York scientist provides expertise for ambitious bid to host UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant

University of York

A University of York academic is part of a team aiming to bring an ambitious prototype fusion energy plant to Yorkshire.


The final location decision is expected towards the end of 2022 Credit: UKAEA

A site in Goole, East Yorkshire, has been shortlisted as one of five by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as a potential host for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council bid was supported by a partnership of northern universities, led by the University of York, and key industry bodies.

Professor Howard Wilson from the Department of Physics was the first Director of the STEP project, while on secondment to UKAEA. Returning to York in May 2020 he supported East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s bid to host STEP in Goole and acted as a technical advisor on the bid. Moving forward, the University’s academics will continue to play a key role supporting UKAEA in the development of STEP, providing further technical expertise as it moves towards a concept design by 2024.

Climate change

Professor Wilson said: “STEP is an incredibly exciting project, aiming to demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion energy as a valuable contribution to mitigate climate change.

“If our bid is successful, it will place Goole and the wider Yorkshire region at the international heart of sustainable energy, attracting a huge range of industries and organisations to generate jobs across many sectors and driving skills growth in the region.”

The University of York’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said: “We are excited to be supporting this ambitious project, which would bring significant socio-economic benefits, including long-term, high skilled jobs to the local community and the wider region.

“As a University of public good, it is our mission to use our research and expertise, and in this case, our specialist fusion knowledge, to work in partnership with other organisations to provide opportunities for the region to innovate and grow.”

Electricity

STEP will have many features of a fully operational power station, including infrastructure and associated research and development facilities. It will approach the scale and cost of a commercial power station, aiming to be amongst the first to demonstrate net electricity from fusion energy.

Fusion has the potential to provide a near-limitless source of low carbon energy by copying the processes that powers the sun and stars where atoms are fused to release energy, creating nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas.

Councillor Jonathan Owen, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “With this bid to become the host community for the STEP programme, and passing the second stage in the process, we recognise the potential long-term and enduring economic benefits it could bring to the East Riding and wider Yorkshire region, and also the national benefits.

“Without doubt, STEP will be a project at the forefront internationally of the clean energy revolution, which would bring visibility to our community on a global scale. It will create wonderful opportunities for growth across the UK, with jobs at all levels created in the region, and the programme will undoubtedly focus on skills development which is something we always nurture as a council.”

The final location decision is expected towards the end of 2022 and will be made by the Secretary of State.

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