Nottinghamshire is to host the world’s first fusion energy power plant, bringing billions of pounds and thousands of jobs to the region.
A site near Retford has been selected for the pioneering project ahead of 15 other shortlisted locations across the UK.
Nuclear fusion is an energy process which powers the sun – and the new site could be built as soon as 2040, if scientists can finalise the rapidly-developing technology to replicate it and ultimately replace fossil fuel power stations.
Now it has been announced that the project, which could create up to 10,000 jobs, will go ahead at West Burton, eight miles east of Retford.
The Nottinghamshire site has been chosen ahead of 14 other sites across the country shortlisted as part of a national search for potential locations by the Government.
• What is Fusion Energy? And why it needs AI to become commercial electricity
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, announced the news at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on October 3.
The Retford site has been chosen ahead of locations in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Gloucestershire and North Ayrshire.
The project will replace the coal power station site known as ‘West Burton A’ which will cease operations next year, just as the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) fusion project begins.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which is leading the project, said fusion offers an “inherently safe and virtually limitless” energy source and produces zero greenhouse gas emissions and no waste products.
Its only by-product is helium- an inert, non-toxic gas.
Ben Bradley MP, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council (Con), said it was “fantastic” to be able to share the news.
The West Burton site was originally a reserve and was only added into the running after a site in Ratcliffe-on-Soar site in Rushcliffe was removed from the shortlist.
The Government committed £200m to the project back in 2019.
Research has been ongoing since, and in February results from testing facilities in Oxford confirmed the technology has the potential power to replace large regional power plants without the need for fossil fuel.
Cllr Bradley said: “This is a huge opportunity for us, not least in terms of the narrative of North Nottinghamshire powering the country with our coal mines in the past, and being able to do that in the future with this carbon-free source.
“We know that it works, we know that it’s safe but the point of this is to grow it into a commercial opportunity where North Notts can power the country and power the world again.
“This is a huge multi-billion pound opportunity for local residents, in a place that truthfully hasn’t had those kinds of opportunities in the past.
“In those post-industrial communities, industries like that have disappeared. They are coming back and we are going to power the country again.”
Cllr Bradley added that the UKAA want to get on-site “quickly” and on Thursday, local residents will be invited to discuss the next steps.
Councillor Keith Girling, chairman of the county council’s Economic Development and Asset Management Committee (Con) added: “We are absolutely delighted. This is a fantastic achievement which will bring massive growth and investment, particularly to the north of the county.
“It’s incredible to think that Nottinghamshire will be at the heart of this, which is real boost to local pride.”
Cllr James Naish, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council (Lab) added: “West Burton A has delivered power across the nation for decades – and will now play a vital role in the UK’s transition to a greener, carbon neutral future.
“The project has strong local support and I particularly want to highlight the role of the West Burton Residents’ Planning Group.
“This group of volunteers has met regularly for 18 months and its commitment to engaging the community and seeing the site quickly taken forward has been inspiring, and I want to pay tribute to each group member for their efforts.”
UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) will be responsible for all aspects of the development, planning, construction and operation of the facility.
The construction of the prototype plant is due to start in the early 2030s and become operational around 2040.