News in brief: Councils join fight against Hinkley C mud dump
Two councils in Somerset are calling for a public inquiry to be held into plans by EDF Energy to dump sediment from the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station into the Bristol Channel.
EDF has applied for licenses to dump the mud in the Cardiff Grounds, two miles off the Welsh coast and a private disposal site off Portishead in Somerset.
In 2018 EDF were granted permission to dump waste at the Cardiff inshore disposal site despite fierce opposition and a debate in the Senedd.
In February 2020, EDF applied to National Resources Wales again for a licence to dump a further 800,0000 tonnes of mud dredged as part of building work for the new plant being built on the site of the disused Hinkley Point A facility.
A petition against the latest proposals received over 10,000 signatures and triggered a debate in the Senedd last October.
In January EDF announced its intention to apply to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for a license to dump at Portishead, while also making a further application to dump at the Cardiff site. No reason has been given by EDF for the Portishead proposal, but the company had previously insisted the grounds off Cardiff Bay was the only suitable site available in the Bristol Channel.
North Somerset Council and Portishead Town Council have now joined forces in opposing the plans and asked for the application for a dumping license to be referred to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs and called for a public inquiry to be set up.
“It’s really important that this opportunity is given to all concerned parties to learn more about the risks this poses to our coast and our residents,” North Somerset Council executive member for climate emergency and environment Bridget Petty told the Bristol Post:
“So far we’ve only had information from EDF and our residents deserve to hear from the full range of experts especially as this is such a specialised subject area.”
“We do not support this proposal,” she added.
“The disposal site is close to Portbury Wharf Salt Marsh, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Severn Estuary Special Protection Area), with the potential for adverse impacts on ecology there.
“An inquiry will enable a full and independent evaluation of the issues – this dumping could undermine attempts to attract inward investment and has the potential to harm the town’s economic prospects and there is only limited information submitted around radioactivity and contamination issues.”
Campaigners against the mud being dumped in Welsh waters also oppose the use of the Portishead site.
Super Furry Animals musician and campaigner Cian Ciaran said: “If indeed they do intend to switch sites nothing in our messaging or opposition changes and obviously, anything we can share with those on the English side of the channel in information and resources then we will.”
“We don’t see that the radiological aspect would be much altered and from the marine pollution science point of view, anywhere in the Bristol Channel is bad news.
“Due to residual water body movements anything that’s in the water column on the English side is eventually going to contribute to the water column on the Welsh side.”
EDF claim the sediment is “not radioactive under law”, but campaigning groups on both sides of the channel point out that the UK Government’s official radioactivity monitoring reports annually confirm the presence of human-made radioactivity, derived largely from over 50 years of discharges to sea from the Hinkley Point reactors, including Plutonium, Caesium 137, Tritium, Technetium 99 and Carbon 14.
New figures confirm a small increase in Covid infections in Wales
Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a small increase in the number of people in Wales with Covid-19.
Over the week ending 16 April the ONS estimates that 3,600 people had Covid, equating to around 1 in 840 people.
Over the previous week 3,300 people had the virus, the equivalent of around 1 in 920 people.
Infection rates in Wales remain the lowest in the UK despite a fall in the number of people infected in the other three nations.
Scotland has the highest rate, with 1 in 560 people estimated to have the virus, followed by England with 1 in 610 people and 1 in 660 in Northern Ireland.
The ONS warns “because of lower positivity rates caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small movements in the latest trends.”
Meanwhile, today’s report from Public Health Wales confirms 58 new cases and no further deaths.
Four local authorities recorded no new cases, with Swansea (8) posting the highest number of positive tests since yesterday’s report, followed by Wrexham (7) and Gwynedd with five.
Gwynedd has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 28.1 and the highest positive test proportion at 3.4% per 100,000 tests.
Blaenau Gwent has recorded just one new case in the last seven days and has the lowest infection rate at 1.4.
The National case rate has gone up from 14.6 to 14.7 since yesterday’s report and the test rate is up .1 to 1.7%.
Travel from India banned as Covid cases spike
Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed that India has been added to the red list of countries from which direct travel into Wales is banned.
India has seen a massive spike in Covid cases recently, recording over 150,000 a day over the last three weeks.
Under the new restrictions direct flights into Wales are banned and travellers must enter through a designated port in England or Scotland and remain in managed quarantine for 10 days before travelling onto Wales.
Earlier this week, health officials confirmed eight people in Wales have tested positive for the Indian variant of coronavirus.
The new mutation was first identified in India last month and has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) by researchers.
The Indian government describes the variant as a “double mutant”, suggesting that it had formed as a hybrid of two other strains.
Researchers fear the new variant may be more infectious and harder for the immune system to target.
The first cases in the UK were detected last week after 77 people tested positive, 74 in England and three in Scotland.
Other amendments introduced from today are:
Couriers of human blood, tissues and organs who have been in a “red list” country are now allowed to enter Wales and isolate. They are also exempt from post-arrival testing requirements.
Health care professionals who have been in a “red list” country are allowed to enter Wales and isolate in Wales but must undergo workforce tests at days 2, 5 and 8 instead of the post-arrival testing requirements.
Plans lodged for new solar farm next to Gwent Levels
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
Plans have been lodged by Newport council for a new solar farm next to the Gwent Levels.
If approved, a 2.37MW solar farm will be built on land to the west of Dock Way recycling centre.
The land, which is currently used for agricultural purposes, could be used “temporarily” as a solar farm for a period of 35 years, according to the planning application.
A design and access statement for the plans says that access to the solar farm would be created via the M4 and A48 network. It would require minimal works as the access track was previously used for the former Maesglas tip.
The access statement says: “The proposal is likely to generate a total of 55 construction and delivery vehicle trips (110 two -way trips) during the most intensive phase of construction.
“Based on a two -week period, this will equate to approximately eight vehicle trips (two -way) per day.”
In a pre-application consultation, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales raised objections to the plans.
The charity raised concerns over the location of the development, which is in close proximity to the Gwent Levels and near to an “undeveloped coastal zone”.
The charity also raised concerns over the impact of the development on the wider landscape and the number of applications for solar farms in the area.
The charity said: “There are currently multiple applications for solar arrays of various sizes on sites on and around the Gwent Levels.
“There is a serious danger of an overall insidious detrimental impact on the wider landscape as a result of these numerous proposals.
“In our opinion, like many solar developments, it is implausible for a development to be considered temporary if it is going to remain in place for 35 years.”
In response the pre-application consultation report says that an assessment was commissioned, and the development will have “no direct or indirect physical impact” because it is not located within the Gwent Levels.
It says: “With regards to the temporary nature of the development, the planning application proposes a 35-year lifespan, as such, the development would be required to be decommissioned after this period, in accordance with any permission.”
The application will be considered by Newport council in the coming months.