The U.K. government has chosen the location for the UK’s, and potentially the world’s, first prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor. The U.K. has picked the West Burton power station site in Nottinghamshire as the home for ‘STEP’ (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), which aims to be built by 2040.
The government had pledged more than £220m for the first phase of the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) program, in which the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority will ready a concept design by 2024.
Fusion is based on the same physical reactions that power the sun and stars. The U.S. Department of Energy describes fusion as the process by which two light atomic nuclei combine while releasing large amounts of energy. This technology has significant potential to deliver safe, sustainable, low-carbon energy for future generations. But it has so far proved difficult to harness.
The fusion energy plant would replace the coal-fired power station site – owned by French energy giant EDF – which is set to be closed. However, researchers say there are still huge hurdles to overcome before the technology becomes viable.
“The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040, and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so, it will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world,” said UK’s Business secretary Jacob Rees Mogg at the UK Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
According to the government, the STEP program will create thousands of highly skilled jobs during construction and operation. It will also attract other high-tech industries to the region and further the development of science and technology capabilities nationally. The ambitious program will also commit immediately to the development of apprenticeship schemes in the region, building on the success of the UKAEA Oxfordshire Advanced Skills center in Culham. Conversations with local providers and employers have already begun, with schemes to start as soon as possible.