Severn Edge STEP Fusion nomination passes first assessment

The South West of England today (11/06/21) moved a step closer to delivering pioneering plans for the UK to host the UK’s world first prototype fusion energy plant in the region.

A list of 15 potential sites has been published by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), indicating the sites that have passed initial assessment for compliance with the key entry criteria to host the Government’s ambitious STEP programme - Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production. STEP aims to produce electricity by 2040, supporting the Country’s net zero carbon ambitions. There is an initial commitment of £222m for STEP with the potential for several billion pounds of future investment.

This list includes Severn Edge, led by Western Gateway, and Bridgwater Bay led by Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership. 

Severn Edge site passes first assessment 

 The newly-named ‘Severn Edge’ bid, led by the Western Gateway, is one of 15 nominations to pass the initial assessment stage.

They UKAEA will now consider the plans to create an initial Fusion Technical Centre at Berkeley in Gloucestershire and nearby Oldbury in South Gloucestershire through a detailed desktop assessment process over coming months.

If this Severn Edge bid to develop the plant is successful, it could lead to thousands of highly skilled jobs at the two former nuclear sites and across the wider area.

Katherine Bennett CBE, chair of the Western Gateway Partnership, said: “I am delighted that the Severn Edge nomination has progressed through the showstopper stage for this internationally significant infrastructure project. We have had a fantastic opportunity to co-lead the co-ordination and preparation for the Severn Edge submission alongside some of the leading nuclear, academic and business partners in the South West-notably Nuclear South West and the South West Nuclear Hub.”

Andy Bates, of Nuclear South West, the industry body powered by Business West, commented: “Fusion technology uses the same principles that power our sun. It is zero carbon, uses naturally abundant fuels and can solve many of the challenges associated with the UK becoming a net zero carbon economy”.

And Professor Tom Scott, co-director of the South West Nuclear Hub, said: “Establishing a fusion technical centre here in the South West will give the UK its best chance in what is the UK’s nuclear equivalent of a moon-shot project”.

Katherine Bennett added: “This is exactly the sort of major infrastructure project with multiple cross-border and cross-sectorial benefits that our Partnership has been established to drive and champion. We believe there is a demonstrable cross-border opportunity across our geography, deploying Welsh steel, engaging the enormous Hinkley supply chain, and even adding significant value to the likes of the Cornish lithium industry and manufacturing up to and across the Midlands Engine.

“We feel that the Western Gateway is the business and academic leading area in nuclear and related industries of engineering, advanced manufacturing and digital. Our proximity to the existing technology at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire presents a well-rounded offer to the UKAEA for the Oldbury and Berkeley sites which have combined in the Severn Edge nomination.”

Further information 

For further information and interviews, contact James Cooke, Interim Executive Officer, Western Gateway: 07780 494199

Find out more about the case for advanced nuclear technologies in the South West on our Advanced Nuclear Technologies page, and sign up to our mailing list. 

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