Mud dredging off Portishead coastline gets the green light

Bristol Channel.

Bristol Channel. - Credit: Pixabay

A nuclear power station’s application to deposit hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment as part of works taking place in the Bristol Channel has been given the go-ahead.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO), a government agency which serves to protect and enhance UK marine environment and sustainable marine activities, has allowed a variation to a marine licence to Hinkley Point C. This permits the power station to carry out dredging and disposal of mud at the existing Portishead disposal site in the Bristol Channel.

One of the dredging vessels used in 2018.

One of the dredging vessels used in 2018. - Credit: EDF Energy

EDF Energy Hinkley Point C Power Station has resumed its second phase of mud dredging this month - dredging first began at the Cardiff Grounds licensed disposal site in September 2018 - and is depositing the mud as part of works to install cooling water intakes under the channel. 

The amount of dredged material which can be deposited is to a maximum of 341,784m3. Maintenance dredge to a maximum of 185,000m3. 

North Somerset Council and Portishead Town Council have since expressed their disappointment at the recent decision. Both authorities, as well as the Devon & Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, have recently legally challenged the variation to the licence and expressed concerns about depositing materials at the Portishead off-shore site.

One of the dredging vessels used in 2018.

One of the dredging vessels used in 2018. - Credit: EDF Energy

However, in the MMO’s decision report, the Government agency said it is ‘content that positive social, economic, or environmental benefits derived from the project sufficiently outweigh any residual adverse impacts derived by the project.’ 

Cllr Bridget Petty, North Somerset Council's executive member for climate emergency and engagement said: "This decision is very disappointing. The views of local councils, interested groups and conservation agencies have been ignored. 

North Somerset councillor Bridget Petty. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

North Somerset councillor Bridget Petty. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

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“Our concerns were not only for the immediate Portishead area but for the whole Severn Estuary. We need to understand what ongoing monitoring of the coastline will be taking place." 

Vice-chairman of Portishead Town Council, Cllr Paul Gardner, added that it 'does not seem the necessary level of rigour' has been applied by the MMO. 

Vice-chairman of Portishead Town Council, Paul Gardner.

Vice-chairman of Portishead Town Council, Paul Gardner. - Credit: Lily Newton-Browne

He said: “Their judgement is subjective and we would have hoped that more scientific data could have been gathered to provide a more definitive objective judgement." 

EDF said the mud has to be disposed of within the Severn Area of Conservation (SAC) in order to 'maintain the balance of sediment and mud in the area'. Two sites were up for consideration, and Hinkley Point C made applications to both Natural Resources Wales for the use of the Cardiff Grounds licensed disposal site and to the Marine Management Organisation for the use of the Portishead licensed disposal site.

Hinkley Point C started mud dredging at the Portishead site on August 7, and the remaining dredging will be completed in 2022. 

A view of nuclear island, where the first reactor will be based, at Hinkley Point C two years into t

A view of nuclear island, where the first reactor will be based, at Hinkley Point C two years into the build Picture: EDF ENERGY - Credit: Archant

Chris Fayers, head of environment at Hinkley Point C, said: "For this next phase of dredging, the Government’s marine science experts at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Sciences (CEFAS) tested the mud beyond internationally-recognised best practice, with more samples at greater depth and with a greater range of analysis.  

“The results confirm the previous analysis that the mud is perfectly safe and poses no risk to the public or the environment.  

“An independent report commissioned by the Welsh Government also found that the mud would be deemed suitable for disposal at sea." 

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