“No scientific reason” to re-test nuclear mud

(Title Image: Wales Online)

P-05-785 Suspend Marine Licence 12/45/ML to dump radioactive marine sediments from the Hinkley Point nuclear site into Wales coastal waters off Cardiff
Submitted by Tim Deere-Jones
Signatures: 7,171 (online and paper)

Petition Supporting Evidence

You probably need at least a GCSE in chemistry and physics (higher level) to understand some of the terminology used – the only thing you need to know is that beta and gamma radiation are the most damaging to human health when the source is outside the body. A full summary the evidence received has been provided by the Petitions Committee (pdf):

In favour of the petition

  • Welsh Ministers can issue a “stop notice” on a marine licence if there’s a change in circumstances relating to human or environmental health or new evidence relating to such.
  • The petitioner argued not enough precise data was provided and only a small range of radiation was tested for, which wouldn’t have detected certain plutonium isotopes (and others).
  • The petitioner argued that samples were only taken at a depth of 5cm which will have skewed the results as he believes radioactivity would be more concentrated further in.
  • Friends of the Earth argued the radiation criteria was to allow sea dumping, not dumping in an estuary.
  • If the dumped sediment disperses it could concentrate on the shoreline or mud-flats (sea-to-land transfer).

Opposing the petition

  • The radiation dose found by CEFAS (testing agency) is said to be, “the equivalent of eating 20 bananas a year….10,000 times less than an airline pilot’s annual dose….750 times less than the dose Pembrokeshire residents receive from radon every year”.
  • EDF followed an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment method when testing the soil which will have, in their own words, “detected the presence of all alpha, beta and gamma radiation-emitting radionucleotides”….but they later admitted they didn’t carry out direct tests for alpha and beta nucleotides as the gamma radiation threshold to warrant such testing hadn’t been breached.
  • Data has been made available to the anti-mud campaign, but they’ve been unable to use it due to “software issues”.
  • The Committee was told previous sampling (from 2009) was from as deep as 4.8metres.
  • The sediment has to be put back in the same area it’s dredged from as it’s part of a Special Area of Conservation – so it can’t be dumped in the Atlantic.
  • EDF and CEFAS accept that sea-to-land transfer is possible, but this was modelled as part of the licence application process; the Cardiff Disposal Site has been used since the 1980s with few problems.

Key Points

Chair of the Petitions Committee, David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East)

  • The Committee gave precedence to scientific evidence to avoid alarmism.
  • Testing agencies found no greater concentration of radiation deeper within the sediment.
  • A test on a sample from 2009 was carried out retrospectively by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and found it posed no danger to human health.
  • EDF and NRW refused to obtain new samples for analysis as they said the data was already conclusive.
  • He accepted there was no chance of either side “meeting minds” on the issue.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)

  • There’s no question of the integrity of the testing carried out by CEFAS; the latest sample taken in December 2017 revealed, again, that the sediment poses no risk.
  • People remain unconvinced; he called for more deep sediment testing and for the data and samples to be made available to academics for independent assessment.

Shadow Environment Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)

  • The radioactivity found is so low it doesn’t count as radioactivity in law.
  • Opponents will need to show strong evidence that international standards (which were used) aren’t robust enough.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)

  • He thought NRW, EDF and Cardiff Council would have jumped at the opportunity to carry out new tests to operate as openly as possible.
  • The dumping of 200,000 cubic metres of mud in Welsh waters raises questions by itself.

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)

  • The public’s scientific knowledge might be limited, but we can’t “topple over into a technocracy” and let “experts” dictate policy and decisions.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy)

  • Supports pausing the dredging/dumping marine licence until more tests and a full public consultation have been undertaken.

Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)

  • If this happened on land, EDF would have to pay landfills disposal tax.
  • Trust has been lost because people and organisations aren’t open to each other and when people are confronted with evidence they don’t like, they come up with conspiracy theories. He didn’t believe that was entirely the case here.

Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central)

  • Three types of testing were carried out on mud in Kosovo as a result of depleted uranium, but only one test was carried out here.
  • NRW is “wrong” to say the mud doesn’t get more radioactive the deeper you go; they didn’t answer his questions on the topic.

Welsh Government Response

Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)

  • All marine licences are considered in line with legal requirements.
  • Determinations have been made based on scientific evidence and international standards; it’s clear the mud poses no risk and there’s no justification for further testing.
  • She’ll ask NRW to rethink how they communicate marine licence decisions (but there was no indication the Secretary intended to stop the dredging and dumping, which is due to start this summer).


The petition was noted unanimously.

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