Fears that Bradwell on Essex coast could become regional radioactive waste centre

The Clacton and Frinton Gazette reports, 16th February 2016: A pressure group — The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) — wants more public consultation on nuclear waste being stored in the district.

The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group claims the site of Bradwell Power Station, Downhall Beach, is in danger of becoming a “regional store for nuclear waste” after site managers, Magnox Limited, were given permission to proceed with their planning application without needing an environmental impact assessment.

Magnox asked Essex County Council in January whether it needed to draw up a full environmental assessment on plans to import nuclear waste from other power stations. In February Magnox was told by the County Council that the application was not “significant” enough to require a formal assessment.

This decision by the County Council would see intermediate level waste (ILW) from sites at Dungeness A and Sizewell A being stored at Bradwell which the company, Magnox Limited, claims would save £200 million of taxpayers’ money.

BANNG believes this move need “proper public consultation”, and that there should be no change from the policy of each site managing its own waste. It claims “serious problems” would be raised by the transfer, and that the site is vulnerable to flooding and inappropriate to store nuclear waste.

Professor Andy Blowers is chairman of BANNG

Professor Andy Blowers is chairman of BANNG

BANNG chairman, Professor Andy Blowers, said: “Storage should be perceived as long-term, requiring a proper siting process that includes wide engagement and public consultation. A piecemeal and ad hoc approach should not be taken — which is what this is.”

BANNG wants Essex County Council to retain the planning restrictions on the transfer of ILW radioactive waste, saying the situation has not changed from 2004 when the restrictions were imposed on the site. Professor Blowers said: “This is a controversial issue and there is a need for proper public consultation and BANNG will be pushing for this.”

The group are further protesting about a lack of consultation on radioactive discharges into the Blackwater Estuary arising from the dissolving of fuel element debris (FED) from the Bradwell nuclear power plant.

BANNG’s vice-chairman Barry Turner said: “The former power station cannot enter its care and maintenance phase until the dissolution of FED has finished. We do not gain any reassurance or confidence from this unsatisfactory state of affairs while they experiment with the estuary, radioactive substances and discharges.”

A Magnox spokesman said: “Magnox has revised its strategy for safely dealing with waste following extensive dialogue over three years with local communities and key stakeholders. We plan further engagement during the next few months as our plans progress.

“We are now in the process of applying for the necessary planning permissions to implement our strategy. The decision on whether an environmental impact assessment was needed at Bradwell rested with the local planning authority.

“Our revised proposals will save around £200 million of taxpayers’ money across the whole fleet, and will not compromise safety, security or the environment. They will offer significant benefits associated with reduced construction works at the other sites. ”

A full statement of the BANNG position may be seen here.

Source: The Clacton and Frinton Gazette, 16th February 2016. For further details, see www.clactonandfrintongazette.co.uk/news/north_essex_news/14280769.Pressure_group_calls_for_public_consultation_on_power_station

Marinet observes:
The former nuclear power station has a store of radioactive waste materials which are the odds and ends and debris left over from the fuel rods when Bradwell was operational. It is made up largely of solid metal fragments. This “fuel element debris” (FED) is solid waste which could be managed at Sellafield, Cumbria, but a decision has been taken by the nuclear authorities to dissolve these waste metal fragments at Bradwell in nitric acid, thus creating a solution from which the radioactive component can be extracted. A consequence of this procedure is that a liquid waste stream is created as a by-product. This liquid waste stream will be discharged from Bradwell into the Blackwater estuary.

The liquid waste stream will contain radioactivity (the precise character and amounts of which have not been declared), heavy metals and nitrates. The Blackwater estuary is also a part of the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries Marine Conservation Zone (MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone) which has been designated in order to protect the habitat and populations of the native oyster, Ostrea edulis.

The agency handling the licensing process for these waste discharges is the Environment Agency. Marinet has written to the Environment Agency because Marinet is concerned that there are irregularities about the way in which the licence has been issued, principal among which is the apparent absence of an assessment of the impact of the waste discharges on the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries MCZ, see details

The concern raised by the recent announcement — ref. Clacton and Frinton Gazette article, 16th February 2016 — is not just that Bradwell could become a regional radioactive waste centre, but that it could also become a radioactive waste reprocessing centre, resulting in long-term and possibly substantial radioactive waste discharges into the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries MCZ. This, in Marinet’s opinion, is a matter which needs very careful assessment, and certainly the involvement of the public because the native oysters in the estuary are actively harvested by local fishermen.

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