October 14, 2021

Five sites – one in Scotland and four in England – have been selected to host the UK’s prototype fusion power plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Power Generation (STEP). The site of the demonstration plant, which is expected to come into operation by 2040, is expected to be announced at the end of next year.

The five sites pre-selected for STEP (Image: UKAEA)

As stated in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s report Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, released in November 2020, the government wants the UK to be the first country in the world to commercialize fusion energy technology. Within this framework, the government aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion by building a prototype fusion power plant.

In December 2020, the government called on local communities across the country to make proposals to host the STEP plant. Communities had until the end of March to submit their applications and had to demonstrate that their local area had the right mix of social, business and technical conditions to host the new plant, such as adequate land conditions, connection to the network and a water supply. A total of 15 potential sites were subsequently placed on a long list.

Today, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) – which conducts fusion energy research on behalf of the government – announced that after an initial assessment phase, five bids to host STEP had been pre-selected. They are: Ardeer in North Ayrshire; Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire; Moorside in Cumbria; Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire; and the so-called “Severn Edge” offer from South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.

“Site screening is an important step for the program as it helps bring this difficult and long-term effort to life here and now,” said STEP Program Director at UKAEA Paul Methven. “It also increases our focus as we continue to design and deliver what we hope will be the world’s first prototype fusion power plant.

“During 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, business and technical conditions associated with each site, before making our final recommendations. to the Secretary of State in 2022.

Sectional view of the planned WWTP building (Image: UKAEA)

The goal of the first phase of the work on STEP is to produce a “design” by 2024. The next phase of the work will include a detailed technical design, while all the necessary authorizations and consents to build the prototype are sought. . The final phase is construction, with operations scheduled to begin around 2040. The goal is to have fully evolved design and approval to build by 2032, allowing construction to begin.

According to the UKAEA, STEP “will create thousands of highly skilled jobs during construction and operation and attract other high-tech industries to its host region, thereby promoting the development of scientific and technological capacities at local and national levels. “. He added that “STEP will pave the way for the commercialization of the fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future factories around the world”.

The Ten point plan allocated £ 222 million (US $ 305 million) to begin design work for STEP. In addition, the government has already invested £ 184million for new fusion facilities, infrastructure and apprenticeships at the Culham Science Center near Oxford and Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Earlier this month, the government released a green paper on the future of fusion energy regulation and another Merger strategy.

“Fusion energy has the potential to be a truly revolutionary and inexhaustible source of energy that can help us reduce our dependence on unreliable fossil fuels and fight climate change,” said George Freeman, Minister of Sciences, Research and Innovation. “By laying the groundwork for unleashing the power of fusion energy, including the location of the UK’s first prototype fusion power plant, we are positioning the UK as a world leader in this energy source. safe and durable. “

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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