A SCOTTISH site has been named on a list of five potential sites for a prototype nuclear fusion power plant.

A final decision on the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step) is expected at the end of 2022 as the UK Government has backed plans for the world's first prototype fusion plant.

The site is expected to create thousands of high-skilled jobs and has the potential to provide a "near-limitless" source of low carbon energy, according to the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

Now Ardeer in North Ayrshire has been named as a potential site for the plant among a list of four other locations in England.

The other sites are Goole in East Riding of Yorkshire, Moorside in Cumbria, Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire and Severn Edge in Gloucestershire.

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The shortlist was whittled down from a longlist of 15 locations following an open call for sites between December 2020 and March 2021.

Fusion energy copies the process that the Sun and other stars use to whereby atoms are fused to release energy. The process can potentially create nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas.

Step is a UK Government-backed programme to build a prototype fusion energy plant, with aims to generate electricity and demonstrate how a fusion plant will be maintained and produce its own fuel.

The plant is hoped to pave the way to the commercialisation of fusion energy and the development of more plants around the world. The UKAEA is targeting first operations in the early 2040s.

Paul Methven, Step programme director at UKAEA, said: "The shortlisting of sites is a significant step for the programme as it helps bring this challenging, long-term endeavour to life in the here and now. It also increases our focus as we push on with design and delivery of what we hope is the world’s first fusion power plant prototype.

"Through the next phase of assessment, we look forward to working with the shortlisted sites and local communities to gain a more in-depth understanding of the socio-economic, commercial and technical conditions associated with each site, before we make our final recommendations to the Secretary of State in 2022."

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George Freeman, UK minister for science, research and innovation said: "Fusion energy has the potential to be a truly revolutionary and inexhaustible energy source that can help us reduce our dependence on unreliable fossil fuels and tackle climate change.

"By building the foundations to unlock the power of fusion energy, including the location of the UK’s first prototype fusion power plant, we are positioning the UK as a global leader in this safe and sustainable power source."