|David J Rowlands AM|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AM|
|Mike Hedges AM|
|Neil McEvoy AM|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth AM|
|Adam Cooper||Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru|
|Natural Resources Wales|
|John Wheadon||Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru|
|Natural Resources Wales|
|Claire O'Sullivan||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Kath Thomas||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Kayleigh Imperato||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant||1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Deisebau newydd||2. New petitions|
|3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol||3. Updates to previous petitions|
|4. Sesiwn dystiolaeth - P-05-785 Atal Trwydded Forol 12/45/ML i ollwng gwaddodion morol ymbelydrol o safle niwclear Hinkley Point yn nyfroedd glannau Cymru ger Caerdydd||4. Evidence Session - 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|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer y busnes a ganlyn:||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business:|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle y mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:03.
The meeting began at 09:03.
Bore da, everyone, and good morning. I welcome you to the Petitions Committee. I believe there are no apologies today, so we'll move straight on to the first of the petitions.
This is to terminate private parking contracts at Welsh hospitals. It was submitted by Nick Harding, having collected 102 signatures. Now, in the notes that the committee members may have had time to peruse, you'll notice that the contracts with regard to parking both run out in 2018, and therefore we have certain possible actions that we could take. The committee could await the views of the petitioner on the response from the Cabinet Secretary, because we did have a response from the Cabinet Secretary on 22 November, pointing these matters out. So, the committee could await the views of the petitioner on the response from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, before deciding what action to take on the petition.
Do we all agree on that? Yes. Fine. Thank you.
The next new petition is a petition to extend the 40 mph speed limit in Blaenporth. This petition was submitted by Rosemarie Chaffers-Jones, having collected 75 signatures. There is one little point that I'd make, that there are three, I think, speed restriction petitions before us today, and it has been suggested, perhaps, that—. The response that came from the Cabinet Secretary with regard to this said that there are 600 sites in Wales that are currently under review. I suggest that perhaps we may consider asking the Cabinet Secretary if there are any systems of prioritisation within those recommendations with regard to the fact that there are 600 so-called sites—is there a system where they prioritise, and ask him that question.
Is it a road that comes under Ceredigion council or is it a road that comes under the Welsh Government? And if it's a road coming under Ceredigion council, shouldn't we pass it on to them?
Yes, I think there is a suggestion on one of those, that's right.
Yes, it's a trunk road. So, the responsibility for the speed limit is the Welsh Government's.
It's not always as simple as that, though. Fabian Way, for example, which is part of a trunk road, is not under the Welsh Government. Most of them are, but not all A roads. But if we know it's under the Welsh Government, we need to go back to Welsh Government and ask them what they're doing about it.
I should point out, Mike, that it's an evolving system because they're changing trunk roads out of being a trunk road, et cetera. So, what we're suggesting in particular with this particular petition is that we write to Ceredigion County Council to seek their views on the issues raised by the petitioner and ask what assessments they have made of the safety of children accessing school buses at this location. There's some particularly difficult situations with regard to this particular location. So, are we agreed on doing that in this first instance? And we could also add a possible addendum asking if they are prioritising any particular positions under their jurisdiction. Okay. Are we happy with that? All right.
So, we move on to the next petition. It is in regard to high-speed broadband to Llangenny village. It was submitted by Llangenny village residents, having collected 72 signatures. As you'll note by the notes with regard to this, they are particularly frustrated by the fact that they have very low broadband speeds, and they have highlighted the fact that BT have not really responded by giving them any specific dates for upgrading their broadband connectivity. I think it's true to say that there are quite a few communities in Wales that have this problem. But, as we know, there is a new franchise going out, or under discussion at this moment, between the Welsh Government, BT and other providers, to carry on from the Superfast Cymru broadband roll-out. There's something like 4 per cent, I understand, that are still not connected. There are particular difficulties with these, and several options of how to connect are being considered, and will be considered, with regard to the next franchisee.
So, the recommendation here is that the committee could write to BT to highlight the frustrations of the petitioners and ask for clarity over the plans and timescales for connecting properties in Llangenny to the broadband. There has been some criticism of the BT contract in general, in that they have failed to give accurate timescales for connecting, but having said that, there are some mitigating circumstances, in that, sometimes, they have difficulty in access to the land that's needed et cetera, and getting planning permission, and also some access to the roads in order to close roads, et cetera. So, that is the one possible action. The committee could await the outcome of planned evidence sessions being held by the committee that I am on myself—the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee—with BT and the leader of the house before deciding what future action to be taken in relation to this petition. And obviously, this is an opportunity for me, being on that particular committee, to possibly raise these issues with the committee at that time.
I would propose that we follow the first course of action, in that even with Llangenny perhaps being raised during that evidence session, there wouldn't be a focus, I don't think, on Llangenny. And one of the biggest problems I find in terms of my constituency is communication, and that, essentially, is the problem here. If we're able to pin BT down with the weight and influence, hopefully, of this Petitions Committee, they might—you never know—get an answer of sorts.
Can we also write to the leader of the house who has got responsibility for it?
That's right. I said 'CC the Minister' here, but yes, write separately.
Are you happy to do that? Fine. Are we all agreed? Neil, are you happy with that course of action? Much obliged. Okay.
So, we move on to the next petition. This is a long-running petition, actually. It was submitted first in December 2013 by Cenric Clement-Evans having collected 448 signatures. You'll have noted the comments with regard to this from the Cabinet Secretary, and it is that there is a schools working group that was planned for November 2017 to consider developments, particularly in England, with regard to the problems with regard to asbestos in schools in a general sense. So, the possible actions for the committee are: we could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ask the questions proposed by the petitioner, including over the consultation on revised asbestos management in schools guidance planned for early 2018, or the committee could await the outcome of the consultation on the revised asbestos management in schools guidance due to take place in—it does say early 2018.
Could I just say, Chairman, on this one, that I think we really need to keep a watching brief? I know from my own experiences of trying to obtain information from local authorities in terms of asbestos in schools that it's not always that easy. So, I'd like to see how seriously local authorities are taking this and how they are responding. It might be quite interesting to hold the Cabinet Secretary to account in terms of making sure that they do respond fully and provide all the information, because I think it's fair to say there are lots of buildings, particularly schools, public conveniences, libraries—lots of buildings in our communities that have this problem and, you know, the public—. I mean, I lost a constituent who was a teacher in a school where it was proven by the coroner that they were working in conditions—. And that person is no longer with us. I do feel really strongly, having been aware that this can happen and people can be quite unwittingly in their everyday occupation with asbestos—. It's a dangerous situation, and I think it's something that this Welsh Government needs to address.
Okay. So, are you suggesting that we write immediately to the Cabinet Secretary for Education—
And with the petitioner suggesting a number of questions that he wants answered, I think it's right for us to ask those questions, because firstly it gives the petitioner more information and also it gives us, hopefully, a firmer timetable. We know that 'early 2018' can sometimes slip.
Yes, absolutely. Fine. Okay. You're happy with that. Thank you.
We move on to another petition, which has been running since September 2016. It's with regard to resurfacing the A40 Raglan to Abergavenny road. We first considered it in September 2016 having collected 22 signatures, and another 142 signatures on another e-petition website. We last considered this on 3 October agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure to ask if he could provide the petitioner and the committee with a clear explanation for the apparent change in position since the noise action plan 2013-18 and commitments given by his predecessor that a resurfacing scheme was being designed. Now, quite frankly, I read the response from the Cabinet Secretary and I truthfully don't believe that he has explained exactly why they've moved away from that original commitment to this. He's mentioned the fact that the resurfacing is not time-lapsed as far as they're concerned, so in other words, the road is still in good repair, but that obviously doesn't address the problem of the noise.
