LEP statement in response to UKAEA announcement on the site shortlisting for the STEP Fusion Test Reactor

14 October, 2021

Following today’s announcement by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) of the shortlisted sites for the world’s first STEP fusion test reactor, the Heart of the South West LEP (HotSW LEP) and its bid partners are disappointed that our proposed site at Bridgwater Bay has not been included.

Siting the STEP demonstrator at Bridgwater Bay would have allowed Somerset to capitalise on the county’s prominent position in the UK nuclear industry. It would have ensured a lasting legacy from the investment made to date in the Hinkley Point C project and would have built upon the nuclear eco-system of skills, research and development, supply chain excellence and infrastructure that has already been developed. It would have strengthened the area’s reputation for driving innovation linked to the generation of clean energy and to delivering sustainable clean growth. It would also have ensured significant long-term prosperity for the wider Somerset and South West region.

The HotSW LEP developed its bid in partnership with the local authorities, working with key partners including landowners, skills and training providers, local colleges and universities. Bridgwater Bay was one of 15 nominations to pass the initial assessment stage earlier this year.

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the South West LEP, said: “We are disappointed that our bid to host the UK’s prototype fusion energy plant at Bridgwater Bay in Somerset has not been selected by UKAEA in their final round of shortlisting. It was a highly competitive process and we firmly believe that Somerset offered a strong case with the infrastructure, skills base and project delivery experience developed through the Hinkley Point C project. We will continue to build on this legacy and ensure the Heart of the South West area delivers its clean growth ambitions.

“We would like to congratulate Western Gateway for their Severn Edge bid being shortlisted and offer our full support to them in order to maximise the potential of their bid.”

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “It is of course disappointing not to have made the shortlist, but I am proud of the bid we submitted and what we have achieved with our partners in this project. Severn Edge is to be congratulated on the success and we offer our full support to the project.

“Somerset has a proven track record in delivering large-scale, internationally significant projects. This set-back will not deter us from building on the legacy provided by Hinkley Point C, where we will be seeking to maximise the future use of the assets and infrastructure as well as the supply chain and skills, enabling us to focus on our ambitions to reduce our carbon footprint and deliver a cleaner, greener economy.”

The Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “It is disappointing that we have not been successful in our bid to promote Somerset as the ideal location for a leading role in the future generation of clean energy. This project very much aligned with our Council’s corporate priorities for the environment and enterprise – to be a low-carbon, clean, green and prosperous district that attracts high quality employment opportunities.

“It would’ve also have provided a platform, through partnership working, to demonstrate our capability as a county to deliver complex engineering projects of world-wide significance as evidenced at Hinkley Point C – currently the largest construction site in Europe.”

The Bridgwater Bay bid was submitted by HotSW LEP and developed in partnership with local authorities Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council.