Fusion plant disappointment for Goole

October 14, 2022

Goole has not been successful in its bid to become the location of the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant.

After months of assessments and consultation during the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) national call for potential sites to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme, Goole was beaten by a site which is just 35 miles away.

Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the government’s decision in a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Monday, revealing that the West Burton A power plant site in Retford, Nottinghamshire has been selected as the winning location. He said: “Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission. “The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world.” Goole was one of just five sites to be shortlisted to host the STEP programme, which will see the creation of the UK’s first prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor, which has the potential to be a source of almost limitless clean energy. The news means that Goole will miss out on the £222million worth of funding which the government has pledged for the project, as well as the thousands of new jobs which will be created as a result. However some local residents are likely to be relieved by the announcement, as some were unsure about the impact the scale of this development would have for surrounding areas.

Although the exact reasons for the decision are not yet known, Goole MP Andrew Percy revealed the site in Retford scored more highly on the UKAEA’s criteria. He said: “This was a very competitive process with the various sites scored according to a range of criteria by the independent UKAEA who eventually concluded that the site in Nottinghamshire scored more highly and that is what they recommended. There was also some vocal opposition locally to the idea.” The initial bid for Goole to become the location of the development was supported by a partnership of northern universities led by The University of York as well as other key industry bodies including East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC). The council say the news is disappointing and they are hoping to learn more about the reasons behind the decision in coming weeks, however they remain certain that Goole still has a bright future ahead of it, even without fusion energy. Councillor Jonathan Owen, leader of the county council, said: "It is disappointing that the Fusion Yorkshire bid to host the UK's prototype fusion energy plant in Goole has not been selected following a recommendation by UKAEA to the secretary of state. "It has been a highly competitive process from the beginning, and we firmly believe we put together an incredibly strong proposal. I would like to thank UKAEA for considering our submission and for their support throughout the process. “I am proud of the bid Fusion Yorkshire submitted and what we have achieved with our partners throughout this project. I would also like to thank the residents of Goole and surrounding areas for engaging with Fusion Yorkshire and being open to understand more about the advantages of fusion energy.”

He added: “Goole is already a town at the centre of several major projects which will look to transform and develop the area’s prospects and we look forward to seeing further investment in the coming years to ensure we build on other opportunities already in the pipeline.” East Riding of Yorkshire Ward Councillor for Goole and deputy leader of ERYC, Cllr Anne Handley echoed Cllr Owen’s comments concluding: “Of course it is disappointing news, especially because everyone involved worked really hard to bring this huge investment opportunity to the town, however the future still looks incredibly bright. “We are continuing to forge ahead with becoming a free port and we are also looking at investment zones locally so there are still many other projects in the pipeline to bring about the continued growth of our town.”

Goole has been unsuccessful in its bid to become home to the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant. (21-10-90 SU)

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