Chairman, on that one, I would say that we do need to be quite firm and robust with the Cabinet Secretary, because it's almost making a mockery of this committee. We know that, as you say, the previous Minister at the time put a commitment forward. Really, why are they even wanting to fiddle about having more surveys at a cost, when it was decided that this was to be resurfaced? I think we should be really pressing them on this.
Our traditional way is that when we have a reply from the Cabinet Secretary, we go back to the petitioner to get their response, and I would urge us to do exactly that. I think that the petitioner will have local views, and let's see what the petitioner has got to say.
In this case, the petitioner provided comments yesterday. They missed the deadline for papers—
Sorry, I should've brought that to your attention.
There has been a complete u-turn here. At the end of the day, the local MP, the AM and other people have been pushing and pushing for this. There's increased traffic along the road, the situation is going to get worse and I think we really do need to hold them to their original commitment.
Can we send this reply to the Minister, then, for his response to it, and decide where we take it from there?
We had an announcement yesterday, didn't we, of a resurfacing plan in Abergwyngregyn because of noise concerns. We know it does happen.
I've driven on this road and it is particularly noisy, there's no doubt about that. Are you happy with that? Okay.
The next petition is again with regard to speed limits. This one was submitted by Isabel Bottoms, Peter Bottoms and Sarah Holgate, and was first considered in December 2016 having collected 298 signatures. Again, with the other comments we've made with regard to the speed limits, we wrote to the Cabinet Secretary in October and the reply from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 14 November. In that, he confirmed that the speed limit review is a three-year project that will review over 600 sites. I think the comments that I made earlier with regard to speed limits—that we ask if there's any possibility of prioritisation taking place, and we ask that question on this as well. Are you happy with that? Fine.
The next petition—I think we have to handle this particular petition with some care given the background to the petition and the awful circumstances that give rise to this petition. Having said that, we have now received a response from the Welsh Local Government Association following our urgent request for a response from them, in that they'd failed in our first application to them for them to give us some information. But it does seem that this has been very carefully considered by the WLGA and it seems that the costs for implementing as full a situation as the petitioner has requested are quite prohibitive. There are items on here that we obviously must agree with. For instance, the petitioner has asked that every child should have a seat, that all drivers should have relevant DBS checks and all buses should be fit for purpose. There are two items on there that are requested: dedicated school buses, obviously—and that's the first instance—and that every child should have a seat belt. Well, obviously, if the alternative is that they will have to use public transport, then the supply of a seat belt on public transport is an entirely different concept to the supply of a seat on a dedicated school bus. Do you have any comments on that?
I just think that if children are travelling on public transport, parents need to feel assured that they are as safe as children travelling on a school bus. When you look at some of the distances, especially for children in our rural communities, that they have to travel—. They shouldn't be—. We talk about equality running through all the—. This smacks to me of a lack of equality and I am really concerned. As you say, there's already been an example set where somebody—tragically, a child lost their life. So, whatever we can do as a committee to ramp up the pressure on the bus companies, Welsh Government and local authorities, I think we should. We're responsible politicians at the end of the day, and if there's anything that we can do to ensure that that tragic situation doesn't happen again, we should do it.
If I give my comments on this, and I'll invite the rest of the committee to—. Whilst I absolutely agree with you with regard to the safety of our children on buses, I think that we have to consider the practicalities of what's suggested with regard to this—
—and this is a tragic situation, we know, but the child had actually alighted from the bus on this particular time; it wasn't because of the lack of seat belts or anything on this particular tragedy.
I'm not in any way denigrating that tragedy. It's appalling, of course, but the relative costs of this, of the possibility of dedicating buses to every child, I think is prohibitive. But I'll invite your comments.
It's not just the cost; it just couldn't be done. There are just not enough buses. Something that Neil I will know—for big matches, people travelling up to Wembley, buses from the whole of Wales are used to move roughly the equivalent of the child population of Cardiff to Wembley, and they have buses from the whole of south Wales to take them because there are just not enough buses.
There are things that should be done. Every child should have a seat. I don't think anybody can argue against that. I think that all drivers should have relevant DBS checks, and all buses should be fit for purpose. I think those three are things that we can definitely take forward. Dedicated school buses for all children is just not possible. I mean, you're actually asking to do something that cannot be done without a huge increase in the number of buses within south Wales—within Wales. I don't know about the position in north Wales, but I'm guessing it would be exactly the same problem of a shortage of buses.
I mean, bus contracts go out: what you see is that the lowest tender wins the first 10 or 12, then the second lowest tender starts winning because people have tendered for more, and by the time you get to the last couple of buses available, it's the only tender in it that wins it. If you ended up having more than that, you'd just have untendered routes, so you just end up offering a service that cannot be provided. But certainly those three need to be done.
I was getting to that. On the seat belts: I think that we could be asking whether the Government are giving any consideration to seat belts on all public transport. If I travel in a coach, I get a seat belt. If I travel in a park-and-ride bus on a Saturday, I don't get a seat belt. There's exactly the same danger, so whether they've actually thought—. I think we should ask the Welsh Government about whether we should actually have seat belts on all public transport. But the dedicated transport is just not feasible.
I agree with you on that. But I do think the seat belt issue is a big one because it does promote double standards. If everybody in cars are persuaded that indeed you should wear a seat belt, a child travelling on a public bus should be equally as protected as those travelling on a school bus. I can't see that it's beyond the realms of possibility that a bus should have a number, for the elderly and perhaps even the children, who knows, but I think that we could be pioneers even—
We can ask that question, I think. Neil, do you have any comments on that?
Yes. Looking at what the parent has said, that local authorities say that it's not their issue, I think there's certainly a case for maybe a pilot scheme or increasing the number of buses. I love driving—. I don't like driving per se, to be honest, but I much prefer to drive in Cardiff during half term, because there are so few cars on the road in relation to when the kids are in. So, if we had dedicated buses, we'd all be able to move around a city much easier, and I think it's something that the councils should be looking at, really.
Personally, in terms of what I would really, really like, I would love it if there were not only dedicated buses to take children to school, I would like it if there were specific purpose-designed buses to take children to schools, of the type that they have in the United States, you know, where a school bus is a school bus and we all recognise it, and they're respected, and they're given more room on the roads than ordinary public transport. That's what I'd like. In reality, I think the issue here is how to improve the safety of schoolchildren, however they travel to school. And I have no doubts that there are public buses carrying children to school safely, but there is an anomaly there of the lack of seat belts—not only the lack of seat belts, but the possibility that children would be standing on the way to school, whereas on the designated school bus, they would have a seat with a seat belt. So, I think: why not ask what research has been done, what policy work has been done, on the potential of introducing seat belts on public transport, and certainly on things like DBS checks for drivers? That's easy enough. I think that would be a decision that could be taken relatively easily, but as much as I'd like to see dedicated transport for all passengers, I don't think it's something that can be done immediately. I'd love it if it was.
Okay. So, are you happy with those questions and possible recommendations in the questions to the Cabinet Secretary?
So, we'll write back to the Cabinet Secretary, ask them what consideration they've given to the elements of this petition—in particular, that around seat belts, DBS checks—and see what response comes back. Do you want us to communicate to the petitioner that the committee's view is that dedicated school buses are not achievable for every pupil at this time? Or await the—
We support the ideal, but certainly they've raised many other very important and salient points that we could certainly support and robustly push for.
Certainly, I think that we would be looking at the three items that I outlined. Every child should have a seat—
—all drivers should have the relevant DBS checks, and all buses should be fit for purpose, which, of course, would include—
Of course, all buses are meant to be fit for purpose already. That is something that is covered through the regulation.
Yes, exactly. That opens up that question of what's fit for purpose, then.
Okay. The next petition is 'Trunk Road Through Tre-Taliesin: Urgent Need for
Effective Speed-Calming Measures'. This one was submitted by Antony Foulkes and was first considered in July 2017, having collected 52 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 11 July, and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure. And, of course, the same answer that applied to the other two petitions applies to this one, but it's said they want to request further details about the timing of the review into possible safety measures for the A487, and ask him to inform the committee of the outcome in due course. So, I think we've more or less covered that with regard to the speed limits with all these petitions. Do you agree with that in our response to the first petition, or do you see any particular differences here?
The danger we've got is that we could end up with every road putting in a petition over this. We really should—I know that we're allowed to do this—actually get a situation where we ask the Minister to come in and talk about what's actually happening on speed limits, otherwise we're just going to keep on getting more and more petitions on speed limits and we're not going to make much progress. We can look more to getting the Minister to come in and talk about speed limits on those and other roads but—
Really, we're talking about the timescales here then, Mike, aren't we?
Ask the Minister what's actually happening, when we're going to have a decision and exactly how that decision is going to be communicated?
We've already covered the fact that there are 600 of these identified situations and our recommendation on the other two is that we actually put an appendage to the letter to the Cabinet Secretary asking him if there a system of prioritisation with regard to that.
I think we've got to do that with this one, but I think that at some stage we need to ask the Cabinet Secretary in to ask him about these speed limits on trunk roads, how they're agreed and how people can get them changed. Otherwise, once people see that three have put them in, there are 597 to follow.
I think the agents—whoever the agent is; I'd like to know who that is—should meet with the community.
I agree on that point that an agent should show that he or she has listened to and has heard the views of a local community, whether that happens in a face-to-face meeting—I don't know what the protocol is on these things here—with civil servants, but—.
Would it be the fact that by introducing the speed limit that's required by the community he would be indicating that he has listened to what the community says, or the provider? I'm sure there's an agent that would be involved in each of these speed restriction petitions. Do we ask for the agent to respond on each of these occasions or are we content to ask, in the first instance anyway, for the Cabinet Secretary to give us indications on timescales?
It's communication again, isn't it? It's a bit like the BT issue: things might be heading in the right direction for this community, they might be about to get what they want, but they don't know and if they were told they're not going to get it, well, they could up their campaign to try to get them to change their minds. So, the purpose of a conversation with an agent or with a Minister would be to tell them, 'Actually, this is what's happenning'.
I have to say that in my own community this has cropped up a lot in different parts of the constituency and Conwy council have been fantastic. Even if they've not been able to address a particular issue, for whatever reason, they've always met with the residents and explained and always said, 'Well, in this instance, it will go on this list as priority, where you are—'. There are good examples set by some local authorities on how they engage with the residents and speed limits are coming more to the fore.
So, should we ask the Cabinet Secretary on each of these to ask the agents to communicate with the people?
Yes, but can they put some—speak to the local authority or something, because I can certainly show there are examples where a number of residents can be really concerned, and if the council engage with them—some things are not always possible—you can certainly take a lot of the sting out of the tail just by showing that the local authority is listening?
I would in fact believe that the agent would be the people who will actually install the speed limit signs, et cetera—
Wouldn't it be the trunk road agency in north Wales, which is Gwynedd Council?
It's the trunk road agency that covers north and mid Wales. I think that's Gwynedd Council, isn't it?
And again, local authorities have a say but the Government are responsible for the trunk road agencies, aren't they? So, it's a bit of partnership working needed here.
We could take into account the conversation you've had as a committee. We could write back to the Cabinet Secretary asking him to provide more detail about the speed limit review in general, how that process is carried out, and whether any prioritisation is given to particular sites. Also, as part of that letter, if you wanted to, you could make the point that, in situations like this where there's a local community campaigning for a change, we think it would be appropriate for the agents to meet with that community or communicate with them in some way.
I'd just ask for clarification about the process through which a community can go to see if they can get on the list of 600, because it's a big list.
It is, absolutely. Are you happy? Yes. Fine, okay.
The next petition is one that we have discussed previously. It was submitted by Gerwyn David Evans and was first considered in September 2017. It had collected 11,091 signatures. This is with regard to the planned iron ring at Flint castle. I think that we can now agree that that's not going ahead and, in light of the fact that it's now been confirmed, we can close this petition. Are we happy to do that?
Yes, and hopefully lessons have been learned about, again, engaging with your community before deciding on expensive projects.
With emphasis on congratulating the petitioners on the success of their petition.
Excellent idea, yes.
Okay, the next petition is 'Reopen Carno Station'. We considered this in October 2017. It's collected 877 signatures and was submitted by the Carno Station Action Group. We understand that we asked for the Cabinet Secretary to reply to a letter we sent to him on 17 October, and we had a response from the Cabinet Secretary on 30 November. I think he's indicated that Carno station has now been added to the list of possible locations for either refurbishment or institution of railway stations. The feedback, I think, from the Carno group is that they were happy that they were actually now included on that list, albeit perhaps not in the way that they might have requested in the first instance. Do you have any comments on that?
We've gone as far as we can. They're on the list. They're being considered. We are not in a position to say Carno should have their station opened before Landore station should be opened, for example, but they're on the list, they're being considered, and that's the best they can hope for and the best we can achieve.
Okay. Should we await the views of the petitioners on the latest response?
It's been a very long and hard-fought campaign. I think the petition deserves to stay open as long as possible.
To me, the Cabinet Secretary saying in relation to this that the UK Government is responsible for this just shows the sheer—
Well, you know, you could devolve it if you like, your guys up in London. [Laughter.] It's not us putting the brakes on this.
I do know that Llandudno station has been done up with money through the Welsh Government, very kindly. So, they obviously have their list of priorities. But, I would just say to the people, 'Keep lobbying, keep shouting', and hopefully—we'll see.
Okay, so shall we just ask for their views at this point in time, then? Okay.
The next petition is 'End the Exotic Pet Trade in Wales'. This was submitted by David Sedley and was first considered in March 2017, having collected 222 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 3 October and agreed to write to RSPCA Cymru to obtain their views on the issues. We had a response from RSPCA Cymru on 29 November, and it appears that they fully back the aims of this petition.
I think there is a wider concern with regard to this trade. The Welsh Government is awaiting the findings of the Scottish Government's review of licensing and proposals for a new system. Now, do you believe that that's good enough, or, you know, should we have more detailed evidence on this issue?
Can I just make three suggestions? One is that we await the petitioner's view. Secondly, that we wait for the Cabinet Secretary's response. And, perhaps most importantly, because we haven't got time in the very near future to deal with it, that we keep it available, so that if we are not satisfied with the Cabinet Secretary's response, then we have one of our meetings—
—to take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary, the RSPCA, the petitioners, and any others who are considered appropriate.
I think the fact that we have a reviews effectively going on in Scotland and in England at the moment is useful to us. They are exactly the same issues in all parts of the UK.
Yes, fine. Okay.
The next petition, which is 'Strengthening the Legislative and Regulatory Framework Surrounding Waste Wood Processing Facilities', was submitted by Alexander Williams and was first considered in October 2017 having collected 232 signatures. Committee last considered the petition on 3 October and agreed to write to Natural Resources Wales to seek their response. A response was received from NRW on 21 November, which more or less stated that there was an ongoing prosecution process, particularly with regard to the individual situation that was mentioned by the petitioner, and, obviously, if there are legal matters going on with that, then NRW couldn't comment on it. So, the possible action is that committee could await the views of the petitioner on the response from Natural Resources Wales before considering further action on the petition.
