The initial list of sites being considered for the STEP plant has been published. Moorside near Sellafield has been included in the list.
Fifteen sites are in the running to become the future home of the UK’s prototype fusion energy power plant – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, or STEP.
Acceptance of the sites into the assessment process does not indicate they are preferred or desired, or that development is, in all cases, possible – simply that the procedural entry criteria have been met and assessment has now begun.
Many sites have adjacent operations, bringing mutual dependencies if STEP were to be developed in those locations.
Councillor David Moore, Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Corporate Services at Copeland Borough Council, said: "STEP at Moorside makes perfect sense. Copeland is the original home of the UK’s nuclear power industry, and has been a pioneer of the development of clean energy generation technologies for many decades.
“Last year we collaborated with Cumbria LEP on the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus, which sets out our vision for a clean energy hub around Moorside – STEP at Moorside would be the catalyst for this.
“We know that this is a really competitive national process, so we are very pleased that Moorside has progressed to the next stage, and will continue to work with UKAEA and Cumbria LEP colleagues to develop what is already a very strong proposal.”
A spokesperson from the Atomic Energy Authority said: "We will work to understand the dependencies and implications as the assessment continues. No view will be formalised on the potential suitability of sites until the shortlisting phase, which will take place in the autumn.
"The successful site for STEP will become a global hub for fusion energy and associated industries, creating thousands of highly skilled jobs during the construction and operation of the plant, while attracting investment that will enable the development of a new UK science and technology centre of excellence.
"Fusion has the potential to provide an abundant source of low-carbon energy by copying the processes that power the sun and stars. This exciting new technology will play an important role alongside established renewable technologies such as wind and solar.
"STEP will be the UK’s prototype fusion plant and is intended to pave the way for commercial fusion power. UKAEA is targeting first operations in the early 2040s, with initial aims to produce a concept design by 2024.
"The next stage of the process is a thorough technical assessment to assess the comparative suitability of the sites. Once all assessment processes are complete, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will make a final decision on the site; anticipated around the end of 2022."
STEP Programme Director, Paul Methven said: "STEP is about building on the amazing science done over decades in fusion and translating that into a real prototype power plant that paves the way for this fantastic new energy source.
"Selecting a site is critical for that transition to delivery and we are pleased to have received a number of high quality nominations. We are looking forward to getting to know the nominating communities as we progress through the assessment process over the next year.
"Wherever STEP is eventually built, it will bring significant benefits to the region, including employment, skills development and the development of a high-technology, low-carbon supply chain."