14 June 2021

STEPping closer to prototype fusion plant

The initial list of sites being considered for the STEP plant has been published by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Conceptual illustration of the STEP fusion power plant
Conceptual illustration of the STEP fusion power plant © UKAEA

Fifteen sites are in the running to become the future home of the UK’s prototype fusion energy power plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, or STEP.

The sites, listed here from North to South across the UK (with nominating entity), are:

  • Dounreay, Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership
  • East Airdrie, Fusion Forward (East Airdrie) Consortium 
  • Poneil Fusion, Forward (Poniel) Consortium 
  • Ardeer, Fusion Forward (Ardeer) Consortium 
  • Chapelcross, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Moorside, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, in partnership with Copeland Borough Council
  • Bay Fusion (Heysham), Bay Fusion (collaboration between industry, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster University)
  • Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire Council
  • West Burton, Nottinghamshire County Council 
  • Ratcliffe on Soar, Nottinghamshire County Council 
  • Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire County Council
  • Severn Edge (Oldbury/Berkeley), Western Gateway
  • Aberthaw, Vale of Glamorgan Council 
  • Bridgwater Bay, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Bradwell, Belport Ltd

Assessment has now begun of the proposed sites. Many sites have adjacent operations, bringing mutual dependencies if STEP were to be developed in those locations. UKAEAll work to understand the dependencies and implications as the assessment continues. The shortlisting phase, will take place in the autumn. A final decision on location is anticipated around the end of 2022.

STEP will be the UK’s prototype fusion plant and is intended to pave the way for commercial fusion power. UKAEA is targeting first operations in the early 2040s, with initial aims to produce a concept design by 2024.  

STEP Programme Director, Paul Methven notes ‘Wherever STEP is eventually built, it will bring significant benefits to the region, including employment, skills development and the development of a high-technology, low-carbon supply chain.’