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Two schemes to help people self-isolate to be introduced in Wales

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PEOPLE told to self-isolate for up to 14 days will be eligible for financial support from the Welsh Government as two new schemes are unveiled on Friday (Oct 30).

People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

And a new top-up payment is being introduced for the social care workforce in Wales, to increase statutory sick pay to their normal wages if they have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Up to £32m is being made available by the Welsh Government for the two schemes to support people and remove the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and we have asked people to sacrifice so much this year, including during this latest firebreak. We are committed to doing everything we can to support people and protect people’s health and wellbeing.

“Asking people to self-isolate is an important way to break the transmission of the virus but for many people it can mean the loss of income.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our own health and our loved ones’ too but we know just how difficult that can be when faced with a choice between staying at home and not being able being able to feed your family or going to work.

“These new support schemes are targeted towards people on low incomes and are designed to relieve some of the financial pressures people face if they are asked to self-isolate.”

A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who are asked to self-isolate because they have tested positive for coronavirus or because they have been identified as a close contact by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The payment is available to people on a low income who are unable to work from home and would lose income as a result of self-isolating. To be eligible, people must be self-isolating and in receipt of Universal Credit or another specified benefit.

The final arrangements are being made for the scheme to go live. People will be able to apply for the payments via their local authority website and they will be backdated to October 23.

The Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme for social care staff working in care homes, domiciliary care and as personal assistants will start on 1 November and will run until 31 March 2021.

The scheme will top up statutory sick pay to eligible care workers’ full pay if they need to take time off with suspected or confirmed coronavirus or if they are self-isolating because someone in their household has coronavirus or they have been told to by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “If you are told to self-isolate, working from home is not an option for everyone, making this an even more stressful period for people. Some people can feel under pressure to go to work, just to pay the bills.

“The £500 self-isolation payment and the SSP enhancement scheme will help us protect the vulnerable and give people the financial security they need to stay-at-home and break the cycle of transmission.

“There will be some people who do not meet the criteria for the £500 payment but who will suffer financial hardship as a result of being asked to self-isolate. This is why we have introduced a discretionary element to the self-isolation payment, which will be available to a wider group of people.

“Financial support is already available to people through the Emergency Assistance Payment coronavirus hardship element of the Discretionary Assistance Fund.”

Alongside the two schemes, the Welsh Government intends to strengthen coronavirus regulations by imposing a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if told to do so by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The regulations will also be strengthened to make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

And a duty will be introduced to ensure employers cannot prevent an employee from following NHS Wales Test Trace Protect advice to self-isolate.

These two schemes will form an important part of the national support and measures which will be introduced after the firebreak.

The First Minister will today start to set out what will happen when the firebreak ends on November 9 at the Welsh Government press briefing, which is held at 12.15pm.

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An experimental nuclear fusion reactor could be built in Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE could be the location of an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, which could produce abundent clean energy, if the council backs plans for a site on land owned jointly between Valero oil refinery and Pembroke Power station.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked next week (May 17) to support the project, which it is hoped could create limitless energy.

The officers of the council are recommending to Cabinet that members approve the nominated site being included on the list of UKAEA candidate sites.

Elsewhere in Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is bidding for it to be built at the Aberthaw power station site.

Communities had until the end of March to nominate locations.

If approved the nuclear fusion station, the council’s officers say, could position Pembrokeshire at the international forefront of the clean energy revolution, bringing visibility to the community on a global stage. It was also recommended that the project will bring long-term and enduring environmental, employment, skills and economic benefits to the host community.

However, Greenpeace believes that nuclear fusion is an expensive distraction from the real agenda of providing environmentally benign, reliable energy supply. The campaign group gas also written to Parliament saying that the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel mixture used in nuclear fusion produces four times as many high energy neutrons per kilowatt-hour of energy produced than sandard nuclear fission.

Council officers recommend approval for a nuclear fission reactor near Valero refinery (pictured)

Nevertheless the government has a concept programme called STEP, which is an ambitious programme for the conceptual design of a fusion power station. It is a UKAEA administered programme, currently with £220 million funding to produce a phase 1 concept design by 2024.

Beyond 2024, it is claimed, phase 2 intends to move into the engineering design and build phases to deliver the prototype of a commercially viable fusion plant. The prototype will hopefully demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion. The learning from this will enable the future development of a UK fleet of commercial fusion plants, the government said. The target date for the first fully operational plant will be 2040.

In November 2020, the UK Government released an open call to communities across the UK to identify sites that could accommodate a STEP power station, with the site near Valero being chosen.

A report to councillors sitting on the Cabinet states that unlike with conventional nuclear power, there is a benefit of limited risk of nuclear materials proliferation. This is because nuclear fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium. There are no enriched materials in a fusion reactor that could be exploited to make nuclear weapons.

The STEP programme said that it seeks to maximise the recycling and re-use of materials and only use disposal routes where there is no other option.

It said to this end research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible. Any radioactivity of the components in the tokamak structure is classed as low level and relatively short lived.
Fusion is regarded by Government as being carbon free, safe, low land use, low, manageable waste, reliable energy baseload with unlimited fuel.

What is nuclear fusion?

