The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced £220m of investment in the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to support the development of a plan for a commercially viable fusion power station known as STEP – Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production.
This project, which will be based at the UKAEA’s facility in Culham, will seek to develop the technology for commercially viable fusion reactors and builds on the MAST (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) research reactor due to come online early next year.
Culham’s main research reactor, the JET (Joint European Torus), is due to shut down in 2024 as the Euratom ITER reactor in France comes online. This too, is designed to prove the technologies required for commercial energy production from fusion energy.
The STEP programme is expected to create 300 jobs directly, with more in the UK fusion supply chain. Spin-offs from the design work are expected to be substantial – both in terms of synergies with other fusion powerplant design activities (such as Europe’s ‘DEMO’ prototype power station) and other hi-tech industries.