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World’s first Fusion energy plant for one of two Nottinghamshire sites a possibility after council votes in favour

Two existing coal-fired power station sites will be put forward by Nottinghamshire County Council and its partners as part of a national search to find potential sites to design and build what is hoped to be the world’s first prototype fusion plant by 2040.

Nottinghamshire County Council voted unanimously today ( 17 March ) at a virtual Policy Committee meeting to go ahead and allow two county sites to be considered as a site for the world’s first fusion energy plant.

During the debate many spoke of this as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for the county to be ‘at the forefront’ of an innovative world-first clean energy solution.

The ambitious Government project – Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – known as STEP, is the first but important stage in the UK’s bid to be the first country to commercialize fusion energy, which is expected to generate clean energy to meet future needs.

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Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Part of the site at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and West Burton A, based near Retford,  look likely to fit the criteria set by UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) for the first stage of the site nomination process which is due to close on 31 March 2021.

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This includes having the capacity to provide sufficient land for the project’s construction.

Both sites could be put forward as Nottinghamshire’s nominations for potential sites.

Nottinghamshire County Council is coordinating this nomination process for the county working with several partners, including the landowners of these sites. The proposal to nominate sites, subject to the landowner’s agreement, will be further discussed by councillors at next week’s Policy Committee (17 March).

Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said:

“Our county has proud heritage of producing energy which helped power the industrial revolution, so looking to the future, this could be our opportunity to help lead the UK’s green energy revolution.

“it is very early days of course in the process, but it would be a tremendous boost for Nottinghamshire and the rest of the region.

“Generations to come would benefit from new skills, training and thousands of highly skilled jobs, attracting investment and bringing massive benefits to our regional economy, not to mention lucrative opportunities for the local supply chain to help construct the plant.

“Located at the heart of the country, we are very well-placed to host a world-leading green energy site.

“It would build on our own ambitions to reduce carbon emissions and create new jobs and economic growth

“Plans are already taking shape to work with a new regional organisation to help secure more Government and private investment. One of the key regeneration sites is the proposed International Centre for Zero Carbon at part of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar site. The centre aims to help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets, as well as creating thousands of skilled jobs and apprenticeships.

“So together with a potential fusion energy site in the county, Nottinghamshire would truly be a world leader in green energy production and fully recognise the economic benefits it would bring.”

Following the first round of nominations, it is expected further assessment of sites will be made based on a set of social, commercial and technical criteria, taking around two years to complete. On conclusion of this assessment UKAEA will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with the successful site announced around the end of 2022.

Within twelve months of selecting a site, UKAEA will establish a liaison office within the community including a stakeholder and community forum, to meet at least quarterly.  Provisional timelines for planning consultation will follow.

Construction of the plant is due to be completed by 2040.

Based on research, UKAEA considers fusion energy to have several benefits. These include,

  • Zero greenhouse gas emissions and no waste products. Its only by-product is helium- an inert, non-toxic gas.
  • Fusion energy is inherently safe. It is difficult to reach and maintain the precise conditions for fusion – if any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools within seconds and reaction stops.
  • There is enough fusion fuel to power the planet for hundreds of millions of years. The raw materials for energy production are found in sea water and the earth’s crust.
  • Fusion can produce energy on-demand and is not affected by weather.
  • Fusion power stations require less land take than other renewable technologies

Some videos from the UK Atomic Energy Authority explain fusion energy here: