Fusion energy machines will require materials that can sustain the radiation coming from neutrons without presenting substantial degradation. The International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF), currently in its Engineering Validation and Engineering Design Activities (EVEDA) phase, is part of the Broader Approach Agreement signed between Europe and Japan. It aims at performing tests and the qualification of materials mimicking the environment of a future fusion power plant. Europe mainly contributes to this project through the IFMIF design, a prototype accelerator, test modules development and Lithium corrosion tests.
ENEA’s LiFus6 facility in Brasimone is a unique test facility, built for the IFMIF/EVEDA project, where erosion and corrosion tests are carried out on Reduced Activation Ferritic Martensitic (RAFM) steels by exposing them to Lithium flowing in line with IFMIF conditions. The task is challenging and its results are vital for the future of the fusion community. A few weeks ago, several scientists met to review the results of the tests after having exposed to liquid Lithium samples of EUROFER97 and F82H, which are types of RAFM respectively developed in Europe and Japan, for approximately 4000 hours. The successful completion of this task and the good results called for a ceremony bringing together the IFMIF/EVEDA Project Committee members; representatives from QST and MEXT (Japan); delegates from the European Commission, ENEA, F4E, EUROfusion, KIT and the University of Florence (Europe).
The tests have been extremely useful for two main reasons: first, they have demonstrated that scientists can safely operate IFMIF without any major concerns regarding the corrosion/erosion of the steel materials tested and second, on the basis of the results obtained, we have acquired a better understanding of the factors leading to steel degradation and of the ways to improve the design and development of key components, such as the ITER breeding blankets, where the fuel of future fusion reactors will be produced.
The doors of the LiFus6 facility are open to other projects testing stainless steel materials such as a project conducted by EUROfusion for the engineering design activities of the IFMIF-DONES design.