The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is highly alarmed with a new report to the Welsh Government that the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could kill 182 million fish a year. NFLA call on the Environment Agency to reject an application from EDF Energy which is seeking not to build an acoustic fish deterrent, and for which it has taken this issue to a public inquiry. (1)
NFLA notes the Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group has warned that the plant poses a threat to marine life in the Severn Estuary by sucking millions of fish into its cooling systems. EDF Energy has applied to the Environment Agency for permission to drop plans to include underwater speakers designed to deter fish from ending up in the system.
EDF argues that installing what are called an “acoustic fish deterrent” system is too risky for its workers and that other measures, including technology slowing the water entering the system and returning any fish that are sucked in, will suffice. Its alternative would include a mesh that would be used to stop larger fish entering the system, but smaller creatures can still be sucked in and local Somerset and Welsh conservation groups make the point that larger fish can still be injured when pressed against the mesh.
NFLA note that EDF disputes figures suggesting half a million fish a day would be lost to the nuclear plant, suggesting an estimate instead of just 650,000 per year. For NFLA even that number is still far too high and would have a devastating impact on the marine life of the Severn Estuary.
The Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group, an independent group established by the Welsh Government with experts in engineering, nuclear energy and the environment, argue that such fish loss estimates cited by the company are far too low. They have called for the Environment Agency to reject the application. A public inquiry is taking place on the matter in the summer following EDF’s request to alter the application.
The upcoming NFLA Welsh Forum webinar on the 9th April will hear from speakers from the Stop Hinkley group who have been raising these concerns for some considerable time. The meeting will also consider another concern that local groups have with Hinkley Point C in the dumping of huge amounts of sediment from the site into two areas of the Severn Estuary at the Cardiff Deep Grounds – close to Cardiff Bay – and at a second site now in Portishead on the Somerset coast. (2)
The loss of as much as 182 million fish a year is not just shocking it would be absolutely devastating to the marine environment of the Severn Estuary. It should be rejected. This is one further and important reason why NFLA remains opposed to the development of the Hinkley Point C site. Even if it is built, the cost of its electricity will be significantly higher than renewable energy alternatives and electricity consumers will be paying EDF a handsome profit for years to come.
NFLA also argue this matter should be considered for the upcoming public planning inquiry into the Sizewell C development and within the generic design assessment for the Bradwell B development. New nuclear power stations should not be built if they are going to make such devastating impacts on the marine environments around them.
NFLA also note that the report comments that people across Cardiff would be told to stop consuming vegetables, milk and water if there was a nuclear accident at the proposed plant. In terms of nuclear emergency planning the report recommends an Outline Planning Zone of 30 kilometres that would include significant parts of South Wales and that “advice be issued within 24 hours to restrict consumption of leafy green vegetables, milk and water from open sources/rain water in all sectors of the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) and downwind of the site to a distance of 43 kilometres.” (3)
Such a 30-kilometre zone would cover around half of Cardiff. The 43-kilometre zone would encompass the whole of Cardiff and parts of the Vale of Glamorgan, Newport, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf. NFLA expects these councils may not have looked into any real detail in such matters and it encourages them to do so now. (4)
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn, said:
“I am astounded to hear that not building acoustic fish deterrents at the proposed Hinkley Point C site could lead to the destruction of as much as 182 million fish a year according to this new independent report. I welcome the report’s publication and agree with its recommendation. I call on the Environment Agency to stand firm at the public inquiry to EDF’s appeal not to build such facilities. Even if EDF’s assertion that building these facilities is too risky, they must consider how they can better protect the marine environment of the Severn Estuary. With the additional EDF plans to dump huge amounts of sediment from the site into a Welsh and a Somerset site it does concern NFLA of the dangerous and growing externalities to the new nuclear programme.”
NFLA Welsh Forum Chair, Councillor Ernie Galsworthy added:
“This independent report for the Welsh Government is a clarion call for Welsh local authorities to actively oppose the development of the Hinkley Point C new nuclear reactor. With the genuine concerns over the Hinkley mud dump proposals, and to hear that huge amounts of fish will be killed if this facility is not built by EDF Energy is really alarming to me. I call on Welsh councillors to attend our upcoming meeting and hear about these issues. The report’s recommendations that an outline emergency planning zone covers a significant part of five Welsh Council areas is also a clear reason why local authorities would be affected in the event of a future accident from such a facility.”
Notes to Editors:
(1) Telegraph 16th March 2021
(2) NFLA Welsh Forum webinar, 9th April 2021
(3) Wales Online, 16th March 2021
(4) Wales Online, 18th March 2021