Call for debate and scrutiny of proposed nuclear fusion power plant
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A call has been made for a proper debate and scrutiny over a proposed nuclear fusion power plant near Barry.
Vale of Glamorgan council put forward Aberthaw, a recently closed coal-fired power plant, as a potential site for a fusion prototype.
The UK government last year called for suggestions for possible sites to pioneer the technology which could generate electricity with low carbon emissions.
But opposition councillors on the Vale council have claimed the cabinet has “rushed through” its decision to suggest Aberthaw as a site.
Plaid Councillor Ian Johnson said: “It was strange that the council leadership did not consult with other parties or ask a cross-party scrutiny committee to consider issues before making the expression of interest about a possible future use of the Aberthaw plant.
“Even though it is an early point, many people will have questions about the technology, the impact of the development and the process, and discussing this in scrutiny would open up the debate and ensure transparency.”
Fusion technology is still in its infancy and no fusion reactor has ever created more power than it consumes. But scientists say it could be cleaner and safer than fission, the nuclear technology currently used to generate electricity.
If Aberthaw is chosen, the council is hoping the power plant could bring lots of high-tech high-paid jobs to the region. Westminster should decide on a site by the end of next year, and the power plant would be built by 2040, costing about £2 billion.
But the Vale’s cabinet used controversial emergency powers last month to put forward Aberthaw as a site, without consulting the full council or any scrutiny committees. Council leader Neil Moore said this was due to the deadline for suggestions at the end of last month.
However, Westminster made the initial call for suggestions in December last year, meaning the council had four months in total to debate and scrutinise the decision to put forward Aberthaw. The council debated the issue in a meeting this week, after the deadline passed.
Conservative Cllr Gordon Kemp said: “This is being dealt effectively without allowing any proper consideration or scrutiny. It’s an extremely significant matter, even if we ignore the issue of public concern over such a proposal.
“We’re looking at potentially a colossal, massive investment in the Vale. It could create many jobs, so I think it’s something that should have been discussed.
“I appreciate there are always deadlines on this. But I’m very concerned and surprised this wasn’t put before cabinet and scrutiny committees [earlier].”
Cllr Moore said the issue was “not a debate”, but promised to meet with the leaders of the opposition parties on the council, and to give a cross-party scrutiny committee a chance to consider the plans.
He said: “This is just for noting. We used the emergency procedure because it had to be in by a deadline. This is not a debate about what we can do.
“But I’m more than happy to have a meeting with the group leaders, and I’m more than happy to ask for an information report to go to the environment and regeneration scrutiny committee.”