Science Minister announces new delivering body for West Burton fusion project

West Burton Power Station will house the world's first nuclear fusion plant.West Burton Power Station will house the world's first nuclear fusion plant.
West Burton Power Station will house the world's first nuclear fusion plant.
The UK Government has established a delivery body to deliver a prototype fusion energy plant at West Burton in Bassetlaw.

The UK’s STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) prototype fusion energy plant has taken a step forward after Science Minister George Freeman today (February 6) announced the creation of a new delivery body for the programme, named UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd.

Fusion energy has the potential to deliver near limitless, safe and low-carbon energy without the need for fossil fuels across the globe for generations to come.

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The new organisation will be a company limited by shares established to work together with industry to deliver the prototype plant by 2040.

The site, at the decommissioned coal-powered West Burton power station near Retford, was announced last October after being whittled down from an initial list of 15 prospective locations.

The STEP project will use magnetic confinement fusion which occurs when a mix of two forms of hydrogen are heated to extreme temperatures – 10 times hotter than the core of the sun – and fuse together to create helium and release huge amounts of energy. The energy created from fusion can be used to generate electricity in the same way as existing power stations.

Fusion is many million times more efficient than burning coal, oil or gas and the raw materials needed to provide the fuel for fusion are readily available in nature. However, a number of significant technical hurdles remain, which the STEP programme is set up to address.

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An image of what the STEP prototype plant may look like in West Burton.An image of what the STEP prototype plant may look like in West Burton.
An image of what the STEP prototype plant may look like in West Burton.

Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman said: “Fusion energy now has the potential to transform our world for the better by harnessing the same process powering the sun to provide cheap, abundant, low-carbon energy across the world.

“The UK is the world-leader in fusion science and technology, and now we are moving to turn fusion from cutting edge science into a billion-pound clean energy industry to create thousands of UK jobs across the UK, grow exports and drive regeneration of this former coalfield site through a fusion innovation cluster in Nottinghamshire.

“That’s why I’m delighted to announce the creation of Industrial Fusion Solutions as the vehicle for industrial development and deployment of this technology as a new clean energy source in the coming decades.”

Professor Ian Chapman, UKAEA chief executive, said: “The establishment of Industrial Fusion Solutions will enable STEP to accelerate its journey towards delivery of electricity from fusion energy to the grid. The new body, which will be formed over the next 18 months, will be established as a programme delivery organisation, driving performance and pace and engaging industry in this endeavour.

“Alongside the establishment of the new organisation, we are beginning to map out our future skills requirements and, as part of this, we are committing to the development of a STEP Skills Centre at West Burton. This will enable us to provide as many opportunities as possible to people across the area.

“We look forward to working with people in the region to develop our ambitious plans and realising broader social and economic benefits.”

Councillor James Naish, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said; “The District Council welcomes the announcement of the creation of a new company to deliver the STEP project. The construction of a prototype fusion energy plan will require significant investment over the next two decades, and we are delighted that the initial steps - including the appointment of the first three local jobs - are happening quickly and efficiently.

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“I am especially excited by the broader benefits of this project. In addition to billions of pounds being spent on the project itself, we envisage millions being pumped into towns and villages across Bassetlaw, through both direct and indirect investment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Retford, Tuxford and other nearby settlements to see improved infrastructure, better connectivity, and thousands of new skilled jobs - all of which will raise living standards and transform our area.

“The announcement about a new training hub on the West Burton site is also warmly welcomed. The creation of high-quality apprenticeships for people of all ages is a corporate priority for the Council, and we are looking forward to working with the UKAEA and its partners to create successful training programmes for current and future Bassetlaw residents.”

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