Rhun, or any other points? Fine, thank you.
Okay. The next petition is 'Re-open the Cwmcarn Forest Drive at Easter 2018'. The petition was submitted by the Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive and was first considered in June 2017, having collected 1,450 signatures. There are a number of issues raised by the Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive, which I'm sure the committee will have had time to note. What they're really seeking is the opening of the drive itself and full access for vehicles to that drive in the way that it was prior to being closed due to the infestation of the trees in the forest.
There are issues being raised here as well with regard to the access being given to special cycle tracks and their impact on the tracks used by those wishing to walk the forest on designated pathways.
The possible action is that the committee could request an update from NRW following the public meeting planned for spring 2018, especially in relation to progress made in discussions with Welsh Government over possible funding options for a planned feasibility study with Caerphilly County Borough Council.
I will declare an interest here in that I attended a meeting previously with the NRW and Cwmcarn forest and I intend to attend this meeting in the spring as well. Are you content with that recommendation, that we wait? Yes.
The next petition is 'Don't Fill Landfill!'. It was submitted by Claire Perrin and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 172 signatures. I think that the basic thing with regard to this is that the bins used for recycling should carry specific instructions with regard to what is put into those bins, so that people are absolutely clear how they can recycle and what it is they can recycle. The committee last considered the petition on 7 November and agreed to write to Cardiff council to share the petitioner's comments on recycling bags used in Cardiff, and also that she did offer her services to Cardiff city council with regard to the implementation of anything that Cardiff considered appropriate. Cardiff council has informed the committee that the most recent roll-out of wheeled bins included stickers designed by the Waste and Resource Action Programme. They have also welcomed the opportunity to discuss ways to improve communication with residents with the petitioner. So, mthe possible actions, are: the committee could await the views of the petitioner on the response from Cardiff council, and ask her to provide an update following any direct discussions she has had with Cardiff city council. Are we content to do that? Yes. Neil, seeing as it's something close to home, are you happy with that?
The next petition was the 'Application of the Automatic Fire Suppression Systems Legislation within the current building regulations for Wales.' The petition was submitted by Nick Harding and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 62 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 17 October and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs to ask whether and when the Welsh Government intends to review the impact of the 2013 legislation. A response was received on 18 November. The petitioner also submitted further comments, which are included in the papers, prior to this meeting, which we have had sight of prior to the meeting. Possible recommendations with regard to this: it appears that the Welsh Government are not likely to reconsider the implications that are included in the Act. And, therefore, the possible actions: the committee could write to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee to ask whether they intend to undertake any post-legislative scrutiny of the Building Regulations &c. (Amendment No. 3) and Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Regulations 2013 during this Assembly. Yes? You're happy to do that. Fine.
The next petition is 'Compulsory scanning of domestic pets for microchips by councils'. The petition was submitted by the #CatsMatter campaign and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 910 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 17 October, and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, to ask whether she will consider the petitioner's proposal. A response was received from the Cabinet Secretary on 15 November. The Cabinet Secretary responded to say that it is for local authorities to determine their arrangements and contracts, and to justify those to their communities. Now, we note a strange anomaly here, that there are only five local authorities that do not currently scan pet carcasses. I don't know whether it's included here. The committee could close the petition on the basis of the responses from the Cabinet Secretary, or the committee could write to the five local authorities who do not currently routinely scan pets' carcasses and ask for details of their current policies and whether they are considering the practicalities of introducing routine scanning.
I think we should do that, with a view to closing the petition afterwards.
Yes, I think that's absolutely right. It seems very strange, actually, that you have that anomaly, that only five of them are not doing this. So, are you happy to do that? Yes, fine.
Did the petitioner know, I wonder, if 17 of the 22 already do it?
Yes, I think they've been in contact and running a campaign across local authorities, Wales and further afield, actually, as well. So, yes. But I think they need an extra—. They're asking for an extra push to try and push those authorities that don't.
The next petition is 'South Wales Major Trauma Centre—Cardiff & Swansea Please'. The petition was submitted by Hywel ap John Griffiths, and was first considered in September 2017, having collected 69 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 19 September, and agreed to await the views of the petitioner before deciding what further action to take on the petition. The petitioner responded on 17 November. Having had that response from the petitioner, the committee could close the petition because the proposed location for a new major trauma centre is expected to be put out to public consultation and it is difficult to see how the committee could take the petition forward in the absence of engagement with the petitioner. We must also point out here that the petitioner has said that he does not have the authority to answer questions from the committee with regard to this. Is that correct?
So, without further engagement with the petitioner, I think that the petitioner has made his point and made his point well. He should be encouraged to make that point to a public consultation, but I don't think there's much that we can do relating to this particular petition.
So, we'll close the petition on that basis. Fine.
The next petition is 'Port Talbot Community Against the Super Prison'. Obviously, this is a very emotive and large subject. The petition was submitted by the Port Talbot superprison protest group and was first considered in November 2017, having collected 8,791 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 7 November and agreed to write to the Business Committee to request time for a debate in the Plenary at the earliest opportunity, and the Ministry of Justice to inform them of the petition and that the committee would be requesting a debate in Plenary. We held a debate in Plenary on 6 December. It's been pointed out to me by the clerks that this is one of the first times where, after a debate, it's come back to the committee. So, we have to carefully consider what options are now available to us with regard to taking this petition further. Is that right?
Yes. And just to add, for a bit of context, Chair, the 5,000 threshold that the committee introduced in March last year is still a fairly new process. This is the third petition to have achieved that in that time period. Both of the earlier petitions essentially achieved their aims pretty much straight away or around the time that a debate was held. So, this is the first time that the committee will need to consider what happens to one of those petitions after it's already been debated, because, typically, as you will know, debates on committee work tend to mark the end of that period of work, at least for a period. Where a petition has been debated early on in its consideration by this committee, then it poses some different questions, I think, in terms of what the committee wishes to do next.
I think that we've debated the principle of a prison, but, really, it now comes down to the land, doesn't it? It's Welsh Government land, and I think that I agree with the second possible action that we should write to them as to what process is going to be taken in relation to the sale of the land, should the Ministry of Justice obtain planning permission for the construction of a prison on the land. So, we just ask them how they intend to take it forward.
It's an issue that has much traction, I know, locally, and I think they've gone to the effort of bringing us this petition. There are questions that we can continue asking about the issue.
Okay, fine. Are you happy with that? Okay, fine. Thank you very much.
That leads us on to the evidence session, which is due to start at this particular time. So, we're going to invite the—. This is obviously to discuss the petition to suspend the marine licence to dump radioactive marine sediments from the Hinkley Point nuclear site into Wales coastal waters off Cardiff, submitted by Tim Deere-Jones, having collected 7,171 signatures.
We've not really had time, unfortunately, to ask if you have any particular questions within the suggested question areas. I don't know if anybody wants to make any indications as to one that they would like to ask. Otherwise, I'll just ask each one of you in rota with regard to that. Would you be happy for me to do that? I suggest that I will open the questioning and I'll pose the questioning on the first one to Natural Resources Wales. And if I open that to the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and also close to CEFAS, it will give each one of you the opportunity to ask a question, or perhaps you would do the last one—
Well, good morning, gentlemen. Bore da, and I welcome you to this Petitions Committee inquiry into the dumping of radioactive marine sediments from Hinkley Point nuclear site into Wales coastal waters at Cardiff. Can I remind you that if you wish to speak in Welsh, you can, and for those who are not Welsh speaking we do have the translation equipment there. Are you all au fait with the translation equipment? Are you happy to use that? Fine. Can I ask in the first instance if you could introduce yourselves, possibly starting with Kins, if we could, so that we know exactly who we're talking to?
