Marinet continues to ask the Environment Agency whether the FED discharge permit at Bradwell, Essex, is legal

On 18th September 2015 Marinet wrote to the Environment Agency to query whether the Fuel Element Debris (FED) permit covering discharges of heavy metals, nitrates and radionuclides from the now decommissioned Bradwell nuclear power station into the Bradwell estuary, Essex, is legal.

This letter of query sought to establish the legality of the procedures which had led to the issuing of a discharge permit by the Agency to Bradwell’s owner, Magnox Limited, particularly with regard to the assessment of the impact on the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries Marine Conservation Zone (MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone) and its principal protected feature, the native oyster (Ostrea edulis). The FED process involves the dissolving in nitric acid of debris from old fuel rods in order to extract their radionuclides, and the non-recovered wastes from this process are discharged into the estuary. For this discharge, a permit is required.

The Blackwater MCZ was created in December 2013, and the first discharge permit was issued in July 2014 for 12 months by which time Magnox Limited expected the FED process to be complete.

However technical problems with the process meant that only a very small quantity of the old fuel rods were able to be reprocessed, and the permit governing discharges expired in June 2015.

In order to continue with the process Magnox Ltd therefore required a new permit, necessitating a revaluation of the impact on the MCZ. However this did not occur because the Environment Agency decided “not to enforce the expiry” of the July 2014 licence, thus allowing discharges to effectively continue. Meantime the Environment Agency has said that it is re-evaluating the impact on the MCZ, and expected to report on this re-evaluation in early 2016. The delivery of this report was postponed until April 2016, and on 25th April has again been postponed to an indefinite date.

In response to Marinet’s questioning of the legality of the permit in its letter of 18th September 2015 letter (particularly with regard to the Blackwater MCZ), the Area Manager for the Environment Agency replied on 19th January 2016, and the Environment Agency’s Chairman on 9th March 2016, and both stated that the permit governing current and earlier discharges is entirely legal. The correspondence concerning these matters can be seen here.

Marinet is still not entirely convinced as to the legality of the permit, and has written again on 26th April 2016 to the Environment Agency explaining the reasons for its thinking. Essentially the issue is whether the applicant, Magnox Limited, conducted a proper Environmental Impact Assessment prior to the permit being issued by the Agency in July 2014. This letter from Marinet to the Agency may be seen here.

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