New plans for Hinkley Point C sediment disposal

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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has started discussions with EDF Energy about a new marine licence application to dispose of dredged material from the Bristol Channel into a disposal site off the coast of Cardiff, South Wales.

EDF has submitted its plan to NRW for the sampling and testing of the sediment from the construction site of the Hinkley Point C power station off the Somerset coast in England.

NRW’s role is to determine whether the sediment, up to 600,000 m3, is suitable for disposal at sea, but will first assess the suitability of the sample plan to inform any future licence application for its disposal in Wales.

EDF previously dredged and disposed of sediment in 2018 and now plans further work at the site in early 2021.

Marine licences will be required for the collection of samples and dredging the sediment in English waters from the Marine Management Organisation, and another one for disposing of the sediment in Welsh waters from NRW.

As NRW begins an assessment of the company’s sample plan, it has launched a six-week consultation until 18 March 2020 with specialists including the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), ABPmer, the Environment Agency and NRW’s own advisors.

NRW is also inviting public views on whether the sampling plan complies with international guidance, which ensures the disposal of dredged material at sea is safe.

Michael Evans, Head of Evidence, Knowledge and Advice for NRW, said:

“The Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary is home to valuable wildlife and habitats and is important to our well-being and economy. It’s our job to make sure activities in the estuary don’t harm this important marine environment.
“This is an opportunity for people to raise concerns or provide us with important, relevant information on the company’s sampling plan.
“We will consider all responses to the consultation to help us decide whether the number, location and depth of samples taken, what is measured and how they will test the sediment, complies with international guidance.
“People should check our website to find out more about the consultation and the questions we would like them to consider.”

NRW will also receive a request from EDF to consider whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be required as part of the application process.

Once received, this decision will be made over the next few months and will be published on NRW’s website, along with evidence to show whether an EIA is needed or not.

EDF has submitted a separate marine licence application to England’s Marine Management Organisation for the collection of the samples. This is a separate process and independent of NRW’s assessments.

Michael continued:

“This is the first stage of a long application process. The disposal activity in 2018 caused great public concern, so we intend to inform and engage with people about these plans over the next few months.
“Once we receive the full marine licence application and results of the sediment testing, we will thoroughly assess the information. We will also provide further opportunities for people to view and scrutinise the plans, ask questions and provide feedback before we make a final decision.
“We will only grant the licence if the company can demonstrate it complies with legal requirements and we’re confident the proposed activity will not harm people or the environment.”

All consultation responses need to be received in writing by 18 March 2020 to or: Marine Licensing Team, Natural Resources Wales, Permitting Service (Cardiff), Cambria House, 29 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0TP

Further information on the consultation and electronic copies of documents are available on NRW’s website and online public register