Sut mae? I'm Dr Kins Leonard. I come from CEFAS Lowestoft, and I'm head of radiological protection.
Good morning. My name is David Carlin. I'm one of the science directors at CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
Morning. I'm John Wheadon, the permitting service manager for Natural Resources Wales.
Bore da. I'm Adam Cooper. I'm the senior permitting officer in the marine licensing team in Natural Resources Wales.
Okay, fine. As is the normal process here, we will be asking some questions and I will indicate now that the first series of questions will be directed at Natural Resources Wales, so that you know exactly how we're going about this inquiry.
So, I'm going to open the questioning by asking you to explain the process to date that NRW has undertaken to ensure that the dredged sediment is suitable for deposit, including the decision over the selection of the Cardiff Grounds site.
With regard to the selection of the Cardiff Grounds site, that wasn't our decision. The applicant—now the licence holder—decided to apply for that site, so that's the application that we considered in our determination. Once that application was received, it was consulted upon. I think as the committee already knows there were various samples taken to assess both the chemical and the radiological nature of the sediment. The results of the analysis of those samples were consulted upon, both internally, with CEFAS and with some external consultees, and based on that it was concluded that the material was acceptable to deposit at Cardiff Grounds.
Okay, fine. Thank you. John, do you have anything to add to that, or are you quite happy with that?
No, I think that summarises in general terms the approach to the application.
Okay, fine. I'm going to ask one of my colleagues now to ask the next question. So, Neil, you wanted to ask—?
Yes, a couple of questions on the data, really. On page 140 of the papers NRW say that
'There is no scientific evidence of higher radioactivity residing at depth in sediments in the Hinkley Area'.
I wondered how you could justify that comment given the results on page 134. Have you got those in front of you?
No. Those packs are for committee members.
Okay. Well, what we have here in the 2009 core study: 8.1 billion aggregated man-made rads per 300,000 tonnes; in the 2017 surface sample, there are 5.22 billion. So, clearly there's a differential there. So, I wondered how you could justify the statement that there's no evidence of higher radioactivity residing at depth, because that seems to suggest that there would be—or that there is, actually.
The advice we received was from CEFAS, and I think it may be better for CEFAS to actually comment on that question, because they didn't comment on the context of those levels, but the advice we received from the consultation is that the levels were not a risk.
Can I add to that, please?
If you look at the data that was produced for the 2009 data, you will see that there were surface samples collected and sub-surface samples collected up to a depth of 3 m. At only one of the cores is there a positive concentration of activity—caesium-137—and that is less than at the surface. All the others are less than detection, which is a 'less than' value that means that it's not a detectable activity. There is no reason why there should be significant amounts of radioactivity in the sub-surface.
I would add, because it's mentioned in the paper, that activity has been found in the sub-surface in other areas, but this is specific to Sellafield. And I, and lots of other people, have done work to determine what those activities are and how they've originated, and they're basically from historical Sellafield discharges that are not the same as those of Hinkley. So, the 2009 data demonstrate that there is no significant amount above the surface. Caesium-137, which is positive, is less than the surface. That is a conservative nuclide, meaning it probably goes through the water column and therefore is being diluted as it goes down into the surface.
On top of that, I'm the editor-in-chief of the 'Radioactivity in Food and the Environment' series report, which is an annual report that produces data on behalf of the environment agencies and the Food Standards Agency to look at all the sites—Hinkley is included in that. The Environment Agency do a lot of sediment sampling of the Hinkley area. If we were to see remobilisation, i.e. sediment is brought from the bottom to the top through natural processes, you would have irregular results. We see that in areas in Sellafield through the erosion of various parts of the surrounding areas. We haven't seen that ever at Hinkley, so, again, there is no evidence to suggest that there are significant amounts of artificially produced radionuclides in the sub-surface sediments.
They were the same as the surface sediments. I think four or five, without looking at the data. Obviously, there are lots of data sets.
I've got three in front of me. There were five in 2009. The surface samples in 2013: there were 17. So, why were there only five more deeply below the surface, below a metre, and 17 on the surface?
The reason why there were five in the first instance is that the work that we carried out for that was undertaken by Fugro on behalf of EDF. They set out the sampling plan, we did the analysis. We didn't do an assessment on that 2009 analysis. On the 2013 and 2017 ones, we were involved in the sampling plan.
So, EDF decided just to do five samples. The average total of caesium, cobalt and americium that I have in front of me here says 27 bq/kg. But, in 2017, on the surface, there was only 17. So, there's a differential of 10 there, which seems to—
I don't know how they come to that number. You'd have to put that number in perspective, because becquerels per kilogram is a unit of radioactivity, but is not a unit of risk. I'll go into that technical detail if you wish, but I don't know whether that is naturals and no artificials, whether that's using limits of detection as a baseline. I cannot answer that question without further information.
But, I would go on to say that in terms of the radiological significance, it's not the number of nuclides nor the activities, it's the impact of those in terms of risk, which we call 'dose'. We have to convert that concentration into a dose unit and this is all agreed internationally as to how we do this, using dose coefficients. When we do the assessment, we look at the most radiologically significant radionuclides that are going to give the most significant dose. So, the assessment in total is not on the radionuclides that are present, per se; it's on the effect of dose. That is the internationally agreed way of doing it.
I think part of the issue for me here is a lack of transparency and a lack of openness. You were discussing data, you say you need more information, and I would probably agree with you, but I'd like to know why you've not provided the plot of the analysis. It's been asked for by the people opposing—
Yes, that was sent this morning, and I have a copy with me if you wish to see the raw data that was sent.
With respect, I'm not a scientist, so I'm not able to make too much sense of the raw data.
Way before this committee met this morning, campaigners asked to see a plot of the analysis to come back to us to inform us so that we could ask questions. There was analysis sent yesterday, which was the wrong analysis, and so—
No, it's not the wrong analysis. Those are the raw data that were asked for, the raw results that were asked for—
We can send that in due time. That is not a problem. I would add—
Just let me finish. You've come in this morning and you've just told us that you've already provided the data to the campaigners that they asked for this very morning. It doesn't help us in asking the questions, does it?
Well, it didn't help me having the request on 21 December—the e-mail is auditable—when I was on leave and didn't come back until 2 January, unfortunately. If I'd have had that before I went on leave, I may have been able to do it. But we would be very willing to give whatever data is required, and I would add that all our data is United Kingdom Accreditation Service accredited, which means we go through an—
We have nothing to hide in terms of our data.
Can I just ask one question? This raw data is now readily available to researchers and to others, or will be ready eventually.
If we're asked to give data—we were asked this morning—for the individual counts, we can provide that data in due course. We've got nothing to hide.
When you say, 'due course'—. I mean, you said it was available this morning. If I wrote in as an interested person and said, 'When can I have the raw data?' what answer would you give me?
I would be able to give that as soon as we have access to the data. There is a problem that we do have at the moment in giving the raw counts data. Those data that were sent yesterday were interim because we do not have access to our facilities at the moment; we're undergoing a refurbishment and we're in shutdown. So, the very counts-per-minute, which is the very baseline data, are on a computer system that is currently shut down. The data that we have sent, which are the data that give the raw results, include all of the gamma-emitting radionuclides, which are analysed and determined. Obviously, they're all less than values, which are not in the report. That was sent, because that data was on a paper copy and we have those paper copies readily available.
Can I ask the question in another way? If I ask for all the available data, when would you say I'd be able to have it?
When we can get access to our computer, which will be probably a couple of weeks.
As an agency of Government, we work within the environmental information regulations, so if a request came in, we would endeavour to deliver the information within the deadlines specified within the environmental information regulations.
