The UK government has shortlisted five sites as the potential future home for the country’s prototype fusion energy plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, or STEP, following an initial assessment phase.
The five sites, which have been chosen from a 15-site longlist, are: Ardeer (North Ayrshire), Goole (East Riding of Yorkshire), Moorside (Cumbria), Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Nottinghamshire) and Severn Edge (South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire).
STEP is a government-backed programme to build a prototype fusion energy plant in the UK that will generate net electricity and demonstrate how the plant will be maintained and produce its own fuel.
According to the government, STEP will create thousands of highly skilled jobs during construction and operations, while also attract other high-tech industries to the host region.
The STEP programme is intended to pave the way to the commercialisation of fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future plants around the world. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) hopes to have STEP up and running by the early 2040s.
‘Fusion energy has the potential to be a truly revolutionary and inexhaustible energy source that can help us reduce our dependence on unreliable fossil fuels and tackle climate change,’ said George Freeman, minister for science, research and innovation. ‘By building the foundations to unlock the power of fusion energy, including the location of the UK’s first prototype fusion power plant, we are positioning the UK as a global leader in this safe and sustainable power source.’
‘The shortlisting of sites is a significant step for the programme as it helps bring this challenging, long-term endeavour to life in the here and now. It also increases our focus as we push on with design and delivery of what we hope is the world’s first fusion power plant prototype,’ said Paul Methven, STEP programme director at the UKAES. ‘Through the next phase of assessment, we look forward to working with the shortlisted sites and local communities to gain a more in-depth understanding of the socio-economic, commercial and technical conditions associated with each site, before we make our final recommendations to the secretary of state in 2022.’