The UK is at the forefront of a new energy “frontier” as it prepares to create the world’s first nuclear fusion-powered plant, a senior official has claimed.
The world’s first compact nuclear reactor is set to be operational by 2040, scientists at UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) say.
Named the “holy grail” of renewable energy, nuclear fusion needs far more work to reach full effectiveness – but represents one of the most likely ways by which Britain could achieve net zero.
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step) was set up by ministers to promote research in the area, and has been described as “nuclear fusion’s Apollo” by UKAEA director Paul Methven.
The Government programme has been given £222million in funding with the goal of designing and constructing the world’s first fusion power plant by 2040.
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Mr Methven told the Telegraph: “We are currently designing the rocket and building the team, across both public and private sectors, that will put our equivalent of people on the moon.
“It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for the UK to be at the forefront of this new frontier.”
The first phase of Step’s work aims to produce a “concept design” for the power plant by 2024 with a full outline.
The Step prototype reactor, which will be built in West Nurton, Nottinghamshire, is expected to be a 100MW power station and will be used to research and develop the technology and enable a fleet of commercial plants to follow in the years after 2040.
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The design will be further developed between 2024 and 2032 through detailed engineering design.
The government will simultaneously seek planning permission to build it.
2032 is the current deadline set to have a fully evolved design and approval to build.
Step aims to make the first commercially viable fusion plant in the world by 2040.
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Fusion makes four million times more energy than coal and creates none of the emissions or problematic waste of current energy generation methods.
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