Fusion is the process that takes place in the heart of stars and provides the power that drives the universe. When light nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus, they release bursts of energy. This is the opposite of nuclear fission – the reaction that is used in nuclear power stations today – in which energy is released when a nucleus splits apart to form smaller nuclei.

To produce energy from fusion here on Earth, a combination of hydrogen gases – deuterium and tritium – are heated to very high temperatures (over 100 million degrees Celsius). The gas becomes a plasma and the nuclei combine to form a helium nucleus and a neutron, with a tiny fraction of the mass converted into ‘fusion’ energy. A plasma with millions of these reactions every second can provide a huge amount of energy from very small amounts of fuel.

One way to control the intensely hot plasma is to use powerful magnets. The most advanced device for this is the ‘tokamak’, a Russian word for a ring-shaped magnetic chamber. CCFE’s goal is to develop fusion reactors using the tokamak concept.

Advantages of fusion power

With increasing concerns over climate change and finite supplies of fossil fuels, we need new, better ways to meet our growing demand for energy. The benefits of fusion power make it an extremely attractive option:

  • No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, an inert gas which can be safely released without harming the environment.
  • Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium will be produced inside the power station from lithium, an element abundant in the earth’s crust and seawater. Even with widespread adoption of fusion power stations, these fuel supplies would last for many thousands of years.
  • Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel could provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel. A 1 Gigawatt fusion power station will need less than one tonne of fuel during a year’s operation.
  • Less radioactive waste than fission. There is no radioactive waste by-product from the fusion reaction. Only reactor components become radioactive; the level of activity depends on the structural materials used. Research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible.
  • Safety. A large-scale nuclear accident is not possible in a fusion reactor. The amounts of fuel used in fusion devices are very small (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time). Furthermore, as the fusion process is difficult to start and keep going, there is no risk of a runaway reaction which could lead to a meltdown.
  • Reliable power. Fusion power plants will be designed to produce a continuous supply of large amounts of electricity. Once established in the market, costs are predicted to be broadly similar to other energy sources.
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Graffiti damages area of scientific and historical interest in Pembrokeshire

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GRAFFITI painted on stones of historical and environmental importance at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has caused environmental damage that could take decades to recover.

The white paint had blighted a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Carn Ingli, which is home to a diverse range of rocks, springs and scarce plants including lichens and rare damselfly coenagrion mercurial.

Staff from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority carried out the careful removal work taking every precaution not to cause further damage. They followed an NRW-approved method statement to minimise the risk of further damaging the lichen flora.

They attempted to remove the spray paint with wire brushing, but with limited success. They had to resort to the use a solvent, carefully catching the paint and solvent residue and removing it from the site, to prevent any further damage. Special care was also taken not to trample any important flora growing on the ground around the stone. 

Ross Grisbrook, Environment Officer, Natural Resources Wales, said: 

“Not only is graffiti illegal and unsightly, but can also be very damaging to the environment. An area that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest is somewhere that should be nurtured and respected.

“Graffiti can damage the lichen flora that grows on stones. Once damaged, they can take decades to recolonise because they are slow-growing.

“I would urge anyone tempted to do such a thing again to think about the impact it will have.”

Tomos Jones, Community Archaeologist, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, said: 

“As a national park authority, part of our remit is to safeguard the special qualities that make up the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

“It is disheartening when graffiti appears that could damage scientifically important sites and their ecology, and also the setting of landscapes that are of historical significance.

“The removal of this particular graffiti proved challenging and required careful thought.

“We hope that this case highlights how damaging graffiti can be and also leads to its discouragement.” 

Report any sightings of graffiti to Dyfed-Powys Police online or by calling 101.

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New charity partnership represents a step into the wild

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Corgi will donate 20% of all sale proceeds of their Pembrokeshire Coast National Park collection of men’s and women’s socks to the Trust.

PEMBROKESHIRE COAST NATIONAL PARK TRUST is delighted to announce a new charity partnership with Corgi Socks, a Carmarthenshire-based family-run business that’s been specialising in handmade luxury socks and knitwear since 1892.

As part of this partnership, Corgi will donate 20% of all sale proceeds of their Pembrokeshire Coast National Park inspired collection of men’s and women’s socks to the Trust. The funds will enable the Trust to support the vital work of improving access to the great outdoors, boosting diversity and conservation, promoting outdoor learning and supporting jobs and skills.

Chris Jones, Corgi CEO, said: “With this beautiful iconic landscape right here on our company’s doorstep, it is a daily reminder of the importance of sustainability and environmental issues. We are delighted to support a charity helping to keep the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park special now, and for future generations.”

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust is dedicated to preserving all that is special and unique about the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park landscape for future generations to enjoy. Since the Trust was established in 2019, it has raised over £100,000 for projects in the National Park that support conservation, community, culture and the Pembrokeshire Coast. 

Corgi’s Pembrokeshire Coast inspired socks can be found at www.corgisocks.com/collections/protecting-pembrokeshire-coast-national-park, and a discount of 10% is available to those who sign up to the Corgi socks mailing list.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust is a charity registered by the UK Charity Commission. Its registered charity number is 1179281.

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