A DECISION looms over an ambitious bid to build the world’s first prototype nuclear fusion plant on the Severn Estuary, providing potentially limitless clean energy.

It comes as industry giants Toshiba, Thales and Renishaw have thrown their weight behind the project for the Severn Edge sites at the decommissioned nuclear power stations in Oldbury and nearby Berkeley.

The bid is on a shortlist of five across the country to be home to the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s flagship Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step) programme, whose pioneering reactor would generate power using the same processes as inside the sun.

A council meeting last week was told the technical assessments had been completed and the signs remained “very positive” for the region to attract the project.

And with the Government nearing its decision on which of the five locations will be given the nod, economic powerhouse partnership the Western Gateway, which is leading the bid to bring the plant to the region with the aim of proving the technology’s commercial viability, says Toshiba, Thales and Renishaw have announced their backing for Severn Edge.

They are among 28 businesses and organisations, including four universities and political leaders, who have written to the UKAEA pledging their “strong support”.

A report to a full council meeting of South Gloucestershire Council last Wednesday, May 18, said: “The technical and commercial assessment phase with the UKAEA has now been completed and the indications are that the Severn Edge Step fusion nomination remains in a very positive position with a robust and ready-to-go technical status.

“Whilst there are challenges associated with a major infrastructure project of this scale, these are well understood at Oldbury & Berkeley and have flexible mitigation options.

“A recommendation will now go to the secretary of state. He and UKAEA have shared their expectation that a decision will be made not later than the end of the calendar year. It is possible that that timeframe could be shortened.

“The Western Gateway team are now intensifying MP and industry engagement in particular to ensure continued broad support for the nomination.

“Public engagement undertaken in February 2022 included face-to-face engagement with circa 250 people and a wealth of supportive comments for the nomination.”