Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production
STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) is an ambitious programme to design and construct a prototype fusion energy plant.
The first phase of the programme is to produce a concept design by 2024. It will be a spherical tokamak, connected to the National Grid and producing net energy, although it is not expected to be a commercially operating plant at this stage.
The STEP prototype will
be a compact spherical tokamak
The plant is expected to be smaller than other current fusion programmes, such as International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). This could help minimise costs, and reduces the plant’s physical footprint.
Most fusion reactors are built in the shape of a ring doughnut while the spherical plant is shaped more like a cored apple. This shape improves efficiency in the magnetic field and potentially reduces the plant’s cost.
The tokamak uses powerful magnetic fields to confine and control the hot plasma of fusion fuels in a container called a ‘torus’.
Fusion power provides scope for limitless low-carbon energy.
Fusion will play a crucial role in global energy supplies in the second half of this century, safely and sustainably helping sustain net zero as global energy demand continues to grow.
Fusion power provides low-carbon energy without many of the risks associated with traditional nuclear power plants.
Fusion research and development has been ongoing for many years. Following recent advances in technology, there is increasing confidence that a clear path to commercial operation can now be planned.
What are you planning to build?
The STEP prototype will enable a full range of experimental activities over many years and inform the development of subsequent commercial fusion plants.
The STEP prototype will produce net energy and demonstrate that electricity can be predictably and stably produced in a fusion power station.
The aim for this first phase of work is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. This means an outline of the power plant, with a clear view on how we will design each of the major systems.
Through phase 2 the design will be developed through detailed engineering design, while all consents and permissions to build the plant will be sought.
Construction of the prototype power plant will begin in phase 3, targeting completion around 2040.
footprint of STEP
It’s likely that the programme will be consented as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) under a Development Consent Order (DCO). STEP will be a project at the international forefront of the clean energy revolution, bringing visibility to the community on a global stage.
The programme will be reliant on significant skills for development and operations. This will range from apprentices, through degree and graduate skills, and experienced career professionals.
STEP will have many of the features of a fully operational power station, including infrastructure and associated research and development facilities. It is likely to be a delivery project of comparable scale and value to a major operational power station.
We will need people with a wide range of skills, from science and engineering to construction and catering in different phases of the programme. UKAEA has already allocated resources to support an apprentice training scheme and will work with local education and training providers at the earliest opportunity.