NFLA joint media release with Stop Hinkley and the Geiger Bay campaign
The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA), the ‘Stop Hinkley’ campaign and the ‘Geiger Bay’ campaign have been involved in raising concerns over the dumping of large amounts of dredged materials from the EDF site at Hinkley Point into sites between the south Wales and the Somerset coast.
In a surprise move to the groups, EDF, which is building a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, has announced that the Portishead marine disposal site LU070 is now a possible dumping ground for the seabed sediment it is seeking to dredge from Bridgwater Bay in order to sink cooling water intake and outfall tunnels for the new reactors at Hinkley Point.
Despite major public opposition in Wales, in 2018 the Welsh Government permitted EDF to dump large quantities of Hinkley C dredged mud at the Cardiff Deep Grounds inshore disposal site, only 2 miles off the Cardiff Bay sea front. This came after EDF insisted that it was the only suitable site available in the Bristol Channel. However, EDF has recently announced its intention to apply to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for a license to dump at Portishead, while also making a further application to dump at the existing Welsh site. No reason has been given by EDF for the Portishead proposal.
Historically the Portishead site was always used for the disposal of port and harbour navigation channel dredging and there is no evidence that it was ever used for the disposal of more controversial wastes. According to the MMO, the site has been disused for some years but, is still “open” for disposal permit applications.
In the context of the local tidal and residual current dynamics it is expected that radioactivity dumped at LU070 is likely to impact upon the local shoreline and the tidal reaches of local rivers including the Avon.
It has since emerged that, in the run up to their first dump at the Cardiff Grounds, EDF had rejected a proposal from the Environment Agency to use a proposed deep water offshore disposal site at the Holms Deep area near the centre of the Bristol Channel. No reason has been given for the rejection of the Environment Agency offer.
EDF claim that the Bridgewater Bay sediment is “not radioactive under law”, but campaigning groups point out that the UK Government’s official radioactivity monitoring reports annually confirm the presence of human-made radioactivity, derived largely from over 50 years of discharges to sea from the Hinkley Point reactors, including Plutonium, Caesium 137, Tritium, Technetium 99, Carbon 14 into the Bridgewater Bay sedimentary and marine environment. (1)
The “not radioactive under law” definition was adopted in 1979 following a lobbying exercise by the International Atomic Energy Agency and that as such, it is now both out of date and clearly not based on an independent scientific consensus. (2)
Campaigners opposed to further dumping in Wales have marshalled a large tranche of scientific evidence in opposition to the proposal for a second dump and, through their representations to Natural Resources Wales (NRW), persuaded EDF to conduct more rigorous radiological analysis of the sediments than was undertaken before the 2018 dredging exercise.
NRW and the Welsh Government have rejected calls from the campaigners to carry out radioactivity studies on the Welsh coast after the radioactively contaminated mud had been dumped. However, a review of Government reporting of radioactivity concentrations on the Somerset coast following marine environmental construction activity and the disturbance of seabed and intertidal sediments at Hinkley during the period before the 2018 dredge and dump revealed a steady and positive rise in shoreline radioactivity levels and a 215% increase in the dose to “representative” coastal persons coinciding with the disturbance of radioactively contaminated sediments. (3)
NFLA, Stop Hinkley and the Geiger Bay campaign call on the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales to conduct more detailed research and analysis on the material planned to be dumped. They remain opposed to the dumping of such mud into the Portishead site as well as the Cardiff Deep Grounds as it remains uncertain what impacts dumping such large amounts of mud, containing low levels of radioactive materials, has on the marine environment.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“NFLA was surprised to hear that EDF are now seeking to look at dumping mud from the Hinkley Point site off the Somerset coast in addition to continuing to look to dump off the south Wales coast. The determined campaign against dumping at the Cardiff Deep Grounds may well be a reason behind this. Dumping the materials at the Portishead site still raises the question over what are the environmental, health and safety issues with dumping large amounts of material containing low levels of radiation off the Welsh and Somerset coast. We call for a full independent review of this application and a publication of the Welsh Government’s independent panel report looking into these matters.”
Roy Pumfrey, Spokesperson for the Stop Hinkley campaign said:
“Concerned about the strong opposition to mud dumping from the Welsh side of the Severn estuary, EDF are thrashing around for somewhere else, irrespective of the level of radioactivity in the material. Portishead may be regarded by EDF as a softer touch than Cardiff, but it remains to be seen how local people in Portishead, once alerted to EDF’s intentions, will take to the idea of Hinkley’s sediments being dumped there.”
Richard Bramhall for the Geiger Bay campaign said:
“Real concerns remain over the failure, by the Westminster government’s laboratory CEFAS, to test the sediment with a technique capable of revealing whether inhalable fragments of uranium and plutonium are present. Research and official analyses show that such particles are blown ashore and are highly mobile in light winds. They have been found in the engine air filter of a car driven exclusively near Hinkley Point nuclear power station. The inhalation hazard remains unquantified in south Wales.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)7771 930196, Pete Roche, Stop Hinkley spokesperson and Tim Deere-Jones can be contacted via the NFLA Secretary.
Notes to Editors:
(1) Radioactivity in Food and the Environment 2019 annual report, RIFE 25. Table 3.5 (a). Page 125
(2) “IAEA-TECDOC-244: Consideration concerning ‘de minimis’ quantities of radioactive waste suitable for dumping at sea under a general permit report of an Advisory Group meeting organized by the IAEA, Vienna, 2 – 6 July 1979
(3) “Post 2018 HPC sediment radioactivity analysis review”: available from Tim Deere-Jones – firstname.lastname@example.org