The UK government has agreed to commit £220 million to the design of a fusion power station. The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) will be a commercially viable fusion power station and will be ready by 2040. Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, made the announcement during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Science Centre HQ in Oxfordshire.
Why invest in fusion power?
The investment will mean that engineers and scientists can produce a conceptual design for the reactor that will generate fusion energy, converting it to electricity. According to the government, by copying the same processes that power the sun, fusion offers a virtually limitless source of clean electricity.
Ms Leadsom said: “This is a bold and ambitious investment in the energy technology of the future. Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the UK.
“This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new hi-tech jobs and exports.”
Professor Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK atomic energy authority, added: “The UK has a proud heritage of pioneering developments in fusion research. We are excited to work with our partners to take the next step towards a fusion-powered future.”
The risks of fusion power
However, despite the fact that fusion energy has the potential to produce a ‘virtually limitless source of clean energy’, the industry still faces numerous issues. Friends of the Earth has previously called nuclear waste management ‘an unresolved issue’ in the UK, there is a poor record of building power plants on time and within budget and also the risk of catastrophic impacts.
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