GLOUCESTERSHIRE and South Gloucestershire have a peerless heritage in terms of the development of nuclear energy over many years.

So, it was not surprising to see the enthusiastic response last week to the community events to find out more about the Western Gateway Severn Edge bid to build a £220m prototype fusion energy plant at Berkeley and Oldbury.

Nearly 400 people attended the drop-in sessions at Oldbury-On-Severn, Berkeley and Thornbury as well as an online forum.The Western Gateway partnership, the economic powerhouse for Western England and South Wales, is leading a bid to bring the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s STEP project to the two decommissioned nuclear sites at Berkeley and Oldbury.

I went to the Friday night drop-in session at Oldbury-on-Severn where people were very positive about the plans and realised the benefits it could bring to the area. And at the end of last week, the online forum hosted by the UKAE was one of the best online forums I have experienced.

Again, there was real positivity and 133 people were online. One of the attendees was so enthusiastic about the project that he thought it would be good to develop Severn Edge Champions for the project.

Our councils have played a leading role in supporting the Western Gateway bid. And I thought Gloucestershire’s county council’s leader, Mark Hawthorne, hit the right community note when he told the UKAWE visiting team at Berkeley:

“Sixty six years ago on this site, the early pioneers of the nuclear power began construction of the Berkeley Nuclear power station, and in 1961 Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories were opened between them employing 750 people.

“Nuclear is in our DNA-it’s part of our county’s rich history and we want to be part of its future too.

“Not for us, but for thousands of young people who like I was can come and be inspired, can come and learn, can come and find their future and be the next set of pioneers in this extraordinary story”. Every journey starts with a single step and I think this was a good start for our bid.