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Our Judicial Review in the High Court in London took place on 8-10th March 2022.

We argued that the granting of a revised licence, to dump about 540 000 cubic metres (800 000 tonnes) to make way for a water cooling system to be constructed at the nuclear power plant near Bridgwater in Somerset, is unlawful. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) revised licence for NNB Generation Company Ltd (HPC) permits the dredged material to be deposited in the Severn Estuary Marine Protection Area near to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Portbury Wharf Salt Marsh. Previously it was being dumped at Cardiff Grounds close to Cardiff. The dredging and dumping locations both fall within the Severn Estuary Special Area of Conservation and OSPAR Marine Protection Area, the largest coastal estuary in the UK and one of the largest estuaries in Europe. It is internationally important for fish rearing and harbours a wide diversity of significant habitats and species.

A huge thank you to all of you who donated to help fund the Judicial Review of EDF's plan to dump sediment from the Hinkley nuclear power stations into the Severn estuary. Over 1,400 people backed the legal case and we raised close to £60k for legal costs. We engaged top environmental lawyers Leigh Day but despite a well fought case EDF can restart dumping this month.

We challenged the MMO’s failure to look after the marine protection area in view of the horrific scale of fish slaughter the seawater cooling system will cause. This violates a designated Marine Protected Area (MPA) and must be stopped. The Severn Estuary is supposed to have the highest level of international marine protection, yet England’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO), now backed by this bizarre court decision, has in effect exempted the French nuclear company from respecting the MPA.

The verdict means the principle of not dumping in a marine protected area has been downplayed if not totally disregarded. It would appear that there are no limits on stretching licensing law if Westminster sees a nuclear power station as "nationally important". This appears intended to justify bending the law in favour of EDF's nuclear power station.

The MMO falsely spun us as anti-nuclear, claiming that we would delay the project, whereas we say delay could have been avoided by taking the dredged material ashore and separating it into sediments and solids in accord with international OSPAR requirements.

The judge saw our case as obstructing a nuclear plant of huge national importance. He considered radioactivity in the sediments, although this was not an issue before him since we had accepted legal advice which recommended excluding it as being too difficult to argue in a case which would be considering regulations rather than basic science.

We were advised that the four grounds on which we did appeal had a real prospect of success individually and cumulatively as they raised matters of wide future importance, especially in relation to the proper scope and limits of the MMO’s marine licensing powers in respect of environmental impacts in a Special Area of Conservation. But sadly, the appeals process was beyond us given the uncompromising tone of the Judgement and the tight timescale and additional cost of such an appeal. We must therefore turn to other fronts and move forward from what has been a tough few months of campaigning.

Following the Public Inquiry last June into EDF's plans to remove the Acoustic Fish Deterrent (AFD), a decision from George Eustice, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is expected soon. This will give new opportunities to highlight the major environmental horrors associated with the massive extraction of seawater for Hinkley C. The cooling water intake is estimated to kill up to 11 billion fish over its 60 year life:- that’s ½ a million a day in an area that is designated a Marine Protected Area, with Bridgwater Bay being an important fish breeding ground. The Environment Agency must terminate the water abstraction licence and compel EDF to construct a land-based cooling system within a few years.

The MPA was jointly declared in 2018 by the English and Welsh Governments. The Welsh National Marine Plan says this means no harmful activities but MMO is applying a more permissive standard on the English side of the estuary. They are allowing EDF to dump solid material by pretending it's highly dispersive sediment whereas the majority is non-dispersing solid material.

This battle to stop the dumping began in Cardiff in 2018, with a widely-supported public campaign gaining support in the Welsh Senedd. The Welsh Government brushed it off, claiming wrongly that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not needed. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) subsequently used an unscientific argument to let EDF get away with refusing to examine the sediments for nuclear microparticles. We have many times pointed to UN data which show vast numbers of uranium particles have been, and continue to be, released from the nuclear power stations on the Severn.

Therefore we are undertaking forensic citizen-science projects to investigate the nuclear pollution that EDF refused to assess. Working closely with independent laboratories such as CRIIRAD in France, this work will provide vital information that can inform future campaigns.

Way up the Severn Estuary is Oldbury, the site for one of the 8 further nuclear power stations that the UK Government has announced it wants to build. Working together we will be better informed and better organised as we now regroup and continue to hold the nuclear industry to account.

We invite you to join our mailing list for future updates.

Diolch / Thank you.

In solidarity,
Cian Ciaran
on behalf of Save the Severn.

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