The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) have recently submitted a joint response with the Stop Hinkley group to a Marine Management Organisation consultation. This relates to an EDF Energy application to dump dredged sediment from the Hinkley Point site to a coastal site close to Portishead in Somerset. (1)
This is a third application by EDF Energy to dump large amounts of dredged sediment – often referred to as ‘Hinkley mud’ – into the marine environment. Dredged sediment has previously been dumped into an area close to Cardiff Bay called the Cardiff Deep Grounds site close to Cardiff Bay. A second application to the same site was submitted last year. It would now seem that this third application would potentially reduce the amount of dredged material planned for Cardiff Deep Grounds (previously as much as 780,000 tonnes was being considered) and move some of it to a different site close to the small Somerset village of Portishead.
There has been considerable public concern over the disposing of such large amounts of dredged sediment and mud from the Hinkley Point site at the Cardiff Deep Grounds. A new pressure group, Geiger Bay, has been instrumental in lobbying for a full debate in the Welsh Senedd and in the establishment of an expert panel considering the environmental and radiation concerns around such an application taking place. This third application by EDF could move a good portion of this material to a new site off the Somerset coast and this has raised inevitable concern amongst local parish and town councils around Portishead.
In the NFLA / Stop Hinkley joint submission, tabled on its behalf by independent marine radioactivity consultant Tim Deere-Jones, it makes the following core conclusions:
- 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 coherent and clear 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.
- 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. This is a claim made without any specific evidential support.
- 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.
- This Submission notes that in some circumstances the MMO can refer an application to government ministers for a decision rather than making a licensing decision itself.
These issues are amongst the matters being considered at this Friday’s NFLA Welsh Forum webinar, which will also be considering other Hinkley Point matters, as well as the possibility of small modular reactors being built in Wales and consider a possible ‘green recovery’ in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. (2)
NFLA Steering Committee and English Forum Chair, Councillor David Blackburn, said:
“I welcome this detailed submission from the NFLA and Stop Hinkley to the Marine Management Office raising our concerns over a new EDF application to dredge sediments from the Hinkley Point site to a second site in Portishead in Somerset. NFLA has remained concerned for some years about the sediment being dumped close to Cardiff Bay, and the same concerns exist with diverting it to a new Somerset site. There is a real need for a greater level of testing of the sediment to take place, and a public inquiry to fully consider all these issues would be advantageous.”
NFLA Welsh Forum Chair, Councillor Ernie Galsworthy, added:
“One thing that has come out of this consultation response for me is that EDF were offered what appears a better site for the dumping of dredged sediment at Holm Deep, well away from coastal communities. Instead they have dumped thousands of tonnes of sediment close to Welsh coastal towns and cities, and they are hoping to do more of it, perhaps on both sides of the Bristol Channel. I am pleased campaigners have brought much more focus to this application and I call on agencies to ensure a full environmental impact assessment is undertaken on further dumping in either the Cardiff Grounds or off Portishead. Public safety must be paramount.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) The summary and the full response of the NFLA / Stop Hinkley joint submission to the MMO on the Portishead dredging application is attached to this media release and can be found on the NFLA website https://www.nuclearpolicy.info
(2) NFLA Welsh Forum webinar, 9th April:
- Professor Steve Thomas – the prospects and concerns around building small modular reactors in Wales.
- Tim Deere-Jones, independent marine radioactivity consultant – an overview of issues with the EDF application to dump dredged sediment into a new site at Portishead, Somerset.
- Max Wallis, Geiger Bay group – an update on its campaigns around the Cardiff Grounds site with the Welsh Government and NRW (tbc).
- Katy Attwater and Allan Jeffrey, Stop Hinkley – the issues around the upcoming public inquiry over acoustic fish deterrents at the proposed Hinkley Point C site.
- Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary – the prospects for a green recovery and promoting local energy policies across Wales.