A power station has been chosen to be the site of the UK’s, and potentially the world’s, first prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor.
Fusion is a potential source of almost limitless clean energy but is currently only carried out in experiments.
The government had shortlisted five sites but has picked the West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire.
The plant should be operational by the early 2040s, a UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) spokesman has said.
The government had pledged more than £220m for the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme, led by the UKAEA.
It had shortlisted five sites, which were:
- Ardeer, North Ayrshire
- Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire
- Moorside, Cumbria
- Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire
- Severn Edge, Gloucestershire
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the government’s choice in a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
“Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission,” he said.
“The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world.”
What is fusion?
Fusion – the process going on inside the sun – creates energy by forcing atoms together.
It is the opposite of standard nuclear reactors which rely on fission, breaking atoms apart.
Fusion is viewed as safe and clean but has so far proved difficult to harness.
Critics have said there are still huge hurdles to overcome and some experts believe existing, proven renewable technologies offer a more economical and timely way of tackling climate change.
Read more: Nuclear fusion: ‘A question of when, not if’
Brendan Clarke-Smith, Conservative MP for Bassetlaw – the constituency where the power station is based – called the news a “real game-changer”.
“We’re talking billions in investment, we’re talking about something that is really globally significant coming to north Nottinghamshire, and what that will do for jobs, investment, really it blows everything else out of the water,” he told the BBC.
“This is not a small investment, this is like having Toyota or Rolls-Royce coming to the constituency, maybe even bigger than that.”
Tory MP for Mansfield and Nottinghamshire County Council leader, Ben Bradley, added: “We’re going to power the nation again and I can’t wait.
“It’s new technology, we’ve proven that it works and north Nottinghamshire is going to be the hub of research, innovation, commercialising that and selling it to the world.”
Matt Sykes, managing director of EDF’s Generation business, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the UKAEA has selected the West Burton site in Nottinghamshire to host the UK’s first fusion reactor.
“The area has been associated with energy generation for over 60 years. Developing such an exciting new project continues this tradition and has the potential to transform both the region and the UK’s long-term energy supply.”