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UK taking a big ‘STEP’ to fusion electricity at Culham

08:12 21 October in Environment, Energy & Infrastructure, News, Oxfordshire

The UK Government is committing £220 million for the conceptual design of a fusion power station, the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), which will move the UK towards zero carbon, safe and abundant commercial fusion electricity.

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP announced the funding package during her visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), Oxford.

The investment will allow engineers and scientists to produce a conceptual design for the reactor, known as ‘tokamak’, which will generate fusion energy and convert it into electricity. Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of cleaner electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.  Researchers at Culham and around the world are developing fusion reactors that can turn this into a commercial technology to help satisfy the world’s increasing demand for energy. CCFE and other partners from the industry aim to complete the design by 2024.

The STEP programme continues to build upon Culham’s expertise in developing ‘spherical tokamaks’ and will directly create 300 new jobs, with more in the UK fusion supply chain. Culham’s new MAST Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment is due to start operations at Culham in early 2020, which will play a key role in the STEP design.

“This is a bold and ambitious investment in the energy technology of the future. Nuclear fusion has the potential to be an unlimited clean, safe and carbon-free energy source and we want the first commercially viable machine to be in the UK. This long-term investment will build on the UK’s scientific leadership, driving advancements in materials science, plasma physics and robotics to support new hi-tech jobs and exports.”

Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


“Another brilliant example of how the Thames Valley is continuing to lead the way for the UK with this much needed move into commercial fusion electricity. I have no doubt that, with the continued support for the UK Government, this will be a great success for the industry and the region.”

Paul Britton, Chief Executive, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce