Blackwater Estuary Nuclear Fuel Discharge

UPDATE October 2015

It has been discovered via the group’s Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests that there was an INES (International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale) Level 1 event in September 2014. The group subsequently asked for a copy of the report which, to date, has not been provided by the ONR (Office of Nuclear Regulation) within the legal time limits and the group has now sought internal review of this decision making process.

To see more, please visit: Stop Nuclear Dumping In Blackwater Estuary Facebook Page

In May 2014, ELF assisted a client with the assistance of the ever-brilliant Andrew Parkinson at Landmark Chambers. With Andrew’s drafting, ELF wrote to the Environment Agency (EA) to seek their intervention to prevent permitted fuel element debris (FED) nuclear waste discharges into the Blackwater Estuary in Essex. With Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) Ramsar* and now a newly designated Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) within the Estuary, plus much marine leisure activity, there are very real concerns over the environmental impacts which the EA has deemed safe. With new information that has come to light through a series of Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests, and with advice from marine consultant Terri Portman, ELF is once again seeking to assist the client to prevent more imminent discharges. Whilst the EA has answered a series of questions under the EIRs, questions remain unanswered over whether the Habitats Regulations and its required assessments, need to be carried out again. As with the Whitsand Bay case, we are seeking to unravel the processes and make sure that, according to the Habitats Regulations, the appropriate assessments have been conducted.

Discharging fuel element debris into the estuary involves first dissolving the ends of fuel rods used in nuclear power station reactors in acid to bring them within levels of radioactivity deemed safe, then discharging the FED waste with each high tide.

*There is, incidentally, an excellent guide to the various site designations which (theoretically, at least) protect the UK’s natural heritage through statute – Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Photo courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts