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Cumbrian bid to house prototype reactor progresses to next stage

It has today been announced that the Moorside site in West Cumbria has progressed to the next stage in the process to find a host location for the UK’s first prototype nuclear fusion power plant.

The site, adjacent to the Sellafield nuclear complex, was selected in March 2021 as the favoured Cumbrian location to be submitted to UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA’s) national siting competition, following a mini-siting competition hosted by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP).

The application was then developed by CLEP, working with Copeland Borough Council and a range of other partners.

Those partners have now been told that Moorside will progress to the next stage of the assessment process, led by the UKAEA, alongside 14 other sites across the UK.

A final shortlist is expected to be produced in the autumn. UKAEA will then make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who will make a final decision on the site by the end of 2022.

It is anticipated that a concept fusion reactor design, known as the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), will be developed by 2024.

Dr Rebecca Weston, Chair of CLEP’s Clean Energy Sector Panel, said: “I am pleased that the Moorside site has moved through to the next stage of the process. It is a very competitive process, but I am confident that Cumbria has a very strong case and I look forward to the next stage in the process.

“I will be working with partners to ensure that we stand ready to present the strongest possible case in the next round of the competition.”

Jo Lappin, CLEP Chief Executive, said: “Cumbria LEP is fully committed to delivering net zero and will help achieve this through supporting clean energy generation and business decarbonisation.

“The STEP application was a tangible example of CLEP’s commitment to net zero and the delivery of activities that support clean energy generation. I am confident that we have developed a strong application and look forward to the next stage in the process.”

Coun. David Moore, Copeland Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Corporate Services, said: “STEP at Moorside makes perfect sense. Copeland is the original home of the UK’s nuclear power industry, and has been a pioneer of the development of clean energy generation technologies for many decades.

“Last year we collaborated with Cumbria LEP on the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus, which sets out our vision for a clean energy hub around Moorside – STEP at Moorside would be the catalyst for this.

“We know that this is a really competitive national process, so we are very pleased that Moorside has progressed to the next stage, and will continue to work with UKAEA and Cumbria LEP colleagues to develop what is already a very strong proposal.”

Councillor Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We’re really excited to be a partner in developing the submission to Government to host the STEP prototype fusion reactor.

“If our bid is successful at this next stage, it will bring huge investment to Cumbria and put us on a world stage in demonstrating how we can generate clean energy from nuclear.”

Moorside had previously been identified as the proposed location for a new nuclear power generation site for NuGeneration, a British subsidiary of Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric Company.

However, that plan did not go ahead. The site remains under consideration as a possible location for other forms of low-carbon power generation. However, it was recognised that STEP would complement other potential developments.

The UKAEA recommendation to Government on final site selection will be made following a rigorous validation and assessment process, based on a set of key criteria covering three main areas:

  • Technical and operational suitability
  • Alignment with STEP’s socio-economic and community benefit principles
  • Support for the commercial progress of the project

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