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New 20-year plan to capitalise on ‘unique opportunity’ of fusion energy plant in Bassetlaw

Nottinghamshire Live logo Nottinghamshire Live 06/12/2022 Andrew Topping
An illustration of what the project could look like © Gov.uk and UK Atomic Energy Authority An illustration of what the project could look like

A 20-year plan is being created to grow Bassetlaw’s economy off the back of the new multi-billion-pound fusion energy plant near Retford. The major project, which could bring nuclear fusion energy to the decommissioned West Burton A power station, was confirmed in October.

The site was selected ahead of 15 other shortlisted locations across the UK and is expected to bring more than £20billion and up to 10,000 jobs to the area once complete. Fusion energy involves recreating and harnessing the energy process which powers the sun.

The new site could be built as soon as 2040 if scientists can finalise the rapidly-developing technology to replicate it. The long-term plan is to replace fossil fuel power stations with the new nuclear fusion model.

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The new project is the first time Bassetlaw has been selected to house a major, Government-led infrastructure scheme. Now the Labour-run district council says it wants to make the most of the “unique opportunity” by setting out a 20-year plan for the district.

A motion will be debated during Thursday’s full council meeting setting out plans to create jobs and attract investment into Bassetlaw. The motion was proposed by Councillor James Naish (Lab), leader of the council, and Cllr Kevin Dukes (Lab), cabinet member for corporate resources.

It says: “Bassetlaw has never been in the position where billions of pounds will be spent in the district through a large capital project spanning two decades. This gives us a unique opportunity to plan over a 20-year period, knowing with comparative certainty what will be happening on a large strategic site in the district.”

It adds the 20-year plan “can be used to clearly articulate the future direction and aspirations” of Bassetlaw. This would include attempting to “persuade businesses to come to a district ‘on the move'”.

It would also aim to make the district more attractive for people to live in, rather than commuting from elsewhere. And the council says it would look to “promote the district’s wider offering now we have a world-leading project happening on our doorstep”.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Cllr Naish told the Local Democracy Reporting Service there are short and long-term benefits to the project. He has visited Culham, in Oxfordshire, which is currently the home to UK Fusion Energy, the organisation developing the technology.

That site is employing 4,000 people with 40 similar businesses based on the same land, including the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which is in charge of fusion developments and employs more than 2,000 people. “Our expectation is that this will become the northern equivalent of that,” he said.

“There’s going to be a real melting pot of interest in this development as it comes forwards. If we don’t have this vision and start selling it publicly, Bassetlaw could potentially miss out on some of that incredible opportunity.

“I really appreciate that, for a lot of people, it’s far away or it might not matter to them. But the Oxford site has one person who’s 18, one who’s 20 and the oldest apprentice is 47. People are retraining to be part of this developing industry.

“This isn’t just about the next generation. There will be opportunities in the short-term for people to get ready for the industry when it arrives.”

The authority will also engage with the councils close to the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, in Somerset. The authority describes this as a “comparable project” and says it wants to “learn from their experiences”.

“I want to make sure we’re set up for success,” Cllr Naish added. Construction of the prototype plant is due to start in the early 2030s and become operational by about 2040.

UKAEA will be responsible for all aspects of the development, planning, construction and operation of the facility.

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