The Environment Agency has launched a four-week consultation on a proposed change to discharge sea water and fish at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station near Burnham-On-Sea.
The proposal is to vary the operational Water Discharge Activity (WDA) permit, to remove conditions that relate to an Acoustic Fish Deterrent (AFD) and add a waste stream for discharge from the Fish Recovery and Return system (FRR).
A similar application in 2019 resulted in an appeal to the Secretary of State, which we reported on here last year.
The original WDA permit application included three mitigation measures in the design of the cooling water system: an Acoustic Fish Deterrent, Low Velocity Side Intakes and a Fish Recovery and Return system.
The existing permit, issued in 2013, allows the cooling water system to operate as described in the application.
The permit requires the applicant to submit reports to the Environment Agency describing how their proposed AFD will operate and demonstrate that it will be optimised to minimise impacts on fish.
The permit did not, however, include the discharge from the FRR as a WDA. Owners of the power station, NNB Generation Company (HPC) Ltd, no longer wish to put the AFD in place as part of the variation application, as they believe it is not required to protect the water quality of the Bristol Channel from discharges from the FRR system.
This permit variation proposes a re-examination of these conditions in light of the approach recently taken at Sizewell C Power Station, the draft of which was consulted on through the summer of 2022.
It highlights that the duplication of a similar requirement in the Development Consent Order (DCO) regarding AFD optimisation has led to a potential overlap of regulation across planning and permitting regimes.
It also examines the potential water quality impacts on the receiving environment from the discharge from the FRR without the operation of an AFD.
When considering the revised application, we will assess the impact of removing the AFD on aspects relating to the potential for water pollution and/or effects on habitat and species directly affected by the discharge from the fish recovery and return outfall.
If we grant it, we must decide what conditions to include in the permit and may consult the public further if we reach this stage. We are targeting publishing our final decision later this year.
As cooling water will be abstracted from marine waters, and therefore below the low tide mark, the company will also need to change permissions it has from the Planning Inspectorate and the Marine Management Organisation. Separate consultations will be held by these organisations.
If you have any comments, send these by 21st February 2023 via:
- Online: Citizen Space at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/psc/ta5-1ud-nnb-generation-company-hpc-limited-v005; or
- Email: email@example.com; or
- Write to P&SC – WQ Team, Quadrant 2, 99 Parkway Avenue, Sheffield, S9 4WF
Quote the application number EPR/HP3228XT/V005 in any correspondence. For more advice on how to comment, please call 03708 506 506.