Science and Innovation Minister announces international hub for fusion development

Following his announcement of a new delivery body for the UK’s fusion programme – UK Industrial Fusion Solutions – last week, Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman has visited the future site of the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant at West Burton, near Retford.

By 2040, this will home to The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) plant, designed to demonstrate magnetic confinement fusion. This occurs when a mix of two forms of hydrogen are heated to extreme temperatures – 10 times hotter than the core of the sun – and fuse together to create helium and release huge amounts of energy.

Fusion energy has been very much in the news since it was revealed that using the world’s biggest laser, the US National Ignition Facility in California had conducted fusion experiments which released more energy than was put in. Jennifer Granholm, US energy secretary, called it “one of the most impressive scientific feats in the 21st century”.

The energy created from fusion can be used to generate electricity in the same way as existing power stations. Fusion is many million times more efficient than burning coal, oil or gas and the raw materials needed to provide the fuel for fusion are readily available in nature

Back in West Burton, George Freeman said: ‘Fusion energy now has the potential to transform our world for the better by harnessing the same process powering the sun to provide cheap, abundant, low-carbon energy across the world.

‘The UK is the world-leader in fusion science and technology, and now we are moving to turn fusion from cutting edge science into a billion-pound clean energy industry. That’s why I’m delighted to announce the creation of Industrial Fusion Solutions as the vehicle for industrial development and deployment of this technology as a new clean energy source in the coming decades.’

The Minister also announced a commitment to create the STEP Skills Centre at West Burton and spoke with local apprentices currently working at the UK Atomic Energy Authority Culham campus.

George Freeman (above, centre) has a history of being given roles in this area. In 2020 as Future of Transport Minister he was talking about funding bio-fuel projects and reaching net-zero.


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