Acoustic fish deterrents (AFDs) are often discussed in the context of operational efficiency. If power plants such as Hinkley Point C and other large industrial facilities do not take steps to deter fish, intakes can become blocked with large fish inundations and cause disruption.

But this is not the only concern. The damage done to these fish can have a major impact on the ecosystem, particularly for critically endangered species. Even in sustainable populations, there are major ethical concerns with allowing large numbers of fish to be harmed and die when an alternative is available.

An AFD can save billions of fish over the course of Hinkley Point C’s 60-year lifespan and before the decision by the Secretary of State had been recommended to remain by the Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group to the Welsh Government.

What are the environmental implications of AFD at Hinkley Point C?

Without a sound-based behavioural system in place to provide an effective deterrent, a fish recovery and return (FRR) system would be the main means of protection.

The FRR system would only protect robust demersal fish, leaving fragile species and those in early life stages vulnerable. Environmental groups believe up to half a million fish could be sucked into the intake at Hinkley Point C each day, many of which would not survive being returned to the Estuary.

Arguments against this level of damage were based in part on incomplete data. The twaite shad, for example, is currently present in low numbers. But analysis of historical data reveals a much greater presence in warmer years such as in the early 1990s.

As climate change contributes to warmer waters and ongoing habitat restoration measures bear fruit, biologists expect shad levels to rise. And this is just one example.

Over the lifetime of the Hinkley Point C Station, fish communities in the Estuary may change dramatically and impact assessments based on recent data cannot be assumed to adequately characterise the risks.

The requirement under the DCO to install AFD technology is in part an insurance policy to future-proof environmental protection at the site and we are glad the Government has upheld this opinion. Visit Fish Guidance Systems for more information about AFDs.

Preserving the Development Consent Order

The Hinkley Point C fish protection strategy is based in part on scientific reports and advice prepared by Dr Andrew Turnpenny, an internationally recognised specialist in the field who has been involved in the Hinkley Point C project since its very beginning.

The fish protection strategy recognises the particular risks associated with direct seawater cooling, through which large volumes of water will be drawn from the Estuary and passed through plant cooling condensers. Direct seawater cooling is considered the Best Available Technology (BAT) across Europe, a view challenged by environmentalists but confirmed in an Environment Agency report. That report recommended that the continued BAT status of direct cooling can only be defended if advantage is taken of new environmental protection measures such as acoustic fish deterrents (AFD) and fish recovery and return (FRR) technology.

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