Expert panel approves next DEMO design phase

From 19 to 25 November 2020, an independent expert panel reviewed EUROfusion's R&D and design work on DEMO, the future demonstration fusion power plant. EUROfusion welcomes the panel's recommendations as it moves into the next step of its Roadmap to Fusion Energy: the conceptual design of DEMO together with the European fusion community and industry.

 

Realising fusion energy

The EUROfusion consortium brings together researchers from across the EU, Switzerland and Ukraine with the goal to realise clean, low-carbon fusion energy as soon as possible. Its ultimate objective is to design and build the fusion demonstration power plant DEMO. This first-of-its-kind facility will demonstrate the net production of hundreds of megawatts of electricity, as well as essential technologies such as tritium breeding and remote maintenance.

EUROfusion takes a staged approach to designing DEMO, with industry-standard review practises including a gate review process. Each project phase is reviewed by a panel of independent experts before the project can advance to the next phase. This allows the DEMO team to learn from the experience of ITER and guarantees that DEMO has the support and involvement of the European fusion community and the companies that will design and construct it.

Dr Elena Righi-Steele, head of EURATOM Research at the European Commission is a strong proponent of assessing DEMO activities through a stage-gate review system. "In addition to providing important feedback, this process will steer their long term development into a project that can deliver a viable DEMO design. This Gate Review has been the first important milestone in this direction and I am certain the report and recommendations will help further develop DEMO's project-oriented approach."

Expert review

On Monday 14 December the expert panel presented the result of their full-week review of the EUROfusion DEMO project. The panel investigated the status of the various R&D and design activities, the project structure and governance, and the plan forward including how information flows and how issues are solved in an integrated manner.

The panel's report includes the following recommendations:

  • to accelerate the transition from a research culture to a design-driven project culture with a well-defined timeline for the next, conceptual design phase;
  • to strengthen centralised resources to solve issues relating to inter-system design and integration;
  • to give special attention to quick resolution of open issues in the DEMO plasma scenario and plasma exhaust, remote maintenance, tritium breeding blankets and building layout design;
  • to continue using periodical reviews to monitor both technological progress and the governance of the project;
  • to formalise collaborative agreements with ITER and F4E to harness ITER's experience and expertise;
  • to develop a plan that maintains the industrial supply chain between the completion of ITER construction and the start of DEMO construction;
  • and to set up a knowledge retention strategy to guarantee the availability of necessary specialised skills in the fusion community.

Panel reactions

On behalf of the DEMO Gate Review Panel, Chair Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer (former Director-General of CERN) thanked the DEMO team and commended them for their open discussions and the professional and dedicated presentation of the state of the art in the DEMO project.

"Ours was the last one in a three step process of in-depth reviews of DEMO, highly adequate for such an intricate project. Our panel profited much from the excellent input from the DEMO team and from the reports from the work package and Key Design Integration Issues panels. Achievements as well as yet unsolved issues were clearly and openly presented, many thanks for this."
– Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer, former Director-General of CERN and President of the SESAME Council

"The DEMO Gate review was an extremely interesting exercise! I learned a lot about state-of-the-art fusion technology and hopefully the fusion community gained important feedback from me about safety, licensing, design, engineering and knowledge management. DEMO will be the next major step towards commercial fusion energy production. Europe ramping up its fusion R&D activities signals a new era in the field, with a lot of work for the research institutes and university laboratories."
– Prof Attila Aszódi, Professor of Nuclear Energy and Safety, Budapest University of Technology and Economics

"Taking part in the fusion energy adventure is a real opportunity. The work already done for DEMO is impressive, although there is still a long way to go. With 10 years of monitoring ITER, I have found that it took time for the safety culture to permeate all through the project. This aspect should be taken into account today for the entire DEMO project."
– Julien Vieuble, Inspector at the French nuclear security authority ASN

"The teams involved in the EUROfusion DEMO study gave us an integrated view of what needs to be done to produce fusion electricity and how the various scientific and technical issues are tightly coupled.The work leading up to the review has clearly identified the issues that need to be addressed in the next phase and provides a good basis for moving forward with the conceptual design activities."
– Dr Richard Hawryluk, Associate Director for Fusion, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Scaling up for the conceptual design

EUROfusion Programme Manager Tony Donné welcomes the results of the DEMO Gate Review and thanks the expert panel for their work and for highlighting the important topics in the next phase of DEMO: "With this review we can now move into the conceptual design phase and work out what DEMO will really look like. A watershed moment, because we will expand from a fairly compact R&D team to a much bigger project-oriented approach together with experts from industry and from the wider fusion community."

DEMO will be the next major step towards commercial fusion energy production. Europe ramping up its fusion R&D activities signals a new era in the field, with a lot of work for the research institutes and university laboratories.

Prof Attila Aszódi, professor of nuclear energy and safety, Budapest University of Technology and Economics

The work leading up to the review has clearly identified the issues that need to be addressed in the next phase and provides a good basis for moving forward with the conceptual design activities.

Dr Richard Hawryluk, Associate Director for Fusion, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory