Costs and trade-offs in building up a supply chain

H. Lux, D. Wolf, C. Price, J. Cowan
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority,
United Kingdom

Keywords: Cost, STEP, Supply Chain


Programmes/companies that aim to build first-of-a-kind (FOAK) fusion reactors need to consider the costs of building up the relevant supply chain as well as the cost of manufacturing the components and building the facilities. The build-up of the supply chain covers both materials and technologies that do not yet have any existing supply chain (e.g. blankets or enriched Lithium) as well as the industrialisation of manufacturing of currently bespoke fusion components (e.g. gyrotrons) that will be required in much higher numbers for power plants than for the current plasma physics experiments. While it is unlikely that FOAK fusion power plants can be commercially competitive and might require government support similar to other energy sources at introduction (e.g. photovoltaics) to penetrate the energy markets, further generations of fusion power plants strongly benefit from an established industrial supply chain that leads to cost reduction through learning-by-doing on their path to commercial competitiveness. Different approaches to addressing supply chain challenges are taken in the wider fusion community. Unlike the approach of General Fusion which is aiming for in minimising/avoiding the need for a bespoke fusion supply chain, the UK flagship Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme accepts the need for building up such a new supply chain. It even goes further and aims to deliver both of the objectives of the UK fusion strategy one of which being: “For the UK to build a world-leading fusion industry that supports different fusion technologies and is capable of exporting fusion technology in subsequent decades.” In this presentation, I will be discussing the cost of building up a supply chain and motivate more clearly the financial opportunity in building up such a wider industrially capable fusion supply chain.