Momentum gathers for the next STEP in Heysham's Energy Future

Momentum is gathering behind the Heysham and Lancaster district's expression of interest to host the world's first fusion power plant over the coming decades.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 4:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 9:39 am
Graphic of a fusion reactor from UKAEA.

Led by Lancaster City Council and Bay Fusion, drawing from a collaboration of regional industry, universities - including Lancaster University - and other expertise across the north west, Bay Fusion is now in the final stage of bringing together the STEP siting competition entry, and plan to submit it to UK Government (UKAEA) on Wednesday March 31.

Lancaster City Council's cabinet voted in favour of submitting an expression of interest for the project at a meeting on March 23.

As part of the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme, the Government’s UK Atomic Energy Authority's (UKAEA) is currently searching for a location to site the first ever commercial scale fusion power plant, which they hope to design, build and make operational by 2040.

If successfully chosen as the site for STEP, Heysham Lancaster and the Morecambe Bay region would become trailblazers in the development of this unique technology, capitalising on decades of expertise built up at UKAEA in Culham, Oxford alongside existing regional engineering excellence.

Bay Fusion is currently looking for local residents and businesses across the region to support the nomination - and are inviting comments to be sent by email, via the project website at www.bay-fusion.co.uk, or via social media at www.facebook.com/bayfusionuk or twitter.com/bayfusionuk.

A spokesperson for Bay Fusion said: "The United Kingdom's novel compact "spherical" tokamak fusion concept is considered to be one of the most efficient and cost effective in the world and UKAEA hope to take their design and build STEP as a working fusion energy power plant to demonstrate its capability.

"Given that Heysham Power Stations will be coming to the end of their lives over the next 10 year or so, it is hoped that STEP could represent the next chapter in Lancaster's proud history in power generation built on well-established local expertise, infrastructure and transport networks."

Who are Bay Fusion?

Bay Fusion is a partnership of local companies, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council, local colleges and a collaboration of academia led by Lancaster University, who have been brought together to support the nomination of a Heysham site as a potential location for STEP, and this nomination will be submitted to UKAEA at the end of March 2021.

What is Fusion? From the Bay Fusion website.Fusion is the process which powers our sun, and all the stars in the universe.

The process occurs under extreme pressures - where two atoms of lighter elements are squashed ("fused") together to form a new atomic nuclei and this releases energy in the process.

By harnessing this process, we are able to capture the energy released and use it to generate electricity.

The UK is a world leader in fusion science and already holds the world record for the most efficient fusion reaction ever recorded in a fusion experiment - via the JET project located at UKAEA's Culham site.

Fusion power could be used as a major tool in the fight against climate change.

Whilst it may not be able to help the immediate climate emergency, this will help solve our future global energy needs in the second half of the 21st century.

To be ready for this challenge we need to start work now to make fusion power a reality.

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