NFLA / Geiger Bay joint media release
The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) and the campaigning group Geiger Bay express their deep dismay on the decision over the weekend by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to allow EDF Energy to dredge mud and sediment from the cleared Hinkley Point C site into a coastal site close to the North Somerset town of Portishead. (1)
That this controversial decision was issued unusually over a weekend in the middle of the holiday season, and from initial reading, appears to be a rushed response after previous delay, adds to that dismay.
The NFLA and other groups raised significant concerns in our submission to the MMO urging them not to approve this application. Our concerns, like that of local councils and a wide range of environmental and community groups, appear to have been simply ignored. Campaigning groups and other environmental groups are now seeking legal advice on the decision document.
In its submission, NFLA and others argued (2):
- EDF have failed to collect (pre-dump) data on the chemical/metal and PAH (long lived hydrocarbons products) concentrations at, and adjacent to the proposed Portishead LU070 disposal site.
- EDF have failed to collect (pre-dump) data on radioactivity concentrations at, and adjacent to the Portishead LU070 disposal site.
- There are significant flaws and weaknesses in the protocols and techniques employed by CEFAS, on behalf of EDF, to sample and analyse for gamma, beta and alpha emitting radionuclides. These flaws mitigate against the production of accurate and precise radiological data concerning the concentration of radioactivity in the sediments of Bridgwater Bay.
- There is a lack of coherence or explanation for the process of choice of dredge waste disposal sites.
- The Environment Agency previously proposed the use of Holm Deep, an offshore site in the centre of the Bristol Channel/Severn estuary, distant from any coastline and otherwise very suitable for the disposal. This was rejected by EDF, and instead it has applied to sites near the coast at the Cardiff Grounds and now Portishead. The rejection by EDF of the offer of Holm Deep as a disposal site, despite the advantages of its distance from vulnerable intertidal zones, inshore fisheries and coastal communities and a strongly “dispersive” environment has never been examined or reviewed. It should be noted that the Severn Estuary was made a “Marine Protection Area” in 2018, and we are concerned that such ‘capital dredgings’ are ignoring the commitments of an MPA.
- EDF have made a number of claims about the nature and characterisation of the sediments at Bridgwater Bay, Portishead LU070 and Cardiff Grounds, suggesting the sediments to be dredged from Bridgwater Bay are “like any other sediments” from the Bristol Channel/Severn Estuary. There is plenty of evidence from the dredging undertaken in 2018 that much of the sediment is solid, accumulates in mounds and does not disperse as MMO claim.
- The Joint Submission concludes that these failings and weaknesses clearly indicate that the MMO’s Precautionary Principle Criteria must be invoked with a full public inquiry.
- The huge efforts of over 3 years of submission of evidence from experts representing campaigning groups in Wales, have led to the Welsh environmental regulator NRW confirming that an Environmental Impact Assessment will now be required for the dredge disposal marine licence application regarding the Cardiff Grounds. This decision has been made in line with Regulation 5 of Marine Works (EIA) Regulations (2017).
- The Joint Submission notes that these issues remain outstanding despite, and because, the MMO have had the opportunity to scrutinise the EDF proposals in the past and have been unable to resolve them and ensure that the appropriate degree of scientific certainty is achieved.
NFLA and Geiger Bay are concerned that most of these substantial issues have not been adequately considered by the MMO in their decision document. What should have happened was the calling of a full public inquiry. The residents around the North Somerset coast are now going to see substantial amounts of dredged material dumped off their coastline shortly, which many of them, like the local Councils, are opposed to. Given the experience of the dredging in the Cardiff Deep Grounds, the dredged material is also likely to spread around the Severn Estuary and the South Wales coast with undefined environmental consequences.
Geiger Bay add that, in a letter to the Senedd Petitions Committee (5th May 2021), Natural Resources Wales have claimed that tests by the UK Government’s laboratory CEFAS can detect microparticles of plutonium. This is untrue; they rely on spectroscopy – a technique which does not detect particles. The letter failed to mention uranium although, according to published United Nations data, trillions of radioactive particles have been emitted from Hinkley Point, as from all operating nuclear power stations. The majority were, and still are, uranium.
Geiger Bay also point out that, in March 2021 the Petitions Committee asked Natural Resources Wales to require CEFAS to use a specific test for uranium and plutonium. The test employs CR39 plastic, which is conventionally used to detect the natural radioactive gas radon in buildings. In 2020 NRW had asked CEFAS to use CR39 in testing the mud. CEFAS refused. The 5th May 2021 NRW letter shows that NRW has now adopted CEFAS’s position on CR39 although the Davidson Committee’s Report warns that NRW should not use ‘advice’ from CEFAS.
NFLA English Forum Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“I am saddened that the MMO has now given its permission for EDF to dump hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment from the Hinkley Point C site into the Bristol Channel off Portishead Bay. It is the wrong decision and we feel many of the well-argued and carefully considered points made by a wide range of environmental and community groups have largely been ignored. We support campaigning groups looking at legal ways to review this decision. We are concerned what such dredging means for the coastal communities of Somerset, as well as those in south Wales. We ask the MMO to reconsider its decision document. Why has it not called for a public inquiry, like has happened recently with the acoustic fish deterrents issue for Hinkley Point C?”
Geiger Bay spokesperson Richard Bramhall said:
“The MMO document endangers health all around the estuary, including the coast of south Wales, as the Welsh Government Davidson Committee’s independent report makes it clear that material dumped at Portishead travels anticlockwise round the estuary. This includes a long-term threat from inhalable particles of uranium and plutonium. We are facing a culture of deliberate ignorance. Future generations will pay the price.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) MMO Decision Document MLA/2019/00259/6 has been sent to all consultees and a copy is available from the NFLA Secretariat.
(2) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 87, submission to the MMO on the EDF dredging application for Portishead, Somerset, April 2021 –