The latest consultation on plans for the Sizewell C nuclear power station is underway, but new proposals do not include important measures to protect marine wildlife at the site.

Steps intended to mitigate the project’s impact on nearby habitats are among the plans, as well as changes in how materials are transported during construction.

A change to the permanent sea defence is also intended to make the site more resilient to climate change and rising sea levels.

However, despite the Environment Agency’s recent assertion that the Hinkley Point C station is unlikely to comply with Habitats Regulations without the inclusion of an acoustic fish deterrent (AFD), no such technology has been referenced in the Sizewell C consultation.

The planned station is considered a near replica of Hinkley Point C, with cooling water drawn from intakes situated 3km offshore. The Agency previously expressed concern over the removal of AFD technology from consultations, as it could play a vital role in mitigating effects on the environment.

Minimising risk to fragile fish

An AFD provides a warning signal to approaching fish, so they can detect and avoid intakes. It would work alongside a fish return and recovery (FRR) system to minimise the risk to fragile species that could otherwise be pulled into the cooling system and damaged by tunnels, water channels and screens.

Sprat and Atlantic herring account for nearly two-thirds of the annual catch in the Sizewell C area, according to reports by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). These fragile pelagic fish have scales that easily shed, and research has shown they very rarely survive passage through an FRR.

But they are hearing specialists and AFDs have been proven to prevent them from entering offshore intakes, with trials of an acoustic system installed at Belgium’s Doel nuclear power station showing 95% of herring were deflected, along with 88% of sprat.

Herring have become much more abundant in the Sizewell area over the last 30 years and given the potential for further significant changes in the fish population over the 60-year lifespan of the station, FGS believes a proactive approach is essential.

An AFD should be central to future-proofing Sizewell C, as it will not only protect millions of fish each year, but also prevent the operational disruption that can be caused by large shoals overwhelming the intakes.

Should you wish to respond to the consultation, you can do so by filling out this form or by contacting the applicant using the details below. All responses must be received by 18 December 2020.

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 0800 197 6102