A SITE on land next to Sellafield has been shortlisted as a potential host of the UK’s first prototype nuclear fusion power plant.

The announcement that the Moorside site has been named as one of five locations nationally under consideration to locate the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) plant has been welcomed by many.

The design and construction of STEP – which will pave the way to commercial fusion and a virtually limitless supply of low-carbon energy - will be delivered through the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), whose shortlist was announced today. 

Communities across the UK were invited to make a submission of a suitable location for STEP earlier this year, and an original 15-site long list has been narrowed down to the final five.

The application was developed by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP), alongside Copeland Borough Council and a range of other partners. 

Dr Rebecca Weston, chair of CLEP’s Clean Energy Sector Panel, said: “I am delighted that the Moorside site has progressed to the final shortlist. It remains a very competitive process, but I believe that Cumbria has made a very strong submission.

“The siting competition has brought together a powerful group of partners that I believe can continue to work effectively for the people and businesses of Cumbria in the field of sustainable energy and we stand ready to further develop our proposal.”

Jo Lappin, CLEP chief executive, said: “This is excellent news for Cumbria, with the Moorside site now on the shortlist alongside four other sites, demonstrating the strength and quality of our application.

“CLEP is fully committed to delivering net zero and identified two priorities – clean energy generation and supporting our businesses here in Cumbria to decarbonise.

“The STEP application was an important element in our plan to support clean energy generation. The next stage of the process is going to be hugely competitive but by working together with all of our partners I am confident that we can demonstrate why Moorside is an excellent location for STEP and I am very much looking forward to this.”

Coun David Moore, Copeland Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Corporate Services, said: “Copeland is the original home of the UK’s nuclear power industry and has been a pioneer of the development of clean energy generation technologies for many decades so this is fantastic news.

“When we collaborated with Cumbria LEP last year on the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus, we set out our vision for a clean energy hub around Moorside and STEP would be the perfect catalyst for this.

"We know that this remains a very competitive national process, so we will continue to work with UKAEA and Cumbria LEP colleagues to build on what is already a very strong proposal.”

Coun Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We’re really excited to be a partner in this ambitious project, which has now been shortlisted for consideration by the Secretary of State. 

“If our bid clears the final hurdle, it will bring huge investment to Cumbria and put us on a world stage in demonstrating how we can generate clean energy from nuclear alongside a range of other sustainable technologies that have significant potential for the county’s economy.”

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said: “The NDA-owned land adjacent to Sellafield is the most logical site for a raft of new and advanced technology.

“As the Centre of Nuclear Excellence, there is nowhere else in Europe with the concentration of precision and specific skills in nuclear that we have here in Copeland. 

"Copeland has been at the forefront of so many ‘firsts’ in the nuclear industry, and we are well placed to deliver another in the form of STEP.

“STEP is an ambitious programme and is one of many developments that I want to secure for Copeland, and today’s shortlisting announcement is very encouraging.” 

The assessment process of the five shortlisted sites is expected to continue until summer 2022. 

UKAEA will then make recommendations to the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with a final decision anticipated around the end of 2022.   

Once a site is selected, construction is due to start in 2024 and the plant is expected to hit peak operations by 2040.