The West of England could be home to a new form of clean power generation, bringing thousands of jobs in the bid to tackle climate change.
A partnership of local authorities, development bodies, landowners and the training and education sector across the region has confirmed it is preparing a bid to host a ‘fusion’ power plant, following a national call for expressions of interest by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
Fusion technology recreates a reaction similar to that which takes place in the sun, fusing atoms together rather than splitting them. It requires very little fuel to release enormous amounts of energy and produces only small amounts of waste with no carbon emissions.
If the bid is successful the plant, and associated businesses, training and technical facilities, would be located across two, near-adjacent, former nuclear power station sites at Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire and Berkeley in Gloucestershire. It would be expected to be operational by 2040, with much of the supporting ‘eco-system’ already in place by then.
A nomination is being prepared, for submission by 31 March, under the banner of the Western Gateway, the partnership created to deliver economic development from Swansea to Swindon and from Cheltenham to Weston-super-Mare and Salisbury. It has the backing of South Gloucestershire Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council, Nuclear South West, Business West, West of England Combined Authority, West of England LEP, GFirst LEP, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and Bristol University’s South West Nuclear Hub.
Andy Bates, bid co-ordinator at Business West said: “This will be a multibillion pound investment creating thousands of jobs both in the plant, and related services and industries. It is exactly the sort of project we need to help tackle challenges and inequalities across the region that have broadened and deepened as a result of the tough economic climate. “We have abundant land already identified in national and local policy as suitable for power generation development. This is surrounded by a hotbed of expertise in high technology digital, materials and manufacturing industries and close to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire. The region has has always been at the forefront of innovation in power generation, and we have modern construction know-how, a skilled workforce and first-class education and training institutes. There is also a groundswell of political and community support. It is a perfect fit.”
Following the nomination of sites the UKAEA will go through a selection process resulting in a shortlist of three for submission to the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The final selection is expected to take place around the end of 2022.