Fears over blaze disaster at Port Talbot's proposed Prenergy power station
FEARS have been voiced of the threat of a catastrophic fire at Port Talbot's proposed Prenergy power station.
The controversial £400 million development for the town's docks area was approved nearly five years ago but building work has yet to start.
That approval specified only wood chip could be burnt there.
But Prenergy has since applied to Neath Port Talbot Council to change this to include wood pellets, said to be easier to transport, as well.
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Sandfields councillor Ted Latham pointed out there had been 70 fires in wood pellet stores around the world in the past five years.
He referred to one in Essex earlier this year, involving 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets.
"It took 120 firefighters a full day to get that fire under control and it burned for four days. That was only 4,000 tonnes," he said.
"We were given the dimensions of the Prenergy storage shed as being the size of four football pitches and the height of three double-decker buses, storing 120,000 tonnes of wood chip.
"It would be 30 times bigger than what ignited at the fire in Essex."
Mr Latham quoted research from the Biomass Centre that pellets could, if damaged, disintegrate into fine dust which would have the potential for an "explosive mix".
He also pointed out there were very different storage requirements for chips and pellets.
His comments were endorsed by Sandfields member Lella James. "I'm absolutely terrified of fire," she said. "My ward is 250 yards from this site and I'm very, very worried about fire.
"I have grave misgivings about wood chip, but I have even greater misgivings about wood pellets because of the combustion aspect."
Planning committee members heard yesterday that a condition relating to the storage of material, including fire suppression measures, had been approved on appeal.
But, they were assured, the company would still be required to come up with full details of fire control measures under separate legislation.
Officers had recommended the change of fuel type should be allowed.
But Councillor Rob Jones said he was very concerned that the condition that was previously allowed on appeal had only related to wood chip and questioned whether that was still valid.
After an 80-minute debate, it was decided to defer the application for further information.
The matter will be brought back before the planning committee for decision at a later date.