The UK government is seeking industry partners to design and construct the country's first prototype fusion energy plant.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho and Nuclear Minister Andrew Bowie announced the multi-stage competition to select an engineering firm and a construction company. The winners will join an alliance with UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd and the UK Atomic Energy Authority to deliver the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) facility.

To be built at the former West Burton coal plant site in Nottinghamshire, STEP aims to demonstrate net energy generation from fusion by the 2040s. Fusion works on the same principles as the sun, fusing hydrogen atoms to release immense energy.

"Fusion could provide a near limitless source of energy and the UK is leading the way in harnessing this power for energy independence," said Minister Bowie. The project is seen as crucial for commercialising fusion power.

The engineering and construction partners will be awarded initial contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds through 2029, with potential for longer partnerships. A key goal is establishing a world-leading UK fusion supply chain.

STEP is projected to create thousands of skilled jobs and attract other high-tech industries to the Midlands, providing major economic opportunities. The procurement process opens on 22nd May, with partner selection expected by late 2025.

Image: STEP tokamak breeder blankets (courtesy of UK Atomic Energy Authority)