Abstract The first wall of a fusion blanket is approximated by a slab, with the surface facing the plasma subjected to an applied heat flux, while the rear surface is convectively cooled. The relevant parameters affecting the heat transfer during the early phases of heating as well as for large times are established. Analytical solutions for the temperature variation with time and space are derived. Numerical calculations for an aluminum and stainless steel slab are performed for a wall loading of 1 MW(th)/m 2. Both helium and water cooling are considered.