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Long-term economic benefits of planned prototype fusion powerplant in Nottinghamshire to be highlighted in report

A new, in-depth report is set to investigate the full economic benefits of the UK’s prototype fusion energy powerplant.

The ambitious project — Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, known as STEP — is being led by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and will be built at West Burton near Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Fusion is billed as offering a safer and virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Prototype STEP fusion powerplant building cutaway. Credit: Nottinghamshire County Council.
Prototype STEP fusion powerplant building cutaway. Credit: Nottinghamshire County Council.

Ongoing partner work on this project includes a strategic collaboration group chaired by Sir John Peace, chairman of Midland Engine, which includes UKAEA, Nottinghamshire County Council, Bassetlaw District Council, Midlands Connect, The Energy Research Accelerator and the University of Nottingham.

The group recently recommended that an economic impact assessment report should be the first of three new reports — the other two will focus on the strategic vision and a transport infrastructure study.

Working closely with UKAEA, Midlands Engine, and a number of local authorities, Nottinghamshire County Council will now lead the process of commissioning the report on behalf of all partners with the aim of getting the best research for maximum value for money.

Keith Girling, the county council’s cabinet member for economic development and asset management, said: “Fusion energy has the potential to deliver a near limitless supply of low-carbon energy across the globe for generations to come.

“Our county and region will be at the heart of this so will reap some of the incredible benefits.

“Initial research tells us that this project will create massive growth and investment and thousands of skills jobs and lucrative opportunities for the local supply chain to help construct the plant.

“Given this is world-class project, we need this in-depth report to reveal the full extent of these benefits in the long-term and provide partners a benchmark to monitor these benefits.

“It will give us crucial insight to help us make the most of this once-in- lifeline project in terms of our future investment plans and environment and economic policies.”

Paul Methven, chief executive of UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd, responsible for the delivery of STEP as part of UKAEA Group, said: “STEP is a vital and exciting opportunity to lead and deliver a new solution for the climate, which will help keep Britain at the forefront of the commercial delivery of fusion.

“The development of our vision for the West Burton site to 2050 and the critical role that STEP has to play in levelling up is fundamental to the success of the programme.

“We are committed to supporting regional leaders to ensure the collective opportunities are realised to deliver that social and economic impact.”

UKAEA will fund half of the report, with the other half made up of contributions from the Nottinghamshire County Council, Bassetlaw District Council, Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council.

The timeline of the STEP project will be split into three phases:

Phase One — The aim for this first phase of work is to produce a ‘concept design’ of STEP by 2024. This means an outline of the powerplant, with a clear view on how each of the major systems will be designed.

Phase Two — The STEP design will be developed through detailed engineering design, while all consents and permissions to build the plant will be sought.

Phase Three — Construction of the powerplant is expected to begin in the 2030s, targeting operations in 2040s. STEP aims to pave the way for the development of a fleet of future powerplants around the world by demonstrating net electricity from fusion.

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