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The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has made four key appointments to support the delivery of a prototype fusion energy powerplant being built at West Burton, Nottinghamshire.

UKAEA appoints STEP directors. Pictured at UKAEA's Culham Campus in Oxfordshire, L-R: Prof Chris Waldon, Sounak (Sho) Dutta, Debbie Kempton and Dr James R Cowan.

The ambitious Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme aims to generate electricity for the National Grid in the 2040s.

Professor Chris Waldon, formerly STEP Delivery Director, is announced as STEP Chief Engineer. Chris is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and has over 30 years’ experience spanning the nuclear, pharmaceutical, chemical, refining and power generation sectors. He joined UKAEA in 2003 and became the founder of the Central Engineering Department and Chief Engineer. He will be accountable for all prototype powerplant design decisions.

Debbie Kempton joins as STEP Director of Engineering Programme, responsible for the overall engineering programme in addition to developing links with industry to support STEP’s concept design. She previously worked at BAE Systems as Group Engineering Director.

Debbie is a Chartered Engineer and Certified Programme Manager with 30 years’ experience in aerospace engineering, applied research, technology demonstration and major programme delivery, having held roles in the US and UK.

Sounak (Sho) Dutta joins as STEP Director of Supply Chain and Commercial and brings over 20 years’ experience in commercial, procurement and supply chain roles in the aerospace, consulting, utilities and business service sectors. He joins from Babcock International Group, where he spent eight years building and leading procurement and supply chain teams in the civil and naval nuclear businesses.

Sho will have responsibility for sourcing STEP construction and engineering Whole Plant Partners within an overall collaborative team model, and for sourcing and integration of STEP System Partners as the programme develops.

Dr James R. Cowan has been appointed as STEP Director of Programme Development, responsible for Programme and Project Management across the whole programme, development of the future home of STEP at West Burton, regulatory engagement and development, and transition to a new operating model.

James is a Chartered Project Professional and Chartered Engineer, with 30 years’ experience across high risk major programmes including submarine design and build, manufacturing facilities and establishment and implementation of multi-partner collaborations within the UK Ministry of Defence.

Paul Methven, UKAEA’s Director of STEP, said: “I welcome the breadth of experience that Chris, Debbie, James and Sho bring to our programme, as we strive to deliver something that has never been attempted before – the design, construction, and operation of a prototype fusion energy powerplant, and, through that endeavour, stimulating a new supply chain.”

The delivery of STEP will transfer to UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd (UKIFS) in 2024, a subsidiary of UKAEA. Earlier this month, Professor David Gann was announced as the inaugural Chair of UKIFS and the search for its  first Chief Executive Officer will commence in the coming weeks.

UKAEA is STEP’s fusion partner with tenders for construction and engineering partners (Whole Plant Partners) expected to be released in August 2023.

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