The UK is currently at the forefront of developing nuclear fusion, a type of source that could generate near limitless energy. Earlier this year, Britain achieved a major breakthrough after the record was smashed for the amount of energy that can be extracted from nuclear fusion. Scientists at the UK’s Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory broke their own record by smashing together two forms of hydrogen, producing unprecedented megajoules of energy over five seconds.
Now as researchers around the world race to improve the technology to make it cost-effective and generate the awesome amount of power promised, experts have warned that Britain could lose the lead it had comfortably held for decades.
As the Government currently mulls over where to locate the world’s first prototype fusion energy plant, Professor Tom Scott has urged the Government to select a new site quickly, or they could risk China and the US overtaking Britain.
Funded by the UK Government, Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project is present in its initial, “concept design” phase, which will be completed by 2024.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said that to: “capitalise on our early gains the Government needs to decide on the site for STEP as quickly as possible.
“There is no time for delay. If we delay we are compromising our position in this race.
“We’re primarily at risk from being overtaken by the US and China. Germany and South Korea are also noteworthy competitors.
“We don’t have the financial might of either the US or China so we have to rely on our ability to deliver with speed and our excellent people – both are assured benefits of locating STEP at Severn Edge.”
He noted that the “highly competitive” Severn Edge has a number of benefits for the UK’s nuclear fusion industry.
He said: “For example, the STEP reactor will operate at very high temperatures and accordingly will need substantial expertise in materials performance and plant operations at high temperatures.
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“The world’s highest concentration of high-temperature experts are located at EDF’s headquarters at Barnwood in Gloucestershire – on the doorstep of the Severn Edge site.
“Critical to STEP’s success is access to highly technical supply chains that are able to movecomplicated materials and equipment at pace.
“The Severn Edge site will benefit from regional proximity to Hinkley Point C, which has for the first time in decades, driven the establishment and growth of a vibrant regional supply chain.
“With unparalleled connections to the UK’s national fusion laboratory at Culham, the prominent Hinkley Point C supply chain and unrivalled transport links via road, rail, sea, and air – we are ready to turn this technology into a potential great British export.”
Prof Scott’s calls to action were echoed by industry leaders, with Jeremy Wrathall, CEO of Cornish Lithium, saying: “We would like to express our support for the Severn Edge site as a home for the STEP fusion energy plant.
“Siting STEP at Severn Edge places it close to the UK’s primary sources of lithium.
“Having a viable source of Lithium will make fusion energy more secure and increase the resilience of the UK energy system.”