OCEM SpA was a private company with 35 employees based near Bologna. The main activities of the company were in the fields of power supplies, high power DC convertors, voltage and current regulators and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units. The work for JET involved the supply of auxiliary power supplies for the neutral injector ion sources and accelerators.

This has allowed the firm to develop competence in HV insulation systems and signal transmission by fibre optic techniques, and to gain experience in high current transistors and series-connected thyristors. Other benefits derive from the introduction of standardisation in the construction of electronic modules and the use of computation codes for circuit design.

Some of the technologies acquired in the work have been transferred to other projects, for example HV power supplies for industrial lasers.

Control and data handling technology - Camtech Electronics (UK)

Camtech Electronics Ltd., was established in 1979 by its two founding directors, to work on a contract to develop a sophisticated CAMAC interface for the JET network of Norsk Data computers. CAMAC is a modular data handling system used at almost every nuclear physics research laboratory and many industrial sites all over the world. Its function is to provide a scheme to allow a wide range of modular instruments to be interfaced to a standardised back-plane called a DATAWAY.

By the end of 1980, the company had won more contracts from JET, particularly to develop the technology for fibre optic transmission between CAMAC crates - stations containing multiple data acquisition and control modules. The JET contracts sustained the company through its formative years and provided the secure base for its rapid growth in communication networks.

By the mid-1980s, it was a fast-growing company, specialising in the design and engineering of data communication networks, and it employed about 150.

These are only three examples from many. With the development of ITER there will be similar industrial involvement but in a greater scale due to the reactor relevant size of the ITER device. For more details of Industrial involvement in Fusion visit the EFDA web site.