The Chairs of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Welsh and English Forums have written a joint letter to the Welsh Government First Minister noting their disappointment that independent and more critical expert voices are unlikely to be included in an expert panel considering the safety of over 600,000 tonnes of mud and sediment from the Hinkley Point site being dumped into the Cardiff Deep Grounds close to Cardiff Bay.
The matter was discussed at a joint NFLA English and Welsh Forum webinar held on the 12th June, at which independent marine radioactivity consultant Tim Deere-Jones provided an overview of the application process and the issues around it. (1)
The issues around this matter start as early as 2013, when the then Welsh Environment Secretary Alun Davies had signed an original license to permit EDF Energy to dump up to 300,000 cubic metres of material from the Hinkley Point site to the Cardiff Grounds marine dump site, just a couple of kms off the Cardiff sea front. The signing of this licence took place in the interregnum between the winding up of the old Welsh Environment Agency and the inauguration of the new Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which has had to deal with this application.
After a long campaign through 2017/2018, by which over 150,000 people signed petitions of concern on this application, in the summer of 2018 the Welsh National Assembly debated the public concerns led by Welsh anti-nuclear groups to stop the planned dredging campaign. At the Senedd debate only one of nine speakers supported the EDF dump proposal and eight spoke against. Despite that outcome, Lesley Griffiths, the then Environment Secretary then stood up and announced that she would permit and license EdFs proposed dump, which went ahead later in the year. However, as an acknowledgement to public concern, the Welsh Government made various commitments to ensure transparency and public engagement in the future. (It was later discovered that the Government had already licensed the dump in advance of the Senedd debate, but had not publicised the decision).
In February 2020 EDF Energy returned with a second application to dump a further 600,000 cubic metres of material from Hinkley into the Cardiff Grounds dump site. The NRW also launched a public consultation asking for the views of the public on EDF’s proposals for radiological and chemical analysis of the sediments proposed for the amount to be dumped, which had not been consulted upon previously.
In the same month, the Welsh Government First Minister Mark Drakeford announced his intention to appoint an “expert committee” to advise public authorities on all issues arising from the proposed dredging operation. A large collection of groups included the NFLA have written to the government for the inclusion of some independent and more critical experts to be appointed to this panel. (2) This request has been refused, but it is not yet clear which “experts” will be on the panel, though a response letter from the Welsh Government does note they do not include specific knowledge in relevant issues like marine radioactivity and doses to public.
On the 11th June the NRW announced their decision on the February consultation which “agrees in principle” with EDF’s proposals on the basis of advice from 4 technical submissions from CEFAS, ABP Mer, Environment Agency and (unnamed) NRW “Specialist Advisors”. It also rejects the views of the vast majority of any sedimentary or radiological technical issues raised by 147 objecting organisations and individuals including eminent academics, consultants and researchers with decades of experience.
NFLA is disappointed and concerned that there will now be no independent/public access to, or participation in the “expert committee” deliberation on the way forward, including on environmental impact assessment declarations or scoping. Nor will there be such access to deliberations on any other issues relating to the permitting the latest EDF application to dredge and dump up to 600,000 cubic metres into the Cardiff Deep Grounds.
There remains real and ongoing concern from the public and local authorities over what is contained in this material, as well as the environmental and public health impacts of dumping it just a couple of miles off the south Wales coast. NFLA is writing to the First Minister asking him to reconsider the membership of the expert committee so as to increase public acceptability in this process.
NFLA Welsh Forum Chair, Councillor Ernie Galsworthy, said:
“NFLA has been very concerned for some years over the environmental and public health impacts of dumping what will be over 900,000 tonnes of sediment from Hinkley Point to a site just 2 miles from Cardiff Bay. There remains real concern this material will contain low levels of a wide range of radioactive isotopes which may come back on to the land due to storm surges and the like. It has been disappointing to learn that independent figures will not be included to consider the impacts of this second round of dredging. There remains much public disquiet over this application and NFLA remains concerned that an adequate environmental sampling regime is not in place to deal with it. We call on the First Minister to personally intervene in this matter.”
NFLA English Forum Chair, Councillor David Blackburn added:
“The size of these two EDF applications to dump huge amounts of mud from the cleared Hinkley Point site to the Bristol Channel is inevitably controversial. That controversy would be abated if independent figures were included in assessing the impact of dredging around the south Wales and south west coast. NFLA calls on Senedd members to challenge the Welsh Government to ensure a full environmental impact assessment is made and the legitimate concerns of many independent researchers is full considered. The environmental and health impacts of this activity must be considered very carefully before a second dumping campaign takes place.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for Editors:
(1) Presentation to NFLA English and Welsh Forum, 12th June 2020
(2) NGO letter to the Welsh First Minister, 27th May 2020