'UK first' nuclear fusion plan for Nottinghamshire power station

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image copyrightUK Atomic Energy Authority
image captionThe government is looking for somewhere to build a high-tech nuclear fusion reactor to provide clean energy

A "groundbreaking" nuclear fusion reactor could be built on the site of a coal power station in Nottinghamshire.

Fusion is a potential source of almost limitless clean energy but is currently only carried out in experiments.

The government is seeking sites to build what it said would be the UK's, and potentially the world's, first prototype commercial reactor.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, which is due to be decommissioned, is set to be put forward by a council.

What is fusion?

Fusion - the process going on inside the sun - creates energy by forcing atoms together.

It is the opposite of standard nuclear reactors which rely on fission, breaking atoms apart.

Fusion is viewed as safe and clean but has so far proved difficult to harness.

Critics have said there are still huge hurdles to overcome and some experts believe existing, proven renewable technologies offer a more economical and timely way of tackling climate change.

The government has set aside £220m for designing a prototype commercial reactor, known as Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

In December, it asked local authorities to come forward with potential sites.

Then Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma said: "Communities across the country have an incredible opportunity to secure their place in the history books as the home of STEP, helping the UK to be the first country in the world to commercialise fusion."

Rushcliffe borough councillors are set to discuss putting the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal site forward.

If chosen, the prototype could be built there by 2040.

image copyrightPA
image captionThe power station's cooling towers have become something of a local landmark

A report to the council, which recommends backing the bid, said it would "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," the report said.

"It will also be an integral part of meeting the global net zero challenge."

image copyrightUK Atomic Energy Authority
image captionNuclear fusion reactors need to reach very high temperatures and pressure

The council said other sites were also being considered across the East Midlands but did not reveal where.

The Ratcliffe-on-Soar project is due to be discussed by the authority on 9 March.

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