Conceptual image of the UK's STEP prototype fusion power plant
Conceptual image of the UK's STEP prototype fusion power plant
World-leading Fusion site to be located in West Burton, Nottinghamshire
  • Driving economic growth in former coal heartlands
  • Creating c600 permanent high-quality jobs - thousands more in construction and supply chain
  • Establishing a global centre of excellence in clean power generation
  • Reinforcing local pride and stimulating house building

Today, organisations championing economic growth across the Midlands welcomed the announcement from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that West Burton will host the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)’s pioneering prototype fusion power station.

The announcement is a huge boost to the Midlands’ drive to attract inward investment and address regional disparities. The focus of local stakeholders on low-carbon energy generation as a route to tackle climate and energy crises, and create vital high-paid, high-skilled jobs across the Midlands, helped present West Burton site as an ideal choice.

The choice of West Burton, the site of coal and gas power generation for decades, is seen as an iconic symbol of the pathway from fossil fuels to fusion power and a compelling catalyst for economic growth and social mobility.

The decision follows Nottinghamshire County Council’s Fossil2Fusion campaign, supported by the Midlands Engine partnership and Energy Research Accelerator. West Burton was one of 15 sites which entered bids in early 2021 to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project. It was chosen from an eventual shortlist of five after more than a year of detailed technical and socio-economic assessment.

The STEP project aims to build on the UK’s status as a world-leader in fusion technology by creating a prototype plant, capable of net power output to the grid, by 2040. If successful, it could pave the way to commercial fusion plants producing safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for generations to come.

The Midlands Engine partnership welcomes the Government and UKAEA’s decision to choose West Burton as the site for its STEP fusion prototype. In an area which has long suffered from underinvestment, the site stands to play a crucial role in boosting local and regional economic activity, job creation and productivity. The project is more than a power station - it will require an ecosystem of innovation and development and will become a global focus for fusion power. This is an unrivalled opportunity to support our levelling up agenda by generating high quality jobs, building a first-class supply chain and further strengthening our regional skills base. We look forward to working with the UKAEA to make the project a success, both in solving our energy challenges, and driving green growth across the Midlands and beyond.

Sir John Peace, Midlands Engine Chairman

We welcome today’s announcement of the selection of West Burton as home for the UK’s first STEP plant. The site is part of ‘Megawatt Valley’ and has been crucial to the UK’s power generation industry for decades. Fusion has the potential to be transformative for the way we produce energy here in the UK. It could provide an almost limitless supply of safe, clean electricity and help with the toughest decarbonisation challenges by using heat to manufacture hydrogen and synthetic clean fuels – other areas where our region and ERA have expertise. We look forward to building on our work with the UKAEA, bringing the region’s first-class skills and innovation capabilities to bear on this exciting project.

Professor Martin Freer, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Energy Institute and the Energy Research Accelerator

Professor Trevor McMillan OBE, Vice Chancellor of Keele University and Chair of the Midlands Innovation university partnership, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the new fusion power plant will be situated in our region. Our universities are all partners of the Energy Research Accelerator and each has a strong track record in energy research and innovation.

“We can support the site both in terms of R&D capabilities, and by helping to train the skilled workforce required. In addition, the Energy Research Accelerator is also working with the Midlands Engine to establish a network to support this exciting and innovative industry.”

The West Burton site benefits from connections to nearby manufacturing and construction firms, as well as the world-renowned research capabilities of regional universities, supported by the Energy Research Accelerator.

Part of the UKAEA’s selection process was to assess which site combined the ability to support the project’s delivery, with the potential for major socio-economic benefits. It is expected that local firms, clusters and R&D hubs will develop and benefit from an influx of activity, as they support the construction and operation of the site and welcome some of the world’s leading fusion experts and companies.

The successful bid follows the Midland’s Engine’s partner-led Ten-Point-Plan for Green Growth, supported by ERA, which aims to deliver a 36% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2020 levels and generate a further £24.2 billion GVA for the region’s economy by 2041.