Skip to content

Cumbria's bid for new fusion technology moves one 'STEP' closer

It has been announced that the Moorside site in West Cumbria has progressed to the final stage in the process to find a host location for the UK’s first prototype Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) nuclear fusion power plant.

The site, adjacent to the Sellafield 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, alongside Copeland Borough Council and a range of other partners.

Today, UKAEA announced that Moorside has made the final shortlist, alongside four other sites across the UK. The shortlist has seen the longlist of 15 sites whittled down to the five remaining in the competition. Cumbria’s competitors are Ardeer (North Ayrshire), Goole (East Riding of Yorkshire), Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Nottinghamshire) and Severn Edge (South Gloucestershire & Gloucestershire).

STEP is a government backed programme to build a prototype fusion energy plant that would aim to generate net electricity as well as demonstrating how the plant will be maintained and how it will produce its own fuel.

Fusion has the potential to provide a near-limitless source of low carbon energy by copying the processes that power the sun and stars where atoms are fused to release energy, creating nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas.

STEP is expected to create thousands of highly skilled jobs during construction and operations and attract other high-tech industries to its host region.

Once the next stage of the assessment is complete, UKAEA is expected to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who will deliver a final decision on the successful site by the end of 2022. It is anticipated that the concept fusion reactor STEP design will be developed by 2024.

Dr Rebecca Weston, Chair of CLEP’s Clean Energy Sector Panel, said: “I am delighted that the Moorside site has progressed to the final shortlist. It remains a very competitive process, but I believe that Cumbria has made a very strong submission.

“The siting competition has brought together a powerful group of partners that I believe can continue to work effectively for the people and businesses of Cumbria in the field of sustainable energy and we stand ready to further develop our proposal.”

Jo Lappin, CLEP Chief Executive, said: “This is excellent news for Cumbria, with the Moorside site now on the shortlist alongside four other sites, demonstrating the strength and quality of our application.

“CLEP is fully committed to delivering net zero and identified two priorities – clean energy generation and supporting our businesses here in Cumbria to decarbonise.

“The STEP application was an important element in our plan to support clean energy generation. The next stage of the process is going to be hugely competitive but by working together with all of our partners I am confident that we can demonstrate why Moorside is an excellent location for STEP and I am very much looking forward to this.”

Coun. David Moore, Copeland Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Corporate Services, said: “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 so this is fantastic news.

“When we collaborated with Cumbria LEP last year on the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus, we set out our vision for a clean energy hub around Moorside and STEP would be the perfect catalyst for this. We know that this remains a very competitive national process, so we will continue to work with UKAEA and Cumbria LEP colleagues to build on what is already a very strong proposal.”

Coun. Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We’re really excited to be a partner in this ambitious project, which has now been shortlisted for consideration by the Secretary of State.

“If our bid clears the final hurdle, it will bring huge investment to Cumbria and put us on a world stage in demonstrating how we can generate clean energy from nuclear alongside a range of other sustainable technologies that have significant potential for the county’s economy.”

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

Your login details have been used by another user or machine. Login details can only be used once at any one time so you have therefore automatically been logged out. Please contact your sites administrator if you believe this other user or machine has unauthorised access.