Hinkley C. A project literally stuck in the mud! — An Update

Back in 2016 I wrote an article on the Hinkley C Nuclear Power station, I decided to write an update on that article as although that and many other articles were submitted to, debated and published by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee it seems that concerns fell upon deaf ears as the project is destined to continue on a colossal scale that has been deemed to be one of the most expensive object on Earth but also a project that, so far, has not proven itself even remotely efficient, even by its builders EDF!

Image courtesy Somerset Live

Bewilderingly however, EDF (ElectricitedeFrance) expect to convince those concerned with the impact of this operation that everything is safe. The simplest research into safety concerns over such the EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) project proves contrary to what EDF are saying. In 2014 EDF were forced to down two Nuclear plants due to unexpected cracking More recently in April 2018 disturbing reports of substandard Welding issues at their Flamanville plant. Only in May 2018 cracks were reported in Hunterston B in Scotland, along with numerous other plants in similar distressing conditions leaves one to wonder why, with such an appalling track record and disregard for safety, should anyone with a modicum of common sense believe them?

However, EDF have repeatedly assured us that the reports calling the 2013 CEFAS report unacceptable are completely “inaccurate”. However, EDF are being somewhat economical with the facts here.

Firstly, retired Law Lecturer, Tim Richards posted on Facebook on his research into marine dumping laws, this is what he found:

“THE NRW AND THE WELSH GOVERNMENT ARE BREAKING THEIR OWN LAWS

The dumping of radioactive mud would break the law because the project has had no Environmental Impact Assessment carried out to ensure that the radioactive mud has been properly assessed as to the risk to the environment and people’s health! Without such an assessment it would also fall foul of Section 4 of the Environment Wales Act 2016 which requires full consideration of all relevant evidence and gather evidence on uncertainties, the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other and the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.

But the Welsh Government who is supposed to have protected us from harm by legislating that no decision should be taken by the NRW until they have carried out an independent EIA instead of just accepting what EdF (ElectricitedeFrance), the builders of Hinkley C, told them. The Welsh Government cannot let them off the hook by going ahead with the dumping in the Marine License when no EIA has been carried out. If the Welsh Government Minister responsible, Lesley Griffiths, does not call in the Marine Licence and halt the radioactive mud for it to be tested properly then she will have broken the law because she is ultimately responsible for the unlawful dumping.

According to the law an EIA should happen because “If the proposed development is likely to have a significant effect on the environment then it should have EIA.” This is the law passed by a Welsh Labour Government which has passed such well-meaning but useless legislation as the “Wellbeing for Future Generations”

In such cases, the applicant for permission must provide the required information so the environmental effects of the development can be assessed. This information, in the form of an Environmental Statement, will then be considered in the determination of a marine license application.
The NRW says that there was an EIA because they used the EIA done by EdF who are building Hinkley C. But CEFAS who are overseeing the process says it doesn’t. So, if the NRW give the go ahead to the radioactive dumping it will break the law. The EIA Regulations state that, where an application needs to have EIA, planning permission shall not be granted unless the person determining the application has first considered the environmental information.

The fundamental problem about the NRW’s decision to go ahead with the dumping is that the scientific argument about the inadequacy of the data is that is only what EdF have told them and it is also a bad decision because the NRW does not have any independent expertise about radiation to be able to make an unbiased and scientific sensible decision based on full data as result of a thorough and independent investigation resulting in a reasoned independent judgement

Tim Richards, LLB, PGCE”

If this is the case it would appear that the Welsh Government has failed to undertake the required checks to approve such a proposal as dredging according to The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2017 which would require an Environment Impact Assessment.

So, for those not in the know, here’s a brief description of why people are concerned.

OSPAR (Oslo/Paris convention (for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) provide an explanation as to why Dredging is undertaken and the environmental impact it can have. Dredging has long been undertaken in established sites and can have certain benefits such as beach nourishment however, further explain the potential environmental risks from heavy metals and TBT (Tributyltin) which is a highly toxic marine paint used on the bottom of ocean going vessels. Dredging has long been undertaken in the Severn Estuary, primarily for construction purposes so this is nothing new, however something which has always been of concern to environmentalists for protection of wildlife, fish and biodiversity.

The current situation with the proposed dredging for the Hinkley C site is somewhat different. Unlike other dredging operations who primarily move sand and gravel EDF are proposing to shift over 300,000 tons of mud to build cooling towers and although EDF have repeatedly dismissed claims that there may be radioactive material in the mud as “inaccurate” we must remember that they’ve not exactly the greatest track record in safety with the Sizewell B plant and 27 other EDF plants reported ‘at risk of catastrophic failure’ in only 2016! As I mentioned above, in May 2018 it was reported that EDF had further problems with sites in Scotland, however, we’re supposed to take their word for it that everything’s ok? I wouldn’t blame people for being concerned!

In 2013 CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) undertook an assessment on behalf of EDF, using the “conservative generic radiological assessment procedure” developed by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), which would all be very well and good, however, their assessment relates only to scenarios for dredging and disposal between November 2013 to October 2015. With three years after this final date, and five years after the assessment was undertaken it’s hardly a surprise that so many people have concerns as the data would be insufficient to qualify as up to date data.

The CEFAS assessment furthermore makes no mention to any affect to food and wildlife. As we know the Bristol Channel is home to many species of fish and wildlife with many areas protected areas and natural nature reserves. As there is no mention of any affect, or even testing relating to such areas then it’s safe to assume that no testing has been undertaken to safeguard wildlife, fish, food or biodiversity. Furthermore, with no RIFE (Radioactivity in Food and the Environment) reports relating to any proposed Hinkley C site we can further assume that this has not been taken into consideration by EDF, Natural Resources Wales nor the Welsh Government. For the Welsh Government to approve such a proposal without even the slightest safeguards is not only reckless it undermines the safety of the people they’re paid to represent!

The Welsh Labour 2016 Manifesto makes very clear that “For the environment we will take a lead in developing more renewable energy projects — supporting technologies like tidal lagoons — and better planning. Our robust and unequivocal opposition to fracking will continue.” This raises the question as to why Welsh Labour are ignoring their own election manifesto? The Swansea Tidal lagoon is all but dead in the water and Welsh Labour are determined to ignore any call for further testing into the Hinkley mud. Add to this the possibility of further licences being for open shale& Fracking mining in Wales we have a party that is not only betraying its own manifesto but also the people of Wales.

A full assessment according to legal and environmental requirements must be undertaken and supported by the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM. This must be undertaken in order to ensure that there is no risk to life, at this time the Welsh Labour Government are failing in their duties to safeguard the people and wildlife in Wales and ignoring their own promises made during the 2016 elections. If we can’t trust them on this matter then how are we expected to trust them in other matters?