In early June, The Environment Agency provided a response to the Hinkley Point C Development Consent Order Material Change consultation. 

The Environment Agency mission is to ensure that Hinkley Point C (HPC) operates to high environmental standards and states that it will continue to engage with EDF to achieve this. Their response is preliminary and will evolve as more detailed assessments are conducted.

EDF proposed to the Environment Agency to remove the Acoustic Fish Deterrent (AFD) at HPC, however the Environment Agency will not allow this process to proceed as there isn’t enough information on how the compensation package would work, if at all, and incomplete flood risk and environmental assessments. 

There is a wide range of experts, including the Welsh Government and the Secretary of State in reports in 2022, that state compensation is an inadequate response, and that the best practice and the most positive outcome is the installation of the AFD as currently agreed in the DCO.

The Environment Agency is not currently assessing the issue, and is asking EDF to provide more information. The Agency has outlined several concerns that need addressing before EDF’s application to modify the Development Consent Order (DCO) 

Environment Agency’s Role on Nuclear Sites

The Environment Agency regulates nuclear sites in England, ensuring operators meet environmental standards and issues permits under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. The agency provides advice to planning authorities and other bodies regarding environmental impacts, including flood risks and discharges. As a statutory consultee, the Agency advises on environmental impacts of developments, such as flood risks, discharges, water use, and waste management.

A brief history of the Acoustic Fish Deterrent at Hinkley Point C

Hinkley Point C’s original permits, granted in 2013, included an AFD to protect fish. In 2019, EDF applied to remove this requirement, but a governmental public inquiry found this would adversely affect protected species in the Severn Estuary and related habitats. The Secretary of State for Defra dismissed EDF’s appeal in 2022, affirming the AFD’s necessity.

The Environment Agency’s response, and the limited powers, underscores the need for the installation of an AFD at Hinkley Point C to protect fish stocks. While the Environment Agency requires extensive justification and detailed assessments before allowing EDF’s appeal to proceed, inevitably it will end up at another, unprecedented public inquiry. The ongoing dialogue aims to ensure environmental standards are upheld, ensuring EDF are held to their environmental obligations