Locations of UK’s first fusion power plant revealed

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The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has asked people in five regions to give their views on potential plans to build a prototype fusion power station.

The Spherical Tokamak for Power Generation (STEP) program aims to facilitate the development of commercial fusion power plants capable of providing an unlimited supply of clean, low-carbon energy.

It will also show how a future fusion power plant will be operated and maintained. The government has committed £220m to the power station’s conceptual design in 2020 as part of efforts to move the UK towards a carbon-free energy grid.

STEP was designed as a sort of successor to the ITER tokamak proof-of-concept fusion plant that has been under construction in France since 2013. ITER’s main reactor is scheduled for completion by the end of 2025 and is designed to create and maintain a 500 MW plasma (thermal power) for 20 minutes, with only 50 MW of thermal power injected into the reactor.

This would demonstrate the principle of producing more thermal energy than that used to heat plasma and pave the way for the commercialization of nuclear fusion.

The UKAEA is now trying to find a site to house its STEP project and will engage with residents and stakeholders to explain the benefits of fusion energy as well as the potential jobs it could create.

The STEP site will ultimately be chosen by the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The final decision on the chosen site is expected towards the end of this year and the UKAEA said its final recommendations would be based on a set of criteria, including local community support and the potential for socio-economic benefits. local.

The shortlist of locations for STEP are: Ardeer, North Ayrshire; Moorside, Cumbria; Goole, East Yorkshire; West Burton, Nottinghamshire and Severn Edge in Gloucestershire.

Tristram Denton, Head of Business Development and Programs for STEP, said: “STEP is not only of strategic importance to the UKAEA, but also to national and global efforts to harness fusion technology in the fight against climate change.

“Although still in its infancy, we anticipate that the host region will become a global hub for a wide range of technological and scientific expertise, leading to enormous economic opportunities.

“The UK government is committed to achieving net zero by 2050 and fusion is part of the long-term solution, alongside a continued increase in energy from renewable sources such as wind power and solar. The recent COP26 climate conference highlighted the need to push harder and faster, and STEP brings us ever closer to making fusion a reality.

Last year, US researchers used computer simulations to predict the heat-related damage ITER is expected to sustain during operation.

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