As the Environment Agency’s Consultation on EDF’s latest attempt to remove the AFD mandated by best practice and expert option closes, they have have faced strong criticism for allowing EDF to continue their campaign to remove environmental protections at Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power plant being built by French energy company EDF in Somerset. 

The agency recently launched a five-week consultation on the proposed change to the Water Discharge Activity permit. Campaigners remain concerned about the impact that the power plant will have on fish species and the wider environment, especially given the protected status of the estuary. 

At an outreach meeting hosted by the Environment Agency it was made clear that another public inquiry may be needed.

The proposal EDF has submitted would have a devastating impact on common and rarer fish species in the region. Species that could be affected include river lamprey, twaite shad, sprat, herring, salmon, cod, anchovy, John dory, crucian carp, silver bream, and sea lamprey. These fish species migrate from the Bristol Channel to nine main rivers in the area, including the Ely, Taff, Rhymney, Ebbw, Usk, Wye, Severn, Avon, and Parrett.

The elver migration from the Atlantic is expected to be particularly hard hit. Eels are likely to be sucked into the Hinkley intakes, with only a few making it to the Somerset Levels and other rivers, which would be their homes for the next 20 years before their return journey past the intake heads to travel back to their Sargasso Sea breeding grounds.

EDF had requested three years ago to not have to install the AFD,  a system which would protect fish by stopping them from being drawn into the cooling system of the power plant. This request was rejected by the Environment Agency and following a public inquiry was also rejected by DEFRAs Secretary of State. However, EDF continue to attempt to remove the AFD from their plans and have been accused by Stop Hinkley Spokeswoman of “trying to “wriggle out of” their responsibility and of wasting the time, money, and effort spent by groups like the Environment Agency, the Severn Estuary interest groups, and DEFRA to protect the breeding grounds of British fish.”

The estuary is not only a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), but it has also been given an internationally important Ramsar site designation. Therefore, the protection of its fish species is of utmost importance.