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Culham scientists are to develop a new software code capable of fast-tracking designs for future fusion power plants.

Their project has been awarded funding from European fusion consortium EUROfusion as part of its E-TASC advanced computing programme. This aims to harness the latest computing advances to benefit European fusion energy research and help plan for the ‘DEMO’ prototype power station.

At the moment, traditional software programmes, or ‘systems codes’, use simplified models of power plants and simulate thousands of different design points on a future power plant. Engineers can then analyse these and investigate feasible designs.

Fusion design work at Culham

Power plant design work at Culham

But as fusion power plant development increases in complexity, there is a requirement for “high-fidelity” models in systems codes – models which are able to offer a more detailed and accurate picture.

Software engineers at UKAEA will now develop a new code as well as combining two existing ones. The two existing codes – UKAEA’s BLUEPRINT and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s MIRA, will be developed to achieve simulated fusion power plant designs in a fraction of the time it takes when traditional methods are used.

James Morris, Power Plant Technology Group Leader at UKAEA, will lead the work on the project – called Multi-Fidelity Systems Code for DEMO.

He explained how the code will simplify things.

“Traditionally, a systems code is used to create a starting point in the power plant design cycle. This is then passed to EUROfusion who can carry out further analysis and run more detailed codes, and then from this a computer aided design (CAD) model is produced. This is then altered to factor in fusion components like magnets, or for adding engineering data for the machine’s breeder blankets.

“The development of a new code will allow us to manage the entire development cycle – and achieve a few months’ worth of work in just a few hours. It will offer a more accurate and detailed engineering picture for a power plant, while it will also reduce the risk of errors by offering an integrated workflow.

“Our designs can then go straight to the relevant physicists and engineers who can carry out detailed design work for each of power plant systems.”

It is one of 19 projects EUROfusion has today announced funding for under the E-TASC programme.

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