Cardiff’s ‘nuclear’ mud threatens to become a toxic Tryweryn of our own making

Hinkley Point A nuclear power plant

Ifan Morgan Jones

‘Contributionism’ has long been the dominant mode of thinking within Wales’ unionist parties.

This term, coined by Ned Thomas in the 80s, is best summed up as the belief that Wales’ glory is best sought via its contribution to the rest of the UK.

If that means serving as a foolish but loyal Baldrick to the UK Government’s dismissive Blackadder, that’s fine.

As long as Wales can bask in the reflected glory of Britain’s (admittedly rapidly diminishing) global prowess, all is well.

I had a glimmer of hope that this mindset may finally be changing in the wake of Brexit.

However, the revelation that the Welsh Government gave the go-ahead for 300,000 tonnes of mud from a disused nuclear plant to be dumped near Cardiff quickly brought me to my senses.

The scheme unearthed by newly independent AM, Neil McEvoy is absolutely jaw-dropping.

In 2013 the Welsh Government granted permission for the developers of Hinkley Point C to dispose of sediment from the construction work outside Cardiff Bay.

EDF Energy has given assurances that the work is not harmful. But now a marine pollution consultant, Tim Deere-Jones, has weighed in to warn that the sampling to check the mud for harmful contaminants was inadequate.

Waste from the nuclear plant could have been seeping into the mud for 50 years, he said.

“Rather than being relatively stable at the Hinkley site it is being churned up and brought over here to be dumped,” he told the BBC.

“As a result, Welsh coastal populations could be exposed to doses of marine radioactivity.”

Politically toxic

The whole episode is utterly mind-boggling. Potentially radioactive mud is not something to be dumped on the doorstep of your capital city, whether the work is “in line with legal requirements” or not.

What on earth were the Welsh Government thinking?

Unfortunately, this latest revelation seems to be part of a disturbing pattern.

It follows a number of super-prisons being built in Wales, accusations of social cleansing, and the First Minister’s invitation for Trident to relocated to Pembrokeshire.

Wales seems to be becoming a dumping ground for problems too unsavoury for the rest of the UK, and our politicians seem to be perfectly happy with that.

But to reach out a bowl over the Severn Estuary and ask ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more potentially toxic sludge?” is taking Ned Thomas’ contributionism to a whole new level.

If it’s discovered that the mud is in any way radioactive, it will be a toxic Tryweryn that the Welsh Government will find it hard to live down.

It will be worse than Tryweryn in many ways because this isn’t an indignity being forced on us. This is our government – we’re doing it to ourselves.


Another question is why it is being left to an independent AM, Neil McEvoy, to dredge up the Welsh Government’s dirty (and potentially toxic) laundry?

If this is what he can discover when left to his own devices, however, perhaps Plaid Cymru should suspend him more often.

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  1. Just what are our politicians doing? It’s extremely worrying that the Welsh Labour government feels that it can make these kinds of decisions with impunity, but I think there are bigger questions to be asked of the so called Party of Wales in that they have remained silent. One almost expects the worst from Welsh Labour in that it has always been a willing side-kick to it’s English sibling, but the utter screaming silence over this, and many other issues from the Party of Wales is disgraceful.

    • Your question is rhetorical I presume. Amply evident for donkeys that Cynulliad, with a small number of notable exceptions, has become a haven for political careerists with a huge aversion to taking a close look at potentially difficult issues before finalising an approval or otherwise. Listening to that drippy Minister mouthing platitudes about the decision having gone through the appropriate procedure, or words to that effect, makes my blood boil. That is tantamount to an acknowledgement that it was a matter shuffled through with minimal formal proceedings in the Chamber. Plaid should have seen that at least as a chance to wring her neck metaphorically and summon Jones back from his jolly at Brighton to answer why he appoints ministers who can’t bring themselves to share major issues with the Chamber. Sadly there is more toxic slime in our Cynulliad than in those sand banks adjacent to Hinkley Point.

  2. Karl - Wrecsam

    Well done Carwyn Jones and Labour, your English Keepers are proud of you.

  3. What worries me the most about this sordid affair,is ,not that it was doe( we can expect nothing better from labour) but the acquiescence of Plaid. I’ve often wondered if they just do the minimum to appear to be in opposition but secretly supporting labour in all they do.Perhaps Neil was being too pro-active for the leadership of Plaid-coming too close too exposing this comfy arrangement? I exclude our parliamentary team from this-they do,and always have done,an excellent job

  4. Seems ironic that in another article – “Independent’ McEvoy goes after the First Minister” – there was comment of, Mr McEvoy, being toxic himself: where in fact he’s actually seems to be disclosing the toxicity. Going by this and other comments in, Nation Cymru, his remarks make for serious thought and investigation.

  5. I think you’re attributing too much power to the ‘Welsh’ Government. This decision would have been taken in London and presented to Carwyn and his gang as a fait accompli. Even so, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government could still have put Wales’ interests first and made a fight of it.

    Another possibility, seeing how civil servants run the show anyway, is that any dialogue in 2013 was between London ministers and their civil servants in Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government could have been unaware until a couple of days ago what had been agreed in its name.

  6. Here’s an another question………….is Wales being compensated financially for this dumping….like a normal country would be?

