Caithness ideally placed to host nuclear fusion power plant, say local councillors
Dounreay is one of two locations in Scotland that are preparing a potential bid to build the world’s first nuclear fusion power plant. Image: DSRL and NDA
The local councils have come together to support the idea of a nuclear fusion power plant in Caithness. They said it would be a natural successor to the existing Dounreay location and would create spin-off advantages for “a whole new generation”.
The eight members of the county’s Highland Council insist that Caithness is ideally positioned to develop the breakthrough technology and offer their unanimous support.
Dounreay is one of two sites in Scotland preparing bids to build a multi-billion pound prototype reactor that will provide a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.
The application for STEP – the spherical tokamak for power generation – is being forwarded by Caithness and the North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership and is due to be examined by the Highland Councils on Thursday.
Councilor Nicola Sinclair, chairman of the Caithness Area Committee, indicated that the skills acquired over many years in Dounreay and Vulcan are transferable to the merger.
In a letter signed by all eight Caithness Councilors, she wrote: “We believe Caithness is ideally positioned to develop this technology as it has housed prototype reactors for the UK Atomic Energy Agency and the Department of Defense for six decades. Both licensed sites support a A highly skilled local workforce and a diverse supply chain in the far north that is unparalleled in the UK.
“Fusion technology has the advantage of generating abundant energy without long-lived radioactive waste and inherent safety advantages over conventional nuclear development. The expertise developed at the Dounreay and Vulcan sites can be easily transferred to the fusion. This expertise and technology can be exported. ” worldwide and as a catalyst for further research and development as well as for foreign investments.
“In the long term, the STEP program is a natural successor to the Dounreay site with the potential to create hundreds of high-quality jobs and support an extensive training program. A whole new generation could benefit from the spin-offs and innovations that will bring this about. ” inevitably arise from this project, and the educational and employment opportunities will last for decades.
“Beyond Caithness, the offer will strengthen Highland’s opportunities on the path to zero and build on our region’s reputation as the nation’s energy hub.
“In short, the STEP prototype fusion reactor is an important opportunity to diversify the Caithness economy and present a positive, long-term vision for the prosperity of our county.
“As elected members, we fully support the offering and are committed to working with key regional and national stakeholders to make it happen.”
The other Scottish site showing interest in the project is Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway, which is also being closed.
The full evaluation of the locations is based on a number of social, economic and technical criteria. It will take about two years to complete. Upon completion of this assessment, the agency will make a recommendation to the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the successful location of which will be announced towards the end of 2022.
Municipalities that submit nominations must demonstrate that their region has the right mix of social, economic and technical conditions for housing the new facility – such as adequate land conditions, grid connection and water supply.
The successful site will house construction of the facility, which is scheduled for completion by 2040, and will become a global hub for fusion energy and related industries. This could create thousands of highly skilled jobs during the construction and operation of the facility as well as for the local supply chain.
The program follows the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and Britain’s ambition to be the first country in the world to commercialize fusion energy technology. £ 222 million will be allocated to start STEP design work.
STEP is provided by UKAEA, which conducts fusion energy research on behalf of the government.