Hinkley Point C reveals plan to create Somerset saltmarsh

9 January 2024

The UK’s Hinkley Point C NPP under construction by EDF in Somerset, is seeking opinions on plans to create more than 800 acres of saltmarsh on the River Parrett. The proposed saltmarsh at Pawlett Hams near Bridgwater would create new habitat for fish and animals, improve local water quality and help prevent flooding. It is one of several proposed measures to help wildlife and the environment around the Severn estuary. These include planting seagrass and kelp, developing native oyster beds and removing weirs on three rivers to help migrating fish reach their breeding grounds.

The plans are being developed with Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency as a natural alternative to installing an acoustic fish deterrent. The deterrent had been proposed to keep some fish species away from the power station’s cooling water system.

Creating saltmarsh is a proven way to increase and protect biodiversity. It will help fish by providing breeding grounds and provide food and shelter for birds and animals. Tidal marsh also filters and cleans water, prevents floods and locks away carbon. Steart Marshes, opposite the proposed new wetland, was created nine years ago and is now teeming with birds, fish and wildlife, and is a popular place for recreation.

The previously proposed acoustic fish deterrent system would use 280 speakers to make noise louder than a jumbo jet 24-hours a day for 60 years. Its impact on?porpoises, seals,?whales, and other species is unknown. Independent studies showed it would offer a very small?potential benefit to protected fish species. It would also risk the safety of divers in the fast-flowing tides of the Bristol Channel.?

Hinkley Point C is still the first power station in the area to have any fish protection measures in place – including a fish recovery and return system and low velocity water intakes. Power stations have been taking cooling water from the Bristol Channel for decades with no significant impact on fish populations.

Chris Fayers, Head of Environment at Hinkley Point C, said: “The new wetland would be a fantastic place for wildlife and a beautiful place to visit. Using natural and proven ways to improve the environment is better than creating sixty years of noise pollution with a system that is untested far offshore in the fast-flowing waters of the Severn.”

The proposals for habitat creation and other changes to Hinkley Point C’s design, such as alterations to the way the power station will store used fuel, will be included in a public consultation starting on 9 January.

Hinkley Point C, when complete, will comprise two 1,630 MWe EPR reactors supplied by EDF. Construction began in December 2018 but the project has faced delay challenges. In May 2022 EDF, following a review of the project, confirmed that the plant would begin operating a year later than planned and could cost up to £3bn ($3.7bn) more to build than originally budgeted. This put the start date for unit 1 at June 2027, with the cost estimated at £25-26bn, an increase on the previous estimate of £23bn.

Image: The proposed saltmarsh at Pawlett Hams near Bridgwater would benefit local wildlife and biodiversity

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