    As much as I don’t want radioactive waste dumped here, most countries get paid to take on waste….yet “Cymru” takes it for free

  7. Tame Frontiersman

    The media reports puzzle me

    Steffan Messenger, BBC Wales Environment Correspondent reports on BBC Wales news online 25.9.17.that “Welsh ministers granted permission in 2013 for developers to dispose of the sediment at a site know as Cardiff Grounds, previously used to deposit waste from Cardiff and Newport docks………. The dredging is part of the work to construct waste discharge pipes and cooling water intakes for the new [nuclear] power station [at Hincley Point]. A marine licence allowing the company [EDF?] to dispose of the dredged mud in Welsh waters was granted during a period when responsibility for environmental regulation was being transferred from the former Environment Agency Wales [EAW] to its successor body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW)”.

    Applications for environmental licences and permits were/are dealt with by EAW, now NRW (and in some classes of activity, local authorities). So what is, or should be, the involvement of Welsh Ministers? When are technical issues, that could or should become political or public interest, escalated up to Ministers? Spending by NRW is monitored by WAO and the Assembly Finance Committee, but to what extent are the technical decisions of NRW reviewed by an Assembly committees (Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs? ) ?

    • When they involve radiation? That would be a no brainer for me

      • The agreement is to dump the waste on Cardiff Grounds which is listed as a “hazard to shipping” approaching Barry Docks and is described thus
        “Cardiff Grounds, a bank, dries and is constantly changing. It lies nearly parallel to the coast and extends NNE for about 3.5 miles from a position located 1.2 miles E of Lavernock Point. This bank is hook-shaped and its N end curves S to within 1 mile of Monkstone. Lighted buoys are moored off the NE and SW ends of the bank and off the middle of the NW side.” Read more here
        I don’t think that the “constantly changing” phrase suggests that it is a very safe place to leave anything that may be hazardous in the long term.

  8. Am I the only one aware that the mud and sea of the Severn has had radiation levels since the 80s at least. In the 90s, Cardiff’s low birthrate was blamed on the high level of radiation in the area as far back as the 90s. I am at a complete loss to understand how, when on a sunny day day you can clearly see Nuclear Plants 2 miles away , that the sea is not already contaminated ~ what does radiation stop half way accross? Is there some line in the mud that stops the radiated mud moving forward? No worries that it is coming from Sellafield, it’s already coming from Somerset and Chernobyl for 30 years minimum. Any one who has fished the Severn in the last 30 years will have caught a malformed fish from the waters …. and few fishermen allow thier children to paddle in the seas between Swansea and Newport. I am not saying it’s right, I am saying lets put some perspective on this and get rid of it all including the radiation plant in Splott and, in this acknowledge the leukeamia clusters along the Severn and all the protest marches that have gone before

  9. This blog has lost all connection to reality. What total nonsense from someone who clearly has no understand of the issue.

  10. I grew up within site of Hinkley A and watched it being built from my bedroom window. My younger brother went to school with the son of one of the commissioning engineers. Sometimes we shared lifts home from school, and I remember on several occasions being told that a three week test had been stopped because a party of visiting schoolchildren had tripped the radiation alarms with their “luminous watches”. I doubt that the 300,000 tonnes of mud will be very radioactive, but I am alarmed by the idea of dropping so much mud so close to the shipping channels. Rather than drop it in the Bristol Channel where it may cause problems both locally or in the Swansea Barrage etc, wouldn’t it make more sense to take it out to Fastnet, and drop it in deep water where it wont do nay harm?

  11. Da iawn chi Neil McEvoy am dynnu sylw i’r ‘Baw’ yn y bae. Good job someone is there to draw attention to the evils of the Marxist Leninists.

  12. Mae angen ychwanegu dau beth i restr Ifan o brosiectau niweidiol i Gymru sef yr eliffant mawr ar garreg ein drws ym Môn, sef Wylfa B a’r siarad angyhfrifol am dreialu adweithydd niwclear modiwlar yn Nhrawsfynydd..

  13. Sianiflewog…….having a dig at Marxist leninists…when the people with the power in Westminster are Conservative….at least be more subtle about the misdirected fire.
    Many marxists Ive met belief in self rule for Welsh communities away from UK imperialism

  14. Whilst in no way trying to apologise for another insensitive and probably dangerous pile of shit coming with extreme accuracy and prejudice upon us. Two points that will get missed.

    1: 300,000 tonnes is not that big in comparison say to the amount of sand needed to build a motorway road bridge (about a million). It’s a lot of lorries but less than needed to construct Coryton Roundabout by a factor of 30 at least.

    2: This is the second highest and therefore strongest tidal estuary in the world. It will be gone in24 hours, spread along the Severn on both sides of the coast. That will also spread any radiation, heavy metals and other good things around our estuary.

    So it looks like it’s being placed on some rocks in order for the tides to disperse it. Trouble is, it won’t go far. An incoming tide will take it back up to Hinckley Point, or maybe even Westbury on Severn and on it’s way out it might make it as far as Rhosili or Ilfracombe. The water is already saturated with river mud as it is so it won’t get picked up by the following tide and taken out into the Irish Sea and the Atlantic it will just stroll up and down the Severn like indecisive fallout dropping its goodness indiscriminately.

    Either way it’s not good

  15. Tellyesin, my point exactly. I have been watching the silt washing down the channel for over 60 years while living, or visiting family on both sides. My brother is lifeboat crew on the channel so I have even more reason to observe and to care about what goes into it. Having loaded the mud onto a barge to get it to Cardiff,it would cost very little more to take it out to sea, which seems the most sensible place for it, if it is in the way on land. But if it is as non-radioactive as I suspect it is, why not sell it off as top soil, or as a landscaping material. But then, maybe I am wrong, in which case it should be transported back to the mine that the Uranium came from in the first place. and go nowhere near Cardiff, or any other part of the coast.

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