NORTH Ayrshire Council's bid to bring a pioneering fusion power plant to Ardeer has ended in disappointment after West Burton in Nottinghamshire was confirmed as the host site.

The UK Government announced its decision this week after whittling down a shortlist of five potential locations.

The Fusion Forward (Ardeer) bid was one of five finalists in consideration to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), and the only Scottish site remaining from an initial cohort of 15 applications from across the UK.

STEP was predicted to directly attract more than 4,500 jobs to Ardeer and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, and the bid drew widespread support from across Scottish businesses, as well as local communities. 

However, anti-nuclear campaigners were among those who firmly objected to the plans, and a petition against the proposals was backed by hundreds of people.

Professor Declan Diver, of the University of Glasgow’s school of physics and astronomy and the convenor of the Fusion Forward (Ardeer) consortium, said: “While I’m disappointed that our bid to bring STEP to North Ayrshire was unsuccessful, I’m pleased that the UK is set to make fusion a viable source of zero-carbon power.

“Over the course of the last 18 months, we’ve done a great deal of work to win the backing of the business, education and skills sectors across Scotland.

"In doing so, we’ve created a framework for collaboration that could easily be used to support future bids to bring large-scale infrastructure and investment projects to Ardeer.

“There’s also the possibility that STEP-related opportunities could come to the region between now and 2040, when the plant is expected to start generating power.

"The skills and supply chain for STEP, administered by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, could benefit from industry support in Scotland not just for fusion but also for the aerospace, defence and offshore renewables sectors, helping to boost local economies.”

North Ayrshire Council leader Marie Burns said: “While it is clear there will be disappointment for many that Ardeer won’t be home to the fusion plant, there is still much to be positive about.

“We have shown what is possible for a unique location like Ardeer and we know that it remains a prime site ready for the right development.

“We will continue to pursue innovation and investment opportunities throughout North Ayrshire, and this process has demonstrated that our area has much to offer as a desirable location for large-scale investment.

“The experience we have gained working with partners on this project puts us in a strong position for commercial development and very attractive to prospective investors and employers.

“While the STEP plant would have brought significant investment, jobs and training opportunities to North Ayrshire and the west of Scotland, we will continue to explore different possibilities and opportunities for our area.

“It’s important that we don’t lose momentum and it’s clear there is an appetite from national agencies such as Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry among others, to usher in a new era of innovation in our area.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that North Ayrshire will benefit from STEP and the emerging UK fusion energy industry, as part of the large-scale supply chains and advanced manufacturing in not only this but other burgeoning areas such as aerospace and offshore renewables.

“This is most definitely not the end of the road but the start of a new journey.”