Oldbury nuclear fusion power plan clears first hurdle

July 03 2021
Oldbury nuclear fusion power plan clears first hurdle

PLANS to build a cutting-edge nuclear reactor near Thornbury have cleared their first hurdle.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority is seeking a location for the first ever nuclear fusion plant, aiming to replicate how the sun works to provide limitless, clean energy.

Councils, MPs and key industry and business partners on the boundary of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire have teamed up in the hope of attracting a cutting-edge reactor called a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) to either Oldbury or nearby Berkeley, both of which have decommissioned nuclear power stations.

Making such a plant work is seen as a potential answer to the world’s energy problems – but no fusion reactor has ever been produced that creates more energy than it consumes.

The area's newly-named ‘Severn Edge’ bid to host the experimental £220 million plant, led by the cross-border Western Gateway economic partnership, is one of 15 nominations to pass the initial assessment stage.

The UKAEA will now consider the plans to create an initial fusion technical centre at Berkeley and Oldbury through a "detailed desktop assessment process", which will take several months.

The successful bid is predicted to bring thousands of highly-skilled jobs to whichever area is awarded it.

STEP aims to produce electricity by 2040, and Western Gateway says there is a potential for billions of pounds in future investment if it is a success.

Western Gateway chair Katherine Bennett said: "I am delighted that the Severn Edge nomination has progressed through the showstopper stage for this internationally significant infrastructure project.

"We have had a fantastic opportunity to co-lead the co-ordination and preparation for the Severn Edge submission alongside some of the leading nuclear, academic and business partners in the South West, notably Nuclear South West and the South West Nuclear Hub."

Nuclear South West is the industry body supported by Business West.

Spokesperson Andy Bates said: “Fusion technology uses the same principles that power our sun. It is zero carbon, uses naturally abundant fuels and can solve many of the challenges associated with the UK becoming a net zero carbon economy."

South West Nuclear Hub co-director Professor Tom Scott said: “Establishing a fusion technical centre here in the South West will give the UK its best chance in what is the UK’s nuclear equivalent of a moon-shot project."