BSG Ecology has provided ecological support to Magnox Ltd in the decommissioning of nuclear plants at Hinkley Point, Winfrith, Berkeley, and Oldbury. These projects have all needed Habitats Regulations Assessment as well as wider ecological support. Flexibility and high quality ecological advice has been required to allow work to proceed in line with project schedules.
The four nuclear facilities are all adjacent to internationally important wildlife sites (the Severn Estuary or the Dorset Heathlands), areas of very high wildlife sensitivity. The projects have variously involved:
- Construction of radioactive waste processing facilities at Berkeley, Hinkley Point A and Oldbury power stations and at the Winfrith nuclear research facility.
- The proposed demolition of the Turbine Hall at Hinkley Point A power station.
- The proposed decommissioning of a large covered reservoir at Blacknoll Hill, Winfrith, Dorset.
Issues that have needed consideration have included:
- Temporary loss of habitat from within a heathland Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
- Potential disturbance of breeding peregrine falcon (a Wildlife and Countryside Act Schedule 1 species) during demolition and construction.
- Potential disturbance and displacement of breeding and wintering birds within Special Protection Areas (SPAs), as a result of both noise and visible human activity.
- Designing measures to avoid the killing and injury of European Protected Species (including smooth snake, sand lizard and dormouse) during redevelopment work.
Defining the scope of ecological work necessary to support planning applications for these projects has involved on-site meetings with Natural England (NE), arranged through their Discretionary Advice Service. BSG has used these meetings to establish and discuss NE’s key concerns, and to evaluate potential mitigation options ahead of both Habitats Regulations Assessment and ecological impact assessment.
Mitigation solutions have included temporary netting of buildings to deter peregrine falcon from nesting in areas where it could be disturbed by the planned demolition work; seasonal timing of works; and working method statements (including site supervision) incorporating a range of measures aimed at avoiding and minimising impacts on species and habitats.
At Blacknoll Reservoir the decommissioning project will lead to a net gain in the quantity and quality of heathland habitat present, which is likely to increase the value of the local area for protected species such as Dartford warbler, woodlark and reptiles.
Over the course of the decommissioning work BSG Ecology has established very positive working relationships with both Natural England and Magnox. This reflects the quality of communication and consultation necessary to deliver the jobs within tight project timelines. To date, all projects involving planning applications have achieved planning permission without further complications.
“BSG Ecology have always proved to be highly responsive to Magnox’s needs. BSG Ecology liaise successfully with NE on our behalf, provide project impact assessments on time, and provide environmental mitigation measures which satisfy project requirements but which are also consistent with conservation objectives.”
Stephen Wilmott, Principal Waste Consultant, Magnox Ltd