A SITE on land next to Sellafield has been shortlisted as a potential host of the UK’s first prototype nuclear fusion power plant.

The announcement that the Moorside site has been named as one of five locations nationally under consideration to locate the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) plant has been welcomed by many.

The design and construction of STEP – which will pave the way to commercial fusion and a virtually limitless supply of low-carbon energy - will be delivered through the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), whose shortlist was announced yesterday.

Communities across the UK were invited to make a submission of a suitable location for STEP earlier this year, and an original 15-site long list has been narrowed down to the final five.

The application was developed by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP), alongside Copeland Borough Council and a range of other partners.

Dr Rebecca Weston, chair of CLEP’s Clean Energy Sector Panel, said: “I am delighted that the Moorside site has progressed to the final shortlist. It remains a very competitive process, but I believe that Cumbria has made a very strong submission."

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said: “The NDA-owned land adjacent to Sellafield is the most logical site for a raft of new and advanced technology.

“As the Centre of Nuclear Excellence, there is nowhere else in Europe with the concentration of precision and specific skills in nuclear that we have here in Copeland.

“STEP is an ambitious programme and is one of many developments that I want to secure for Copeland.”

Coun David Moore, Copeland Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Corporate Services, said: “Copeland is the original home of the UK’s nuclear power industry and has been a pioneer of the development of clean energy generation technologies for many decades so this is fantastic news.

“When we collaborated with Cumbria LEP last year on the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus, we set out our vision for a clean energy hub around Moorside and STEP would be the perfect catalyst for this.”

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson said: "It's fantastic to see some positive progress being made on Moorside.

"It is strategically important for the whole of West Cumbria and could provide an abundance of good quality, well paid local jobs."

Coun Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “If our bid clears the final hurdle, it will bring huge investment to Cumbria and put us on a world stage in demonstrating how we can generate clean energy from nuclear alongside a range of other sustainable technologies that have significant potential for the county’s economy.”

The assessment process of the five shortlisted sites is expected to continue until summer 2022.