Fusion Energy

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 11:33 am on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud 11:33 am, 7th June 2022

What steps his Department is taking to promote fusion energy in the UK.

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The widely reported breakthroughs in fusion energy by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority team at Harwell this year signal UK leadership in a new era of industrial-scale fusion energy. I am sure the whole House takes pride in that achievement and will want to pass our best wishes on to the team at Harwell. That is why we are investing £700 million in the next phase of fusion facilities and research. We are announcing the location of the spherical tokamak, our first industrial power plant, and this month we will launch our paper on the regulation of fusion energy for industrial roll-out.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

I have written to the Secretary of State recently about our Severn Edge fusion bid in Berkeley and Oldbury, because we provide the ideal location for the spherical tokamak for energy production fusion programme. We can deliver the project and we have cross-party support spanning the south-west and Wales. I believe this is a good opportunity for Government to prove that we are not just levelling up the north. Does my hon. Friend agree that the decision on where to locate the STEP prototype is crucial to the UK’s fusion ambitions, and will he say a little bit more about the timetable he is working to?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on being such an advocate for her patch. I completely agree that the location of the spherical tokamak plant is critical to our future fusion industry ambitions. Some 15 sites across the UK have applied to host STEP, and the UKAEA has shortlisted five: Ardeer in Ayrshire, Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Moorside in Cumbria, Severn Edge in Gloucestershire and West Burton in Nottinghamshire. The UKAEA has now completed a detailed analysis of those sites and has submitted its recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make a final decision and announcement by the end of the year.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Dounreay in Caithness in my constituency was in the 1950s the site of the UK’s first nuclear reactor. The nuclear industry did a very great deal to provide local employment and to halt the curse of the highlands, namely depopulation. Today, we have a licensed site, we have a willing and skilled workforce and we have a local population who support the nuclear industry. Will the Secretary of State or the Minister talk to the Scottish Government, who have not ruled out nuclear fusion, about the potential for developing nuclear fusion at a site such as Dounreay?

Photo of George Freeman George Freeman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I congratulate him on his enlightened stance: he is supportive of the UK and the Scottish nuclear industry—a position we all rather wish the Scottish nationalists would take more widely. I have regular meetings with the Scottish Ministers for science, technology and innovation. This Government are very supportive of that cluster; if only the Scottish nationalists were.