Midlands universities back bid to create UK's first fusion power plant in Bassetlaw

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Fifteen universities from across the Midlands have come together to add their weight to a campaign to bring the UK’s first fusion power plant to Bassetlaw.

The universities are supporting the Midlands Fossil to Fusion campaign to bring the UK’s first fusion power plant to West Burton A, near Retford.

STEP, or Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, is key to meeting the UK’s net-zero targets, and the government’s aim is to open nuclear fusion plants in 2040.

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Fusion has the potential to provide a near-limitless source of low-carbon energy by creating nearly four million times more energy for every kilogramme of fuel than burning coal, oil, or gas.

West Burton A, near Retford, is in the running to be the UK's first fusion power plant.West Burton A, near Retford, is in the running to be the UK's first fusion power plant.
West Burton A, near Retford, is in the running to be the UK's first fusion power plant.

The Midlands’ energy sector contributes £5bn to the regional economy, supporting 30,000 direct jobs and 78,000 jobs in its supply chain - one third of all workers in the UK’s energy sector.

The universities, which comprise the Midlands Innovation and Midlands Enterprise Universities partnerships, also have a base of over 1,500 researchers involved in energy and sustainability.

Significant investments have also been made in new research facilities, including those funded through the Energy Research Accelerator programme. As a result, the Midlands now has the most energy research infrastructure in the UK, much of which is based in the region’s universities.

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Director of the Energy Research Accelerator, Professor Martin Freer said: “ We strongly believe that the proposed Midlands site of West Burton A is an ideal location for the UK STEP programme for several compelling reasons.

"Firstly, it has over 300 hectares of land, which is more than sufficient to accommodate the fusion plant and related businesses.

"It also has an existing grid connection, water abstraction licence and good rail links.

"Last but by no means least, it is close to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Fusion Technology Facilities, and to the key manufacturers and suppliers that will be needed for the development.”

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Dr Helen Turner, director of the Midlands Innovation university partnership, said the universities already have a strong track record in supporting the energy sector and train a large number of engineers every year.

She added: “Our universities can make a huge contribution to the success of this site, in terms of providing R&D capabilities, talent, and a pipeline to produce the skilled workforce required.”

Professor Edward Peck, chair of the Midlands Enterprise Universities, said: “The Midlands is well placed to be a global leader in energy, and building the fusion plant at West Burton will create thousands of high-skilled jobs and supply chain opportunities in construction, manufacturing and many others sectors, playing a crucial role in levelling-up and regenerating the region.

"This will in turn will support the country’s future prosperity and energy security.”

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