Well, we would've been reliant on CEFAS, so—
We wouldn't expect to either. We would rely on CEFAS, in the consultation response, to provide their assessment.
Okay. I'd like to come back in afterwards, because I'm sure more colleagues will want to ask a question.
Okay. We're mindful of the fact, obviously, that the company are interested in starting the dredging process and the dumping process in the summer of 2018, so it's pretty imperative that interested parties should have all the data available in plenty of time to make decisions with regard to that.
Yes, but with respect, we've been looking at this since September. We're here in January now and we're being told that we've still not got access to the raw data. I'm just gobsmacked, really, almost.
In September, we weren't asked for the raw data. I was only asked for the raw data on 21 December.
Unfortunately, with all the best will in the world, on 21 December, I cannot produce raw data—
I'll leave CEFAS out of this equation, but we've been raising this question since September, both with the Welsh Government and with NRW, and for you to come along this morning and say that the data has been provided this very morning, I find quite outrageous, really. I absolve CEFAS from that, but I would expect the Government and NRW to already have provided that data, really. If we're looking at an open and transparent process, then surely you should've obtained that data.
Okay. Can we pass on? One of my other colleagues will be asking some further questions, if that's okay, again directed, at this moment, at NRW.
There is a concern as to whether NRW has sufficient in-house radiological expertise, and there are concerns, also, about the impartiality of the Environment Agency expertise and that NRW is importing in people who used to work in the nuclear industry. Is that fair to say? Is that a correct assessment?
Firstly, we do have our own in-house expertise. They tend to focus on strategy and policy, so, if there are operational issues, we may defer to the Environment Agency or, in certain cases, CEFAS. So, there is expertise within NRW. Again, in relation to the Environment Agency, they are a body that our experts will liaise with through well-established communication routes. We have complete trust in the Environment Agency; we liaise with them, as another Government body, and we have complete trust in the advice that they provide us in terms of any questions that we put to them.
Do those officers who engage have the adequate radiological capability and expertise?
Yes, and they're involved, as I say, primarily in policy and strategy activities. So, if there are operational activities that we're involved in, and, as I say, through consultation with CEFAS, and there may be occasions where they liaise with the Environment Agency, if they feel they need a peer review, for example, of work they're involved in.
And what about the petition's concerns around the impartiality of the Environment Agency, and that NRW is—these are not my words—
‘importing in people who used to work in the nuclear industry’?
Is that a correct position?
Sorry. In terms of NRW staff or Environment Agency staff?
Bringing in people who have worked previously in the nuclear industry.
Okay. In terms of the two individuals within NRW, I don't specifically know their previous work history, but, again, I would have complete trust in anybody employed within NRW or the Environment Agency to respect their impartiality in terms of the responsibility they're discharging.
Okay. In order to allay the concerns of the petitioner, how are we able to establish, perhaps, whether that is correct—that there is a preference for people who've been in the nuclear industry? That's the assumption.
I think that question will need to be directed to NRW and the Environment Agency formally for a response. As I say, I'm not familiar with their previous work, so it's not something I can actually comment on.
I'd just like to talk about NRW engaging with the public. This has not been a public relations success for NRW, has it? We've had a fairly large petition, we've had lots of statements in the press in this area. Could there be more engagement with the public by NRW when they have applications of this kind in?
I think it's important to bear in mind this was an application received in 2014, and that was obviously connected with the Hinkley project, which would have gone through its own extensive public consultation. So, at the time, in 2014, it was still subject to a public consultation in terms of the dredging activity at a well-established disposal site. So, whether more needed to have been done in 2014 is difficult to say, but I think anything that needs to be done at this stage, in terms of providing that reassurance, we've certainly set out to do that.
Sorry, John. It was issued in 2014; it was received in 2012.
The point I make on behalf of the general public is: this came up because of people discovering—they would say—that this was about to happen. If, in the beginning, NRW had said, 'We've got some coming from Hinkley, we've tested it,' or, 'We're having it tested. If it's okay, it's going to be moved here,' and had engaged with the general public at that stage, I don't think you'd be in here today.
I think, in fairness, we did do that. It was subject to a consultation as it went through. It was advertised.
Yes. And that wasn't us.
No. Do you want to explain the consultation process?
As per process at the time, the Welsh Government required the applicant to put a notice—and, in fact, there were two notices—because there were two separate applications that were eventually combined into the one licence. Those notices went into the Western Mail.
And I'm sure the Western Mail had two or three notices in it this morning. I bet nobody in this room could tell me what was in those Western Mail notices. There's going through the legal minimum and there's actually taking a proactive approach. There's putting out a press release saying, 'Look, we've had this application process, there might be some mud coming from Hinkley Point, we're having it tested. If it's okay, we're going to allow it to be moved over, if it's not okay, we will not.' Relying on people reading those adverts or those statements in the Western Mail, I mean—. Can anybody tell me what was in there today? You've just said how important they are. What was advertised today in the Western Mail?
I understand the point you're making. An important point to reflect on is what may or may not have happened in 2013 when the application came in is something we may not do today, as NRW. So, I think it's impossible for me to answer, really. I can't answer what we would—. I would hope—. I would certainly suspect we would treat them very differently if that application was to be received today, to provide that additional reassurance to the public and the communities.
We can't rewrite history—we haven't got a time machine—but what we can do is learn.
I think the point is that putting adverts in the Western Mail and hoping that the 20,000 readers of the Western Mail, or 18,000, are going to flick through it and pick that up is not going to get very many people. If you put out a press release saying, 'This is what's happening, this is what we're going to do, and if it passes through CEFAS, who are the experts in this area, then it will be allowed, but if it doesn't pass CEFAS, it won't', that would have given a level of reassurance, rather than the headline 'Nuclear mud dumped in Cardiff.'
I think we're in agreement. As I say, I'd give you the reassurance that, if we were to receive the application today, the approach would probably be very different, and there are plenty of examples where we do that with permit applications, to engage with local communities and perhaps beyond, if we realise the level of public interest that's there.
There could be some further steps taken, which would be useful in terms of public relations, if not science, because you're confident in what you've seen already, which would be to say, 'Okay, let's do some more sampling. The licence remains. We haven't got a time machine, as Mike Hedges says; the licence remains. But to prove, and in consultation with people who are opposing, we will take some more samples. We'll tell you where they are, and we'll get CEFAS to very transparently tell you what the data is from those new areas.' Would there be merit in that? Both organisations.
Well, I have no objection to that suggestion. I think it's a very good suggestion. I would just add that in order to do that, we would follow exactly the same procedure, which—
Well, if that is a requirement to allay public perception, we would be very happy to do that. We would follow the guidelines that are set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the way in which we do it and in which we assess the dose. We could make it more transparent in terms of how that assessment is done in the report, and we would be very willing to participate in that if it helps public perception.
However, from a scientific point of view, I think we'd be content that the need for that was public relations, rather than additional evidence or scientific data.
And I'll accept that, but representing a constituency where nuclear is a live issue, I know that people do need to be satisfied that the relevant steps are being taken. I find your responses very useful, and I wonder if NRW would like to respond as well.
Yes, I think that's a really good response. Slightly different to EDF last time, when they said, 'But you need to ask the right questions, because you need to get the right answers,' which was slightly concerning—
Again, I would support the response from CEFAS and we'll look at that. There's a new suite of sampling results at the moment that's currently being assessed.
Yes, I think they're probably up to—. Yes, they're largely surface samples.
Yes. Adam will know the actual depths, but there are 17 surface samples that have been taken—
Is it 12? Okay.
I can explain why it's not 17, if that's necessary.
