Site near Thornbury on shortlist for new nuclear power plant

October 14 2021
Site near Thornbury on shortlist for new nuclear power plant

A SITE near Thornbury is on the shortlist to be the home of a revolutionary prototype nuclear power plant.

The decommissioned power stations at Oldbury-on-Severn and nearby Berkeley in Gloucestershire are on a list of five possible sites for an attempt to create the world’s first working nuclear fusion plant.

If successful the reactor would generate almost endless clean energy - and create thousands of highly-skilled jobs.

British scientists are trying to recreate the process that creates energy in stars, using a super-heated chamber to fuse atoms, which cif successful could release nearly four million times more power per kilo of fuel than burning coal or gas.

The Government has so far invested £222 milllion into the STEP – Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – project by the UK Atomic Energy Authority to design and build a working prototype which could pave the way to making commercial nuclear fusion, and help to solve the world’s energy problems.

It hopes to begin operations in the early 2040s.

An initial 15 locations put forward for the project has been cut down to a final five, with the 'Severn Edge' Oldbury/Berkeley bid up against Ardeer on the west coast of Scotland, Goole in East Yorkshire, Moorside in Cumbria and Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire.

The winning site will also have research and development, businesses and training facilities and support a vast supply chain across a wide region.

South Gloucestershire Council leader Toby Savage said: “I am delighted to see the Severn Edge nomination shortlisted in this ongoing process.

The Oldbury site is a large site offering maximum flexibility but also a skilled, knowledgeable and supportive local community.

I hope that the opportunity to combine with the site at Berkeley and the strength of our supply chains continues to present a compelling case to the UKAEA and a long-term investment in safe, renewable energy in South Gloucestershire.”

Professor Tom Scott, one of the Severn Edge nomination team and co-director of the South West Nuclear Hub at Bristol University, said: “The region has a vibrant supply chain and base for building nuclear reactors as well as all the leftover expertise in high temperature materials. So, we have the site and the skilled people to deliver this fantastic world-leading project that will ‘Level Up’ for the South West and wider geography in terms of jobs and prosperity.”

The STEP Tokamak works by heating atoms to 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun forming a plasma in which they smash together – the process of nuclear fusion – to produce heavier atoms.

This releases a huge amount of energy, which is converted to power a turbine and generate electricity, like a regular power station.

Giant magnets keep the super-heated plasma away from the Tokamak’s edges, which is why it doesn’t melt, and the system is said to be fail-safe.

Fusion is different from fission, which is used in traditional nuclear power stations where atoms are split apart to release energy instead of being fused together.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service