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News in brief: Ministers to scrutinise controversial power station plans

08 Oct 2021 7 minute read
Uskmouth B Station. Photo by Reading Tom is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Plans for the mothballed Uskmouth B power station near Newport to switch from burning coal to “waste-derived” fuel pellets to generate electricity have been referred to the Welsh Government by National Resources Wales.

NRW’s decision comes following months of discussions with the plant’s owner SIMEC Atlantis and saw shares in the company plummet by almost 40% as the move was confirmed.

Simac’s plans would have seen the plant burn 900,000 tonnes of fuel pellets annually to produce electricity.

The pellets they wanted to use are formed from about 50% plastic, and 50% biogenic material – largely wood, paper, and cardboard and the company claims they are a sustainable fuel source with significantly lower carbon emissions.

In February Friends of the Earth Cymru wrote to the government and urged ministers to “call in” the plans, claiming if permission was granted, the site would produce “an eye-wateringly massive 1,550,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually for the next 20 years”.

Air quality

The RSPB also raised concerns over the impact on nature within and next to the application site and the potential for poor air quality.

Welsh Government ministers also issued a holding directive in February barring Newport City Council’s planning committee from approving the application.

“This further delay is a blow to South Wales and this vital green energy project at a time when the country is facing an energy crisis with intermittent renewables and a dependency on imported gas causing unsustainable price rises for homes and industries across the UK,” SAE said in a statement.

The company said it will consider all available legal options and “will seek to ensure that the Welsh government understands how critical this project is to South Wales, Newport, to key industries and the hundreds of employees whose jobs are at risk”.

NRW had previously indicated it would approve the Uskmouth proposal subject to public consultations that were due to commence last month.

Rapid antigen test. Photo by Steve Nomax on Unsplash

Fines for using a fake Covid pass come into force from Monday

Anyone caught using a fake Covid pass or faking a test result will be fined up to £60 from next Monday.

Following a tight Senedd vote on Tuesday, people will have to show a NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend high risk events in Wales from 11 October.

The pass will show if individuals have had both doses of a vaccine, or if they have had a negative lateral flow test result in the last 48 hours.

The fixed penalty notice can be reduced to £30 if the fine is paid within 14 days. However, if it is not a first offence then the fine will double.

Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for a Covid pass online but to access the service, you’ll need to register for an NHS login. You will also need to upload a photo of your ID (passport, full UK driving licence, full European driving licence etc).

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Covid rate in Wales now highest in the UK

Wales has the highest Covid rates in the UK according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

The report which covers the week ending 2 October, estimates 56,900 people had the virus, up from 53,300 the previous week and the equivalent of one in 55 of the community population.

Northern Ireland has the lowest rate with an estimated 14,500 cases or one in 130 people.

The number of cases in England increased from 658,800 to 786,300, equating to about one in 70 people, while the number of cases in Scotland fell from 97,700 to 84,900 or one in 60 people.

Picture by the Welsh Government.

Vaccine triallists to be offered new jabs

Health Minister Eluned Morgan has announced that participants in Covid-19 vaccine trials in Wales will be offered booster jabs or new courses of the vaccine if their trial used a vaccine that hadn’t been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority.

Over 1,400 people in Wales have participated in trials since the start of the pandemic but those that received vaccines that have not yet been approved have reported problems accessing a booster vaccination or Covid international Travel Pass.

In a written statement the minister described their participation in the trials as “a truly remarkable act of generosity and kindness to their fellow human beings”, adding, “I am determined to resolve this issue for everyone affected in Wales in recognition of their contribution that has benefited us all.”

Her statement confirms the Chief Medical Officer for Wales will write to trial investigators and NHS medical directors across Wales to set out the process for addressing the issues and from today trial participants will start to receive letters explaining how, if eligible, they will be offered their booster or how to get a further primary course of vaccine to enable them to get a Covid Travel Pass.

Oystermouth Square in the Mumbles. Photo via Google

Work on £12m flood defences in Swansea to commence next year

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Work on a £12 million sea defence wall in Mumbles could start by spring next year.

The 1km wall between Oystermouth Square and the slipway at Knab Rock is designed to protect around 120 properties from flooding.

The current seawall is in poor condition because of its age, according to Swansea Council.

Cllr Mark Thomas, who has the environment portfolio, told a scrutiny panel that the scheme was well-supported locally but would undergo further consultation.

He said the Welsh Government-funded project was expected to cost around £12 million.

Cllr Thomas had been asked about the seawall, and how other foreshore areas might be protected from rising sea levels, during a discussion about flood risk management.

Councillors were told Mumbles was the highest risk area for coastal flooding, but that a scheme to offer further protection for the riverside area by Sainsbury’s, Quay Parade, could at some point be explored.

New flood risk maps for Wales were published last month which place St Helen’s rugby and cricket ground, the adjacent recreation ground, and some of nearby Gorse Lane and St Helen’s Avenue in a coastal flood zone. A part of Trawler Road, Swansea Marina, and a small section of both Langdon Road, SA1, and Fabian Way are also included.

Flood zone

A more substantial area of the marina, extending west into Sandfields, is in a river flood zone.

Stuart Davies, head of highways and transportation, said the Mumbles seawall would allow further work along the seafront to take place.

“It’s a really exciting scheme,” he said.

If all went to plan, Mr Davies said spades could be in the ground by the end of this financial year on March 31.

Deborah Hill, from the council’s conservation team, said some flood protection was possible working with nature, such as the marram grass sand dunes created just to the west of the Civic Centre, and tree-planting in upstream river catchment areas.

Mr Davies said the intensity of rainfall these days was sometimes too much for the drainage network.

“There will be occasions where drains will be completely overwhelmed,” he said.

Cllr Thomas said cleared culvert grids could be covered with debris within hours during a storm.

The council has received £414,000 from the Welsh Government to draw up potential flood schemes for Killay Square, Killay, West Street in Gorseinon, Llys Ddol in Morriston, and Capel Road and Kingrosia Park in Clydach.

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