Nottinghamshire may be in the running to become the home of the UK’s future nuclear fusion programme as part of a nationwide initiative to find suitable locations led by the Atomic Energy Authority.
Discussions are taking place between Nottinghamshire County Council and various stakeholders across the region as to whether a site close to the existing Ratcliffe on Soar power plant should be put up as a potential location for the UK’s next nuclear plant.
It is understood Uniper, the current owner and operator of the existing coal power plant, which is scheduled for closure in 2025, is part of the discussions, which also entails regional enterprise partnership for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, D2N2.
The future plant will be part of the UK’s wider nuclear fusion strategy, a key pillar of the government’s carbon neutral targets. A similar nuclear facility already under construction, the Hinkley Point C plant, is set to create an estimated 25,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeship schemes by the time it is complete.
Rushcliffe Borough Council, the authority in which Ratcliffe on Soar sits, is to discuss the opportunity at a cabinet meeting next week.
The council’s portfolio holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Simon Robinson, has submitted a report to be heard at the meeting. He recommended the council registers as “interest for the Ratcliffe on Soar site as one of several sites being put forward in the East Midlands”.
The discussions follow the unveiling in October 2019 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) of a £220 million fund to help find a home for the UK’s future Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme, due for completion in 2040.
Addressing the potential to put the Ratcliffe on Soar site up for consideration, Councillor Robinson’s report cites numerous potential benefits including job creation and the region’s carbon reduction targets.
The report states: “The site chosen for STEP will have global visibility and will form the centre of a programme of activity supporting thousands of high-quality high-tech jobs. STEP will support economic growth, providing the opportunity to attract £1.5bn of inward investment, and the training of highly skilled engineers. It will also be an integral part of meeting the global net zero challenge.
“The proposal complements other opportunities being progressed for the redevelopment of the Ratcliffe on Soar site including the proposals for a Development Corporation and the recently submitted Freeport bid. STEP is an additional option to be explored with potential to complement the decarbonisation and innovation objectives of the region and it is a none binding expression of interest at this stage.”
A previous application on the site by Uniper, which is headquartered in Germany, was withdrawn by the company following a backlash from residents and environmental groups. The plans, to build an incinerator power plant the generated energy from burning household waste, raised widespread concerns over the plant’s potential carbon output, and the risk it posed to public health.
The government’s STEP programme aims to have a bid approved and a conceptual design in place by 2024, with construction works due to begin in 2030.
Interested parties have until the end of March this year to submit applications for consideration by the government.