Universities with a strong involvement in energy and sustainability research are backing West Burton A power station as host to a nuclear reactor that would be the first of its kind in the UK. A total of 15 universities from the Midlands Innovation Group and Midlands Enterprise Universities partnerships have thrown their weight behind the Retford site to become the country’s first commercial nuclear fusion power plant.
The reactor, known as the spherical tokamak for power generation, or STEP, would be completed by 2040. A key part of the government’s plans for the UK to reach net zero emissions, the project could also create 10,000 jobs and wealth. of opportunities on the Lincolnshire border.
He received cross-party support, with Nottinghamshire County Council, Bassetlaw District Council, site owners EDF and other interest groups actively campaigning for his selection. Professor Edward Peck, chairman of Midlands Enterprise Universities, said the region could become a “world leader” in energy production.
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He said: “The Midlands is well positioned to be a global energy leader, and the construction of the West Burton smelter will create thousands of highly skilled jobs and supply chain opportunities in the construction, manufacturing and many other sectors, playing a crucial role in leveling and regenerating the region.This, in turn, will support the future prosperity and energy security of the country.
Dr Helen Turner, director of the Midlands Innovation group, added that the site would also benefit from its proximity to universities, which train “large numbers” of engineers every year. She said: “Our universities can make a huge contribution to the success of this site, in terms of providing research and development capabilities, talent and a pipeline to produce the skilled workforce required.”
Nuclear fusion is believed to have the potential to provide an almost unlimited source of low-carbon energy and is far more efficient than burning coal, oil or gas. One of the main talking points for STEP supporters has been the size of the land around West Burton A.
Covering more than 750 acres, it would be “more than enough” to accommodate the fusion plant, according to Professor Martin Freer, director of the Energy Research Acceleration Program at the University of Nottingham. Lincolnshire Live previously reported that a residents’ group had been set up to discuss a hypothetical future for the site if the project was awarded elsewhere.
These included a sustainable eco-village, reminiscent of the now suspended plans for the 4,000-house Bassetlaw Garden Village, and a “culture and adventure” park. The four-year demolition of the cooling towers is scheduled to begin in January 2024.