Today, organisations championing economic growth across the Midlands welcomed the announcement from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that West Burton will host the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)’s pioneering prototype fusion power station.
The announcement is a huge boost to the Midlands’ drive to attract inward investment and address regional disparities. The focus of local stakeholders on low-carbon energy generation as a route to tackle climate and energy crises, and create vital high-paid, high-skilled jobs across the Midlands, helped present West Burton site as an ideal choice.
The choice of West Burton, the site of coal and gas power generation for decades, is seen as an iconic symbol of the pathway from fossil fuels to fusion power and a compelling catalyst for economic growth and social mobility.
The decision follows Nottinghamshire County Council’s Fossil2Fusion campaign, supported by the Midlands Engine partnership and Energy Research Accelerator. West Burton was one of 15 sites which entered bids in early 2021 to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project. It was chosen from an eventual shortlist of five after more than a year of detailed technical and socio-economic assessment.
The STEP project aims to build on the UK’s status as a world-leader in fusion technology by creating a prototype plant, capable of net power output to the grid, by 2040. If successful, it could pave the way to commercial fusion plants producing safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for generations to come.
The West Burton site benefits from connections to nearby manufacturing and construction firms, as well as the world-renowned research capabilities of regional universities, supported by the Energy Research Accelerator.
Part of the UKAEA’s selection process was to assess which site combined the ability to support the project’s delivery, with the potential for major socio-economic benefits. It is expected that local firms, clusters and R&D hubs will develop and benefit from an influx of activity, as they support the construction and operation of the site and welcome some of the world’s leading fusion experts and companies.
The successful bid follows the Midland’s Engine’s partner-led Ten-Point-Plan for Green Growth, supported by ERA, which aims to deliver a 36% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2020 levels and generate a further £24.2 billion GVA for the region’s economy by 2041.