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Highland councillors bid for £222m fusion reactor to be built in Caithness


The Highland Council is planning to bid for a prototype fusion power plant to be built in Caithness, replacing the decommissioned Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR).

The UK Government is seeking sites to build what would be the UK’s and potentially the world’s first prototype commercial reactor.

Fusion power is believed to be a source of limitless clean energy, but the process is only used currently in the experimental phase.

Highland councillors are going to discuss making a bid at their next meeting, suggesting the Dounreay nuclear complex near Thurso as a suitable site.

Chapelcross nuclear site near Annan in Dumfries and Galloway and Ratcliffe-on-soar coal power station in Nottinghamshire are also potential sites for the prototype reactor.



A mockup of what the fusion reactor could look like inside

From 1955 to 1994, Dounreay was the UK site for the development of the fast reactor. It was the first reactor in the world to produce electricity for public consumption in 1962.

It is now in the process of being decommissioned and work is ongoing to find ways of retaining and creating jobs in Caithness.

Fusion is energy created by forcing atoms together in the same process by which the sun produces radiation, unlike a nuclear reactor, which relies on fission and breaking atoms apart to generate energy.

The new reactor is expected to generate around 500 MW of energy.

Communities have until the end of March to submit their sites for consideration.

The successful site will be home of the new reactor with an aimed completion date of 2040. The fusion reactor could generate thousands of local jobs during the construction and then the operation of the plant.

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The scheme is a part of the Prime Minister’s 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution, which was set out in December.

The programme known as Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) will have £222m committed to the design work.

Councils officials stated in the report: “Not only would the attraction of such a significant investment – funding of £222m has been identified for the concept design stage alone – be a major boost to the north economy, it could lead to significant supply chain, innovation and educational opportunities for generations to come.”

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