What would happen in Cardiff if there was an incident at Hinkley Point C nuclear plant
If a nuclear incident occurs at the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, people across Cardiff should stop consuming vegetables, milk and water, according to a new report.
Just 20 miles from Cardiff as the crow flies, Hinkley Point C is the UK’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 20 years.
The huge 230 hectare facility, built by the French energy company EDF, is expected to be completed in 2026 and operated for 60 years.
The site has sparked great controversy over the past few years over plans to deposit sediments off the coast of Cardiff.
Sediments from waters around the old Somerset reactors were dumped in the Severn Estuary off Cardiff as early as 2018 after heavy resistance and legal challenges.
More details have now been released on plans for future dredging and dumping and what will happen in the capital in the event of a nuclear emergency.
A new report released on March 16 by the Hinkley Point C advocacy group to the Welsh Government has raised concerns about the potential impact of the UK’s newest power station on people living in Wales. You can read the main points of the report here.
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Rules for nuclear facilities mean that a “Detailed Emergency Planning Zone” (DEPZ) is defined around a nuclear facility.
This means that in the event of an emergency, a number of defined actions will be carried out in this area within hours of the incident.
The report states: “The local population within a DEPZ will be contacted if there is an incident on the ground that could lead to a release and informed of the measures to be taken (e.g. evacuation and where to). “
The current DEPZ for the Hinkley location is 3.5 km.
The plans drawn up by Somerset Council also included an additional zone of 15 to 40 km for food and water restrictions.
This extends over parts of the valley from Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
(Image: Ben Birchall / PA Wire)
A separate revised impact report from EDF for Hinkley Point B includes an Outline Planning Zone (OPZ) that goes beyond the DEPZ and helps local authorities plan extremely unlikely but more serious events.
This report recommends an OPZ of 30km spanning parts of South Wales and recommends limiting the consumption of leafy green vegetables, milk and water from open springs / rainwater in all sectors of the detailed contingency planning zone within 24 hours ( DEPZ) and against the wind of the location up to a distance of 43 km. “
The 30 km long zone would cover about half of Cardiff. The 43 km long zone would encompass the entire capital.
The report adds that a number of councils in South Wales, including Cardiff Council, have received copies of the off-site plan for several agencies in case of emergency.
The development requires the dredging of the surrounding seabed to build a temporary dock, which is now complete, and the drilling of six vertical shafts for the direct water suction cooling system.
The site’s dredged marine sediment was dumped in an area called the Cardiff Grounds back in 2018, with further work planned for early 2021, the report added.
An environmental impact assessment is currently being carried out for the site.
The report adds: “Since February 2021, EDF NRW has applied for a ship license to carry out the planned dredging work for 2021 with disposal on the Cardiff Grounds.”
EDF plans to sell up to an additional 470,000m3 at the Cardiff site and a new site in Portishead, almost three times the amount approved in 2018.
The report says: “To put this amount of sediment proposed by EDF 2021 on the Cardiff Grounds for disposal in the right light, this volume would correspond to 33 rugby fields (7,000 m2 each) arranged side by side and covered with sediment depth of 2 m (i.e. the height of a tall adult).
“Although this appears to be a relatively large volume of sediment, this volume only corresponds to around 50% of the typical volume that NRW approves annually for disposal by other organizations at this location.”
The latest report also raises questions about the site’s impact on the wider Severn Estuary.
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The Environment Agency’s assessment of EDF’s plans found that “the Severn Estuary ecosystem and its fish collection could have an adverse impact which is contrary to Welsh legislative and policy objectives and therefore against the Welsh interest”.
It called for the original requirements set out in the Hinkley Development Consent Order to be met “in order to avoid significant adverse short-term or long-term effects on the estuary”.
In January it was announced that the planned opening of the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Plant, Block 1, had been postponed for around six months and that the project’s costs are expected to rise again.
EDF said significant progress has been made at the Somerset site, but power generation is now expected to start in June 2026, compared to earlier estimates of an opening date in late 2025.
The cost of the project is now estimated at £ 22 billion to £ 23 billion.
The coronavirus crisis resulted in a number of changes at the Hinkley site, including reducing the number of employees to allow social distancing and focusing on the most critical areas of construction.
Where social distancing is not possible, workers have used additional protective equipment.