Atkins appointed to work on the UK’s National Thermal Hydraulic Facility

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Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, has been awarded a contract for the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) of coolant loops for a nuclear test and research facility in North Wales.

The National Thermal Hydraulic Facility (NTHF), which is being designed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), will focus on thermal hydraulics ” the movement of heat and fluids in the reactor system during the conversion of nuclear energy into electricity.

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Coolant loops are pivotal in this process as they carry coolant to ensure that a stable temperature is maintained in the reactor system as it captures heat and converts it into power.

Using digital design and collaboration tools, Atkins will design the test coolant loops for the NTHF, which will enable developers of new nuclear reactors to trial prototype reactor coolant systems that use water and gas.

The water loop design will be unique in that it will allow for safe tests to be carried out in two-phase flows ” where both water and steam are present in the system at the same time. The gas loop will be designed for tests to be carried out at temperatures up to 950C, which could allow other industrial processes (for example, producing hydrogen) to use some of the heat from this system.

The outputs of the FEED will be analysed and compiled in a report for the facility’s next phase of design and construction.

The NTHF’s design and construction was instructed by the UK and Welsh Governments in 2018 as part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s ‘Nuclear Sector Deal’ to boost the UK’s nuclear new build programme and development of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and Advanced Modular Reactors. Understanding how thermal hydraulics work in nuclear power stations is vital in designing safe and efficient future power stations, such as the UK SMR programme, and ensuring that operations are safe throughout their lifecycles.

Jason Dreisbach, Chief Engineer Nuclear and Power at Atkins, said: “This important work facilitates the development of new, low carbon reactor designs within the UK, including UK SMR, which will be key to helping the UK reach its Net Zero targets by 2050.”

“Not only will we focus on designing a viable facility with maximum usefulness and cost efficiencies to new reactor developers, we will also support UKAEA in making NTHF the testbed for use of digital tools in future major UKAEA development projects”, said Dreisbach.

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