Giant Plughole Threatens Marine Life

Emily Cooper


If new plans to install a ‘giant plughole’ in one of the UK’s most heavily protected marine areas go ahead, up to half a million fish could be killed each day. EDF, owners of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, have applied for permission to redesign its cooling system. The new system, for which construction has already begun, will draw water directly from the sea, including marine life in the vicinity. The tunnels will be fitted with mesh to stop larger fish being sucked in; however, this exists as a mechanism to protect the machinery rather than the fish themselves. Many fish will be injured or even die in the process of being pushed against the mesh, after which they will be ejected back out into the sea. The fish losses will occur just offshore of a £20 million constructed wetland, shown in the image above, which acts as a nursery for fish on the Severn Estuary. Photo courtesy of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. These tunnels could even lead to the extinction of Twaite Shad, a fish once common in the Severn Estuary whose populations have dropped significantly in recent years. EDF received the green light on the new cooling system back in 2013, under the promise that they would install Acoustic Fish Deterrents (AFD)—however, this promise never came to fruition. A collection of environmental groups, including Severn Rivers Trust, have come together in order to emphasise the impact this project will have on marine life. These groups are urging the Environment Agency to reject EDF’s application to remove the AFD speakers due to the fact that the original permitting decision was based on the inclusion of these mitigation measures. Severn Rivers Trust Chief Executive, Mike Morris, said: ““The impact of Hinkley Point C will have a major impact on the wide variety of fish species resident in and migrating through the Severn Estuary. There is a large amount of work being undertaken in the rivers flowing into the Estuary and Bristol Channel by Rivers Trusts and partners from the south west of England to the Welsh mountains, including the £22m Unlocking the Severn project looking to open the UK’s longest river for all species of fish such as twaite shad, Atlantic salmon and European eels. The impact of Hinkley Point C will be completely counterproductive of the efforts of a large number of organisations to protect and restore our fish populations”. The Rivers Trust stands with Severn Rivers Trust in their opposition of this project.
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