'Hundreds of millions of fish could die at Hinkley C’, government warned

The Welsh government has been told that 182 million fish could die each year in the Severn Estuary if it allows development conditions over the construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to be withdrawn.

A report written by the Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group to the Welsh Government found that the current development consent order (DCO) would help to preserve the Severn Estuary ecosystem. 

The report states that the original requirements of the Hinkley DCO permissions “must be upheld to avoid any significant adverse short-term or long term effect upon the features of the Severn Estuary”. 

In particular, the DCO stipulates that an acoustic fish deterrent (AFD) should be installed.

However, In 2019 EDF Energy issued an application to the secretary of state to remove the requirement to install an AFD from the Hinkley Point C DCO. 

This was initially upheld by the Environment Agency and is now going to public consultation. 

The AFD works by deterring fragile fish (such as sprat and shad) that will die if they come into contact with the fish return system at the end of the power station’s two vast cooling tunnels. The report estimates that without an AFD, 182 million fish will be caught by the system, “and it is likely that many of these will not survive”.

David Lambert, managing director of Fish Guidance Systems, which shared evidence with the Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group, said: “182 million fish a year is an almost unfathomable number. Fish are often underrepresented when it comes to habitat protection. I believe if nearly 200 million birds were being killed by a single power generation plant every year, then systems equivalent to an AFD would be installed without hesitation.”

However, EDF said studies from government marine experts the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) had shown that removing the ADF would have “a negligible impact on local fish populations”.

A spokesperson said: “Hinkley Point C is the first power station in the Severn Estuary to include fish protection measures in its design and the acoustic fish deterrent is just one of three planned measures to protect marine life.”

“The project remains committed to reducing the environmental impact from the construction of a power station which will play a key role in fighting climate change and boosting the Welsh economy,” they added.

In response to the report, a Welsh government spokesperson said: “Decisions made in one part of the UK can impact wildlife and communities in other parts of the country – with this in mind, the first minister asked the group to provide an independent assessment of the impact of the Hinkley Point C development.”

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