The government has selected the West Burton power station site in Nottinghamshire as the home for ‘STEP’ (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant which aims to be built by 2040.
Fusion is based on the same physical reactions that power the sun and stars, and is the process by which 2 light atomic nuclei combine while releasing large amounts of energy.
Proponents say that fusion has significant potential to deliver safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for future generations, but so far it has only been carried out in experiments.
The UK government is providing £220 million of funding for the first phase of STEP, which will see the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) produce a concept design by 2024.
The government says the STEP programme will create thousands of highly skilled jobs during construction and operations, and hopes it will attract other high tech industries to the region.
The ambitious programme will also commit immediately to the development of apprenticeship schemes in the region.
Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, commented: “Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission,” he said.
“The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world.”
The UKAEA is readying two contracts worth £10bn each to find construction and engineering partners to build the plant.
These partners will be core to delivery of the programme, as well as securing market-leading experience and knowledge.
The authority announced in August that it will begin tendering in December.
Atkins and energy transition specialists Assystem, were this month confirmed as Tranche 1 engineering delivery partner to develop the concept design for STEP.
Image credit: Proposed STEP fusion plant design
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