A prototype nuclear fusion power plant, possibly the first in the world, will be built by 2040, the Business Secretary has said.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Conservative Party conference the fusion energy plant, part of a programme known as STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), would be built in Nottinghamshire, replacing a coal-fired power station in the area.
Speaking from the main stage at the conference in Birmingham, the Business Secretary said: “Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission.
“We will build the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant in Nottinghamshire, replacing the West Burton coal-fired power station with a beacon of bountiful green energy.”
He added: “The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said the fusion energy industry could be worth billions of pounds to the UK economy” with the plant leading the way for the country to “design, manufacture and export the first fleet of fusion plants” around the world.
He added this could put the UK at “the vanguard of a market with a potential to be worth trillions of pounds a year”.
Britain’s experimental efforts in fusion energy are based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
Fusion is based on the same physical reactions that power the sun and stars, and could be a source of abundant renewable fuel if made available on a commercial basis.
A spokesman for the UK Atomic Energy Authority said: “We are really pleased to confirm the West Burton site, in North Nottinghamshire, has been selected as the future home for the STEP prototype fusion energy plant.
“STEP will be a major infrastructure project that will provide a significant catalyst to the supply chain across the UK, as well as demonstrating fusion energy can provide net energy to the grid.
“We look forward to working with stakeholders and communities across the region to develop our ambitious plans and realise broader social and economic benefits in the months and years ahead.”
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association trade body, said: “This is a huge moment for fusion energy in the UK. The STEP project will bring real benefits, including good jobs, opportunities for local companies and an ambition to drive skills and investment in the community.
“As we look to moving away from fossil fuels towards net zero, it is important that we find new ways of meeting our growing energy demands.
“Fusion offers the opportunity to produce virtually limitless energy that will power low-carbon economies across the world. The UK can play a central role in making that a reality.”