British Fusion Reactor Sites Identified

Her Majesty’s Government has identified five potential sites for Britain’s fusion reactor.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is seeking a site for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) reactor. The UKEA has identified five possible sites for the STEP fusion reactor, the BBC reports.

The potential sites are Ardeer, North Ayrshire, Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, Moorside, Cumbria, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire, and Severn Edge, Gloucestershire. They chose the five sites from an earlier list of 15 sites throughout the United Kingdom.

The UKAEA could choose a site for the STEP fusion reactor in 2022, the BBC reports. Science Minister George Freeman describes the STEP as “the UK’s first prototype fusion power plant.”

Pointedly, the UKAEA’s engineers think the STEP will not go into operation until the early 2040s. However, an initial concept design for the STEP could be available as early as 2024.The British government has appropriated £222 million ($304.23 million) for the STEP program.

UK Fusion Advances

The UKAEA is pushing ahead with fusion because of the successful test of the MAST (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) at Culham, Oxfordshire. The MAST tests a potential design for a smaller and more compact tokamak reactor design.

The MAST uses a smaller design, and an innovative means of removing excess heat, the BBC reports. The UKAEA claims the MAST reduced the heat output from a Tokamak reactor by tenfold. Tokamak reactors use powerful magnetic fields to contain the super hot plasma they need to achieve fusion.

The plasma reaches temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius or higher. Hotter than the sun. Hence, the fusion reactor could melt any machinery around it. Thus, reactors some means of siphoning the heat to function safely.

One advantage to the MAST is that it could channel heat away from a fusion reactor for other uses. For example, to make steam to generate electricity or heat buildings. Other uses could include making steel or metals, or disposing of garbage or hazardous waste.

The MAST upgrade reduces heat with the Super-X system. The MAST went into operation in May 2021.

Hence, Britain is becoming a leader in fusion research. The world’s first fusion reactor could be in the United Kingdom.