Cumbria consultation on plans for fusion energy plant

Proposed new technology

Residents and local stakeholders in Cumbria will take part in a virtual online community event next Monday (January 31), over plans that could see a prototype fusion energy power plant built in the region.

Moorside, near the Sellafield nuclear power station, is one of five areas shortlisted across the UK as possible locations for the new energy plant, which could create thousands of highly skilled jobs. The online events are taking place in the five areas up until February 10.

STEP, or Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, is a UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) programme seeking to pave the way for the development of commercial power plants, capable of supplying a limitless supply of low carbon, clean energy. It will also showcase how a future fusion power station will be operated and maintained.

UKAEA engineers and scientists involved in the first-of-its-kind project will engage with residents and stakeholders from the five shortlisted sites to explain the benefits of safe, sustainable fusion energy, and how the proposed prototype power plant will create thousands of highly skilled jobs and attract other high-tech industries to its host region.

The STEP site will be selected by the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The final decision on the successful site is expected around the end of 2022.

UKAEA will make recommendations based on a set of criteria, including support from the local community and the potential for socio-economic benefits in that area.

Tristram Denton, head of commercial and programme development for STEP, said: “STEP is not just of strategic importance to UKAEA, but to the national and global efforts to harness fusion technology in the fight against climate change.

“While it’s still early days, we anticipate that the host region will become a global hub for a wide range of technological and scientific expertise, leading to massive economic opportunities.”

He added: “The Government is committed to net zero by 2050 and fusion is one part of the long term solution, alongside a continued increase in energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power. The recent COP26 climate conference highlighted the need to push harder and faster, and STEP takes us ever closer to making fusion a reality.”

Stakeholder and community engagement is one part of STEP’s site selection process, enabling UKAEA to raise awareness of the programme in each of the five shortlisted locations and gather initial feedback.

Each community forum will include a presentation on the programme, details on the proposals and an open forum for questions and discussion. This will enable attendees to learn more and provide feedback, which will form an important part of the assessment process as the team develops its final recommendations.

The other shortlisted regions are: Ardeer, North Ayrshire; Goole, East Yorkshire; West Burton, Nottinghamshire; Severn Edge, Gloucestershire.

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