Rotherham 'leading the world' in fusion technology development

Rotherham is “leading the world” in the development of fusion energy to help tackle climate change, a town MP has said.

Sarah Champion has praised the work taking place at the Fusion Technology Facility at Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Park following a visit to the site last week.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is leading the development of the UK’s prototype fusion energy powerplant, STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) sited at West Burton in Nottinghamshire, aiming to put electricity on the grid in the 2040s.

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Fusion energy promises to be a safe, sustainable and low-carbon part of the world’s future energy supply.

A delegation including local politicians visit the fusion site in RotherhamA delegation including local politicians visit the fusion site in Rotherham
A delegation including local politicians visit the fusion site in Rotherham

Magnetic confinement fusion occurs when a mix of two forms of hydrogen are heated to extreme temperatures, fuse together to create helium and release huge amounts of energy.

The energy created from fusion can be used to generate electricity in the same way as existing power stations. Fusion is many million times more efficient than burning coal, oil or gas and the raw materials needed to provide the fuel for fusion are readily available in nature. However, a number of significant technical hurdles remain, which the STEP programme hopes to address.

As the development of fusion energy progresses, UKAEA’s Rotherham facility is becoming a hub for the manufacture, testing and delivery of components for future fusion powerplants.

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Ms Champion said: “I’m dazzled by what I’ve seen at the Fusion Technology Facility. The fact that it’s in Rotherham gives me enormous pride, because I know my constituents, particularly the younger ones, are incredibly concerned about energy and about a green future.

Climate change is something which obsesses, in every school I go to. So, the fact that here, in Rotherham, we are leading the world in technology that is clean, that is sustainable, and that will make such a global difference, is something that we should all be incredibly proud of.”

Dr Matt Stephenson, UKAEA’s Head of Operations for Fusion Technology, said: “Fusion energy has great potential, not only as a source of abundant, low-carbon energy, but also as a driver of economic opportunity for Yorkshire.

“The work taking place at our Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham is central to the UK’s drive to develop commercial fusion energy.

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“Our work will boost the local economy and put it on the world stage through the establishment of a global supply chain, creating new jobs, and developing tech and engineering skills in the region.

“UKAEA was attracted to South Yorkshire because of the opportunity to work with the region’s tech industry, manufacturing giants and universities, as fusion energy moves beyond the theory and science, into the manufacture and delivery of components for fusion powerplants.

“Energy is part of Yorkshire’s heritage, with mining communities having powered the UK for generations. The development of fusion technology here in Yorkshire will ensure the region plays a central role in delivering clean energy to the UK, and the world, for generations to come.”

Councillor Chris Read, Rotherham Council Leader, said: “I was really pleased to be able to see the development of the facility and to be able to offer our support locally for the pioneering work being done there.”

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UKAEA will host a ‘Whole Plant Partner’ event at Sheffield United’s Conference Centre on June 15.

STEP is gearing up to begin the procurement of two major partners - construction and engineering – to design and build the West Burton powerplant.

To find out more about the event, email [email protected]