Yes, but again, they've been recently received and they're subject to another consultation process. We would have to have those discussions with the applicant around any additional sampling that they perhaps may want to volunteer to undertake.
Would there be any objection to a neutral body, for example Cardiff council, initiating more research?
Research in what context?
I declare an interest; I'm a Cardiff councillor. But in terms of more sampling, I'm not content that five samples are enough. How big is the area that is being dredged?
Sorry, I don't have that information on me.
I can say, from the results that we've got on the samples on each occasion, that the results are fairly consistent, showing that the distribution of the spread of radionuclides is pretty uniform. If you look at the seasonal results, which are really the only positive ones, they're fairly uniform, given the experience I've got of what variables you'll get over time and distance. So, I would suggest they are fairly uniform concentrations. I'm happy to extend a number of samples, but they're all going to be very similar.
It depends, though, because the report that I've got in front of me, which may be useful for you to have, says that there's a 35 per cent variation between the maximum and minimum. So, that's not uniform in my book.
Well, you can interpret data in many ways. A 35 per cent variation in, for example, the caesium concentration is not going to be a 35 per cent variation in the dose. It's the dose, at the end of the day, and the risk to health that is the important parameter—as I said earlier, it's not the concentration. So, a 35 per cent variation in concentration doesn't relate to a 35 per cent variation in dose. It's about whether the dose, as I indicated earlier, is under a de minimis level. So, as long as that level is—. Even though you may have a 35 per cent variation, as indicated there, you're not going to exceed and you're going to get nowhere near the dose, and it's the dose that's the important thing in accepting whether or not that material can be dredged and dumped, not the concentration.
It's a question more for NRW this, because it's clear that there have only been five samples taken at a depth. Do you not think you should know what size of area is being dredged in order to decide whether or not just five samples are suitable?
We don't have that specific answer now, but we know the area that is being dredged and that's documented within the application. Through the initial consultation process, that question was asked and the specialist was satisfied, through the number of samples that had been taken and the results that were produced, that that material was safe.
You said that you do have enough in-house expertise, but you have not seen the raw data—those experts have not seen any raw data. I'm just not filled with confidence listening to what—
You would appreciate that obviously we consult with CEFAS, who have their own expertise. CEFAS will produce for us a report, and if anybody needs to see the data that sits behind those reports, as they've explained, they'd be happy to share that. But that's fairly standard for any type of technical assessment we undertake.
Could I just add to that? Because it's quite an important point. Again, we're very happy to provide the raw data, but in terms of raw data, I say again: we're a UKAS accredited laboratory and we have been for 20 years. That involves a number of steps, particularly being audited by an external expert who will go through all that data to demonstrate—and we do this on a yearly basis, with a major one every five years—our quality. Any misgivings in the quality of our raw data or how we do the calculations would be noted in those. We haven't had any significant remarks during that process. That's not to say that we're not willing to give the data, but we are—
Let me ask what studies NRW or CEFAS have done to find out where the material will actually end up once it has been dumped.
For this particular licence, there's a monitoring condition. So, the applicant will have to monitor—
Do we know now where it will end up? Where will the material—whether it's suitable or not—end up once it's dumped? Do we know that?
It'll largely be dependent on the coastal processes. According to the consultation exercises that were undertaken, the strong preference from the three environmental bodies was for it to remain in the estuary because it will continue to support the SAC feature—
We know it's going to be dumped in the estuary, but where is that material going to go? This is what the question really is: what studies have been undertaken and what research has been undertaken to tell us now where the material will end up?
Perhaps if I could come in here. Whenever we provide advice to Natural Resources Wales or the Marine Management Organisation on the impacts of disposal of dredged material, one of the factors that we will consider is the physical nature of that material and therefore a suitable site for that material to be disposed. So, there are 140-odd disposal sites licensed around UK waters. The rule of thumb is that, as John has indicated, it's best to return material to the sediment cell that that material was extracted from, and certainly the nature conservation authorities are very keen to ensure that that is the case. Clearly, in defining a disposal site, a number of factors need to be looked into, one of which is how dispersive that particular site may be. So, the Cardiff Grounds disposal site, which was identified in this instance, is a very dispersive site, so the material will be disposed of and then rapidly, due to natural processes, be dispersed within the Bristol channel and Severn estuary area. We undertake—
Thank you for that, David. I think we have to move on, now. Rhun, would you like to—?
Just leading on from that, actually. These are some points that have been made to me by people who are concerned about the process that has been followed and what is going to happen to what's dumped. Is there a difference between disposal at sea and disposal in an estuary in terms of the regulations that you apply to your processes? There's a suggestion that some measurements, some projections have been made relating to dumping at sea rather than in an estuary in this case.
No, not that I'm aware, other than the fact that the statutory nature conservation bodies, particularly in an estuary that's a European marine site, a special area of conservation—they will want that sediment kept within the same sediment cell, as Dave mentioned, but there's no different process, regulatory speaking, no.
But you took into consideration the likely dispersal in an estuary as opposed to what would happen to dumping in open sea when it came to licensing.
We didn't consider other dump sites. We considered the deposit site that was applied for, which was Cardiff Grounds.
But you considered it in a way that reflected that it was an estuary, a very dispersive site, and your calculations on whether to grant a licence would've been different had it been an open sea site.
We would've relied on CEFAS there and CEFAS would've advised, based on the application that was made, which was to deposit it at Cardiff Grounds. So, they advised that it was acceptable to deposit at Cardiff Grounds.
So, our advice would look at the natural conditions occurring in any site that's licensed for disposal. Cardiff Grounds has been licensed for many years, so our assessment would take into account, and indeed did take into account, the natural processes associated with the Cardiff Grounds site, both in terms of its physical nature, its dispersive nature, but also things like fisheries and other potential contaminants that may be within the sediment to be disposed. All of that assessment forms a weight of evidence and allows us to make a judgment and provide advice to the regulator as to whether or not we felt, from an environmental point of view, that disposal of that material to that particular site was appropriate, and indeed, in this instance, we suggested that it was.
Another suggestion that's been made to me is that your assessment in 2009 on de minimis dosage related to dredging workers, rather than de minimis dose in the environment. Perhaps you can—
On the 2009 data, we did not do a dose assessment; that was a straight analytical contract on behalf of Fugro. We were just asked to provide the concentrations. So, unfortunately, I cannot—. But I would add, though, if I was to do an assessment, looking at the numbers, I would say that they would've gone below de minimis. They would've been de minimis values. But we did not do an assessment on the 2009 data; we only did assessments, as requested, on the 2013 data from NRW and we also did a second assessment in 2017 on behalf of EDF.
Should there have been, by somebody, if not yourselves, some de minimis assessment in 2009 on the samples then?
That's a good question. We were just requested to do that and fulfilled the request. It was as simple as that.
Fugro. So, we weren't even aware at the time what exactly the request was for. We were just asked to do the analysis, so we carried out the work.
A question following on from Rhun, then. You said before that the important thing is the dosage—
That is correct. We didn't work out a dose; that wasn't part of our remit at that time. I could do an assessment of that dose now with those numbers, but it hasn't been done to date. But I would add, looking at the numbers and with the expertise that I've got, I can guarantee that those would be de minimis values.
And again, in terms of public relations and building public confidence, that could be another part of an exercise on further sampling.
That could be done. We could do a dose assessment on that data, but I can guarantee that they will be de minimis values, mostly because the values at depth are, as I say, less-than values—and when we do an assessment, we include the less-than values as a positive value, i.e. we overestimate the activity concentrations for the dose assessment—and they are no larger than, or are in the same ballpark as, the 2013 and 2017 data at surface, and less at bottom.
And would there have been dosage for dredging workers or for the environment?
We do a dredging just for the workers and the general public, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines of 2003.
