A final decision on a site for the UK’s prototype fusion energy plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, or STEP – will be made by the minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy around the end of 2022.
Five sites have been shortlisted as the potential future home of the plant. They are Ardeer, in North Ayrshire, Scotland, Goole (in the East Riding of Yorkshire), Moorside, in Cumbria, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, in Nottinghamshire, and Severn Edge in Gloucestershire.
Following an assessment, the shortlist has been reduced from the original long-list, which followed an open call for candidates between December 2020 and March 2021.
STEP is a government-backed programme to build a prototype fusion energy plant in the UK. The STEP plant aims to generate net electricity as well as demonstrate how the plant will be maintained and how it will produce its own fuel.
The aim is for STEP to pave the way to the commercialisation of fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future plants around the world. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is targeting first operations in the early 2040s. UKAEA carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government. In addition to its initial £222 million commitment to STEP, the government has already invested £184 million for new fusion facilities, infrastructure and apprenticeships at Culham Science Centre near Oxford and at Rotherham, South Yorkshire.