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Could Pembrokeshire be home to ‘hugely ambitious’ fusion power plant?

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A LOCATION is needed host a prototype nuclear fusion power plant, which a government-backed programme plans to build by 2040.

The UK government is asking Pembrokeshire communities to put themselves forward as the site of a future fusion power plant.

Communities are being asked to step forward with proposals to house a prototype fusion power plant in a move that could propel them on to the global stage in a world first.

The site does not need to be near existing nuclear power stations but will need 100 hectares of land and a plentiful water supply. Ministers say the project would bring thousands of skilled jobs and be part of its planned “green industrial revolution” to tackle the climate crisis.

The UK programme is called Step – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – and communities will have until the end of March 2021 to submit their nominations and will need to demonstrate that their local area has just the right mix of social, commercial and technical conditions to host the new plant – such as adequate land conditions, grid connection and water supply.

Nuclear fusion replicates the intense atomic reactions that power the sun and uses a hydrogen isotope found in seawater as fuel. It cannot produce a runaway chain reaction like conventional nuclear fission, which involves splitting atoms rather than fusing them together. The level of radioactive waste is also far lower. No exclusion zone will be needed around the site, officials said.

However, the technical challenges are enormous and the programme’s leaders acknowledge it is “hugely ambitious”. This is because fuel heated to 10 times the temperature of the sun has to be magnetically levitated to stop it melting the reactor vessel. Scientists and engineers have pursued the dream of limitless and clean fusion energy for more than half a century, but the first power stations remain decades away.

The project has been granted £222m to date by the government.

Communities have until March 2021 to submit their nominations, with the successful site chosen by the end of 2022.

“We want the UK to be a trailblazer in developing fusion energy,” said Alok Sharma, the business and energy secretary. He said communities had an “incredible opportunity to secure their place in the history books” by potentially helping the UK to be the first country in the world to commercialise fusion power.

The UK has the largest working fusion reactor in the world – called Jet – at the Culham Science Centre near Oxford. However, a far larger €20bn (£18bn) fusion reactor called Iter is being assembled in France, backed by the world’s biggest countries. It expects to create its first super-heated plasma by 2025 and reach full power by 2035, with the aim of demonstrating that more energy can be taken out than is put in.

The goal of Step is to show that a smaller and less expensive plant can create fusion power. Key to this is the spherical shape of the chamber that contains the plasma, which is more compact than the doughnut-shaped chamber being used at Iter.

However, this compactness means the Step system must have a much more efficient cooling system. Technology to achieve this is being tested in the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (Mast) experiment, also at Culham. But the Culham site is too small to host the Step project.

Prof Ian Chapman, the chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which is leading Step, said: “Step is about moving from research and development to delivery. It will prove that fusion is not a far-off dream, but a dawning reality.”

Tim Luce, the chief scientist at Iter, said: “It is gratifying to see the UK make a firm commitment to continuing its historic leadership in magnetic fusion development. Step promises lower costs but faces various engineering and physics challenges, such as large stresses in the magnet structure and high heat fluxes to the wall. [But] first plasma in 2040 appears to be a realistic goal, assuming favourable and timely results in the present generation of spherical tokamaks.”

The UK is a participant in Iter due to its membership of Euratom, but it will leave the group after Brexit. However, officials say they are hopeful that the UK can rejoin Iter as an associate country.

The timetable for Step is to have a concept design by 2024, then a detailed engineering design allowing the start of construction in 2032 and operations to begin in 2040.

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Pembroke Dock: Two in hospital following Fort Road car accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES dealt with what has been described by a witness as a “horrific car accident” in the Pembroke Dock area on Wednesday night (Jun 12).

A 23-year-old woman, driving a black BMW, travelled down Fort Road at speed, hit a low wall, catapulting the vehicle some considerable distance across a picnic area. The vehicle ended up irreparably damaged on the beach – which was luckily not in use at the time – landing next to the old Cambridge Gun Tower.

No other vehicles seem to have been involved, police said.

The driver has been arrested but remains in hospital, one passenger is in a critical but stable condition, in Cardiff, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.45pm on Wednesday night (Jun 23), to reports of a road traffic accident near the Fort Road car park in Pembroke Dock.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, two emergency ambulances and our Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.

“Two people were taken to University Hospital Wales, Cardiff for further treatment.”

The police are appealing in the media for information following the crash.

An official statement from the police reads as follows: “We were called to Fort Road, Pembroke Dock, at around 10.45pm on Wednesday night to reports of a single-vehicle collision. Ambulance and fire service also attended.

“A 19-year-old man was taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and remains in a critical but stable condition.

“A second passenger attended hospital for minor injuries but has since been discharged. A 23-year-old woman was arrested, and currently remains in hospital.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision but who has not yet spoken to us should get in touch by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, visiting our website, or calling 101.

UPDATE: 24.06.2021, 15:47HRS

On Thursday (Jun 24) said that the female who was arrested was de-arrested because of the need for medical treatment, and is “no longer under arrest at this time.”

The police also added that their investigation was “still active”.

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Pembrokeshire call handler helps deliver Llanelli couple’s new baby

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A 999 CALL HANDLER from Pembrokeshire has helped deliver a Llanelli couple’s baby.

Father-of-two Chris Bassett, from Hook, answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Thanks to Chris, Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home.

Troy said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday, June 3, and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday, June 4.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

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Covid causes partial school closure at Haverfordwest High VC

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A PARTIAL school closure is in force today at Haverfordwest High VC school after a pupil in year 9 has tested positive for coronavirus.

All students in year 9 must stay at home , isolate and await further instruction while the school completes all of the necessary Track and Trace processes.

In a statement released by the school, they said: “We have been informed that a Year 9 pupil has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.

“As a precautionary measure and to enable us to complete all of the necessary Track and Trace processes, the school will be closed to Year 9 Pupils today.

“The school remains open to all other year groups.

“Until further notice, Year 9 students should stay at home and isolate until further instructions are given. Lessons for all other year groups will continue as usual. Unless your child is in Year 9 they should attend school.”

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