News

News in brief: Legal challenge launched to stop waste from nuclear plant construction being dumped in the Bristol Channel

07 Oct 2021 8 minutes Read
A dredger in the Bristol Channel off Penarth. Photo by It’s No Game is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Campaigners from England and Wales have formed a new group to oppose the dumping of sediment from the construction of a nuclear power station in the Severn Estuary and are taking legal action to block the plans.

The Save the Severn Estuary / Cofiwch Môr Hafren campaign involves the Geiger Bay coalition and groups from the English side of the estuary, and is seeking to halt the dumping of sediment from the construction of the Hinkley C power station in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) near Portishead, Bristol.

The group is urging the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to revoke the license granted earlier this year to EDF to dump the waste, which they say puts the MMO in breach of its international obligations to protect marine environments such as the Severn Estuary.

They are also demanding the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, acknowledges the ban on any dumping that causes harm in the Marine Protected Area and instruct the MMO appropriately.

EDF had originally applied to Natural Resources Wales for a permit to dispose of the sediment in the Cardiff Grounds off the Welsh coast but switched to the Portishead site after growing opposition and a Senedd debate on the plans.

In 2018 EDF dumped 120,000 tonnes of mud in Welsh waters after being granted a permit by NRW and last year submitted a new application to dump a further 780,000 tonnes in the same location.

Pollutants

EDF is dredging hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment from the site of the decommissioned Hinkley A nuclear power station to build a controversial underwater based cooling system for the Hinkley C plant, that critics say will kill millions of fish and damage the ecology of the estuary.

Scientist also warn the disturbed sediment contains historical industrial pollutants with both chemical and nuclear elements.

Save the Severn Estuary’s legal challenge argues the MMO did not have the legal power to vary an existing licence to allow the dumping and alleges it failed to properly assess the impact on certain protected species and breached rules about water quality.

Historically the Portishead site was always used for the disposal of port and harbour navigation channel dredging and there is no evidence that it was ever used for the disposal of more controversial wastes.

Cian Ciarán on behalf of Save the Severn Estuary / Cofiwch Môr Hafren said: “The MMO has been reckless in permitting the dumping at Portishead and in sight of the Welsh shoreline of sediments contaminated by a history of nuclear power and industrial activity.

“They know contaminated mud will end up on our beaches and on mudbanks in our tidal rivers. We don’t know how much deposits and how much becomes airborne, reaching homes and farmland, because the necessary assessments haven’t been done. The dumping shows contempt for Severnside Welsh and English people, as well as for conservation and fishery interests.”

Save the Severn Estuary / Cofiwch Môr Hafren have launched an appeal to help pay for the legal challenge and is calling for residents and businesses around the Severn Marine Protected Area, including Avonmouth-Bristol and south-east Wales down to  Barry to register opposition to the plans.

Covid-19 testing

Covid cases in under-25s show sharp fall

There has been a sharp fall in the number of young people testing positive for Covid-19, according to new figures released by Public Health Wales.

The number of cases among under-25s has dropped in 20 of 22 local authorities with the biggest falls in Merthyr Tydfil (61%) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (43%).

Only Denbighshire and Pembrokeshire reported an increase in cases in under-25s over the last seven days.

The rise in case rates in recent weeks has largely been fuelled by an increase in cases among under-25s, and since schools returned last month there has also been a big jump in cases among  12-16-year-olds.

Today’s bulletin from PHW also confirms overall case rates are continuing to decline across Wales, with the weekly rate falling for the eighth day in a row, down from 507.3 per 100,000 people to 489.4 since yesterday’s report.

Torfaen’s rate remains the highest in Wales at 682 but is down from 688.6 yesterday. The Vale of Glamorgan (626.8) is the only other council area in Wales with a case rate over 600.

Eight further deaths due to Covid have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total number  in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 5,942.

Four of the newly recorded deaths were in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area and one further deaths was confirmed in the Aneurin Bevan, Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and Vale and Swansea Bay health boards.

Job training. Photo by aniset from Pixabay

New jobs programme announced for 16-18-year-olds

The Welsh Government has launched a new jobs programme it claims will create ‘life changing opportunities’ for 16–18-year-olds in Wales.

The new innovative Jobs Growth Wales+ programme is aimed at those not in education, employment or training and will provide an individualised package of support, including access to mentoring, advice, training and education.

The programme, which will launch in 2022, also includes tailored job opportunities which will be subsidised at 50% of national minimum wage.

“We want to give young people the skills and confidence to overcome barriers and fulfil their potential. Jobs Growth Wales+ is designed to deliver opportunities for young people in a fast-changing world, irrespective of ability, background, gender, or ethnicity,” Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said.

“The foundation of Jobs Growth Wales+ builds on our Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales programmes, taking forward the strongest elements of both. Young people, employers and contractors have helped us shape this new package of support with changes that ensure young people receive the best possible service.”

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Schools in Wales told they must improve teaching of BAME histories and cultures

A new report from Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, has found schools in multicultural areas were better at teaching the histories of BAME individuals and communities and said teachers needed more professional support teaching diversity, anti-racism and ethnic minority culture and history within Wales.

Earlier this week it was announced that all children in primary school in Wales from 2022 and secondary schools in 2023 will be taught BAME history as part of the new curriculum which will be rolled out from next year.

Claire Morgan, Chief Inspector for Estyn, told BBC Wales: “The Black Lives Matter movement renewed focus on anti-racism education and the teaching of black, Asian, and minority ethnic history and culture.”

“It’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure that teaching and learning represents all of Wales’ communities and their international connections.”

The report also concluded that when given the opportunity, pupils enjoyed learning about local and Welsh history, identity and culture and the contribution of ethnic minority individuals.

Sunrise over Port Talbot. Photo by ohefin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Lib Dems push for the government to introduce its Clean Air Act for Wales

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to deliver on its promised Clean Air Act for Wales and say the “health of Welsh people cannot wait any longer for its introduction”.

It is estimated that 2,000 people are dying a year in Wales due to poor air quality and many more are having their average life expectancy reduced, while the cost of air-quality related health conditions for the Welsh NHS is approximately £1 billion each year.

“Next Month, Glasgow will host the international COP26 Climate Conference, now is time for the Welsh Government to take action. Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal said.

“We are facing a crisis, 1 in 5 of us will develop a lung disease at some point in our lives and five towns and cities in Wales have all reported illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution over recent years.

“We know that poor air quality has an especially pronounced impact on the health of the most vulnerable – such as the very young or very old, or people with cardiovascular diseases. We also know that air quality can be significantly worse in more deprived communities, who already often face other healthcare challenges. Both these factors could place more unnecessary stress on health and social care services in Wales.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford pledged to introduce a Clean Air act as part of his leadership campaign in 2018 and was also challenged on the government’s failure to introduce the legislation by the Welsh Conservatives at First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd on Tuesday.

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