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Written Statement - Marine licence for the disposal of dredged material, arising from construction of Hinkley Point C

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

A marine licence was issued by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to dispose of dredged material to the Cardiff Grounds disposal site in 2014, which is one of 17 disposal sites across Wales.   To clarify, it is important to note, the licence is not for the disposal of nuclear waste.  The material licenced for disposal is sediment dredged from the Severn Estuary.  To date, no disposal activity has taken place.  Any dredged material to be disposed of will be sampled, tested and the licence holder is subject to further written approval by NRW before any disposal activity can take place under the licence.  I can reassure members  a sound assessment process is in place to protect the marine environment and human health for present and future generations.

Background

Welsh Ministers are the licensing authority under Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA).  Between 2007 and 2013, marine licence applications (and those under pre – MCAA regimes) were handled by the Welsh Government’s Marine Consents Unit (MCU).  In 2013, with the establishment of NRW, the Welsh Ministers delegated the majority of these functions to NRW, who administer the system on their behalf.

Hinkley Point C project

On 19 March 2013, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Davey) issued a Development Consent Order for the Hinkley Point C project.  An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out for the project.  

Marine licence and conditions for sampling of material

Applications for the disposal of dredged material were received by the MCU and were processed in line with the requirements under the MCAA and the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 (as amended) (MWR). Two separate applications were received (due to the dredged material arising from two sites – the temporary jetty area and other offshore works) but one licence was issued. Records show the applications for the disposal of material in Welsh waters took into account the overall EIA for the Hinkley Point C project.

The marine licensing determination process provides for a thorough and robust assessment of projects against the following key criteria:

• Protection of the marine environment

• Protection of human health

• Prevention of interference with other legitimate uses of the sea.

Given the location of the source site, at Hinkley Point C, a radiological assessment was undertaken by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) as part of the determination process for the marine licence, and following consultation with experts (including the lead nuclear regulator at the Environment Agency), no concerns were raised regarding the level of radiological contamination.

The applications were transferred to NRW as part of the transfer of the marine licensing functions and they completed the determination.  NRW issued the marine licence (ref. 12/45/ML) on 11 July 2014 which licenced the disposal of arisings from capital dredging to the Cardiff Grounds disposal site.  

Sampling requirements

As with all marine licences granted for the disposal of dredged material, there is a requirement for material to be sampled and robustly tested to establish suitability for disposal at sea and at a specific disposal site – in this case Cardiff Grounds.

To date, under this licence, no disposal activity has taken place and in line with the conditions on the licence, due to the time elapsed since the licence was issued, any material to be disposed of must be re-sampled and re-tested before any disposal can go ahead.  It is normal practice for any material which is disposed of at sea to be tested every three years in line with requirements of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972.

Conditions 9.3 – 9.5 in licence 12/45/ML set out requirements for sampling to be carried out by the licence holder, in line with a sampling plan agreed with NRW.  The current situation is the licence holder has agreed a sampling plan with NRW. Once sampling is carried out by the licence holder, it will be tested for suitability to be disposed of at sea, this process will include a further radiological assessment.  Condition 9.5 of the licence states no disposal activity can take place without written approval from NRW.