Okay. And there was one other question, if I can remember what it was. It was—yes, to NRW. What assessment have you carried out of the effect on marine life—the likely effect on marine life—of the dumping on Cardiff Grounds?
As part of the licence determination there would have been a habitats regulations assessment, which would have looked specifically at the European marine site in the Severn estuary, which is a specific list of habitats and species that are protected, and that concluded that there wasn't an adverse effect on the integrity of the site. As standard, we look at environmental effects when we determine all applications. In terms of radiological impacts, there wasn't a specific assessment of that in terms of marine life.
Okay. I'll direct the last of these questions—and I'll try to be as brief in asking them, and I hope you could be as brief in answering them, as possible. But, given a lot of the foregoing, and the questions raised and concerns, are you satisfied that the NRW are satisfied that the marine licensing process is robust, fit for purpose and whether NRW has sufficient resources to administer it? And are there any other aspects of the process that it believes could be improved? We've talked about, obviously, communication as one of those. Then, lastly, is there a timeline for taking advice and reaching a final decision on this?
Okay. If I—
In terms of the first question, I think we've responded to that to the sustainability committee. I think there was a similar question posed to NRW, so we have set it out in writing, and I believe this committee's been provided with the response, so I'd refer to that response.
I think your second question, in terms of a decision—as I say, the licence has already been issued, so that's in force. The operator needs to comply with the conditions of that licence, which includes, as I say, further monitoring of the material and of the site, or sampling of the material, rather, and that's currently being assessed and will be subject to a consultation.
Fine. Our next set of questions is to ask yourselves—you may, in fact, have answered some of these questions prior to this, but if we can just say—could you explain the process you follow for radiological testing of marine sediments, for example the gamma spectrometry analysis that you undertake? Is there an ability to just, in layman's terms, explain that?
I will try and do it in layman's terms. Forgive me if I get a bit technical, because I'm used to speaking in technical terms.
So, in terms of doing a radiological assessment, I've already mentioned that in 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency produced guidelines for how to do the assessment for determining de minimis. They suggested a tiered approach in which various tiers were undertaken to determine whether de minimis was reached. So, you would start off with a conservative estimate, using assumptions that made the calculations larger than anticipated. Following that 2003 report, CEFAS, on behalf of DEFRA, produced a specific protocol of how to determine de minimis. That was accepted scientifically, and that is available on the CEFAS website if anybody wants to see it.
From that, in order to do the first tier—and in most cases we only do one tier of assessment, because that is needed to get de minimis—we determine radionuclides by gamma spectrometry. That determines all the radionuclides that are gamma emitters, so, for example, caesium, cobalt; most of those are below the limit of detection. We have to then use those concentrations to determine the dose, as I've already said, and we look at three pathways for de minimis. The first one is external radiation, i.e. the gamma emitter is just radiating the person—the worker or the member of the public. The second is inadvertent ingestion, which is obviously swallowing the sediment particles by mistake, and the third one is inhalation. Those latter pathways are the minor pathways, but we still consider them.
Now, it's fairly straightforward that, for the main pathway of gamma-emitting nuclides, you only have to measure gamma-emitting nuclides. For the second and third pathways, which are the minor pathways, you have to consider the alphas, and in the assessment on the first tier where we just did just gamma-emitting nuclides, we actually calculate alphas, again conservatively, for the plutonium-emitting nuclides and for polonium-210. Those are included in the assessment.
So, the concentrations are averaged over the assessment, which, as I say, are conservative. We include the less than values as positive values; in other words, we're over-estimating them. We multiply those by dose coefficients, which are ICRP, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, values, which are updated periodically and those we update as necessary. Those then provide a dose over those three pathways. If the first tier of that assessment is less than de minimis, which is 10 microsieverts per year for workers and the general public, that's when we stop. In the case of Hinkley, that's when we stopped.
We've only really gone on to further tiers of the assessment at Sellafield, where we know there are sub-surface increases of radioactivity from the very large amounts of discharges that were discharged in the mid 1970s, where they'd stuck in a sub-service maxima under what's called the Sellafield mud patch. There is no equivalent mud patch at Hinkley.
So, that's basically the process.
The petitioner said, and I preface this comment with that—the petitioner said that you only tested for three or four nuclides.
That's not correct. We've reported three or four. The gamma spectrometry analyses all of the gamma-emitting radionuclides, so things like iron-59, manganese-54—all of those—but they would be below the detection limit. There is no point in doing a dose coefficient of a less than value that then results in no dose, so we only specifically report those radionuclides that are radio-sensitive and likely to give a dose. We analyse all gamma-emitting radionuclides.
It would have been helpful if, when you reported it, you'd reported on 'less than' in order to indicate that all had been studied, because the petitioner was absolutely adamant that the problem was that you're only checking three or four, and there were 17 or 18 you could be checking.
Well, it actually says in the report—and I did check this morning—that we do a calculation for the alphas, which I mentioned earlier, which are for the two other pathways, of inhalation and ingestion. I accept your point. We can do that in the future, or we can make the comment that a list of other nuclides are below detection limits. I accept the point.
I think it would be helpful if you actually produced a list of the other nuclides, saying, 'These are below the detection limit against them', because that would avoid the level of confusion we've had from some people.
Yes. I think that's probably scientific naivety.
Fine. Thank you, Mike. So, are you absolutely adamant that the petitioner's concerns that an insufficient range of radiological materials have been tested for—? Are you happy that they—?
I'm extremely happy about the way in which we do it. As I say, we look at all the gamma-emitting radionuclides for the major pathway. We have the results of less than values for all the ones that aren't reported in the NRW report. We follow the guidelines strictly in terms of the criteria that the International Energy Agency have asked for, and we have a document in which we say how we fulfil those guidelines by the IEA. I'm totally happy with the assessments that have been carried out and that they're fit for purpose.
And the wider assessments that take into account all other aspects, including radionuclides, I'm very happy that the advice we've provided to Natural Resources Wales to effectively consent to the disposal of this dredged material to Cardiff Grounds is appropriate, and that my staff have done a good job in undertaking that assessment.
Thank you. And, lastly, obviously there are concerns raised by interested parties that both NRW and EDF Energy have commissioned CEFAS to undertake the work relating to this application, and therefore there are implications of a possible Chinese wall. How is this managed within the organisation?
Okay. So, Cefas, we're an executive agency of DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have a mandate from DEFRA and from UK Government that any spare capacity that we have should be made available to people, other Government departments and industry, who wish to commission some of that or use some of that capacity. Because we're a Government department, and because all of the work that we do is to published international guidelines, and therefore is very transparent and open, we feel that we have no specific conflicts for us to be able to be commissioned to undertake that form of analysis, either by industry or by the regulator. And, indeed, in this instance, we've obviously done both. Further, I'd add that, under some of the changes to the way that marine licenses are permitted, moving towards industry providing data to certain standards at their own expense rather than the taxpayers' expense, again, using the likes of Cefas, with our international standards, is appropriate in terms of providing that data and that assessment.
Yes. What studies have NRW and Cefas undertaken to tell us what the level of radioactivity or man-made radioactive material is in the channel? How many studies have been undertaken in the Severn estuary, in the channel area, to establish the—?
Well, as I referred to earlier, this is not done by Cefas, but we reported in the RIFE report that the Environment Agency carry out sediment sampling around the Hinkley area, and have done so well before I started—
I'd have to look at the locations where they are, but in terms of—. My earlier comment earlier was that if there was any remobilisation, i.e. historic material, then you would have inconsistency in data within years. So, in terms of the RIFE report, over the last decade, the values have been fairly consistent. What we also do within the RIFE work is we do a—[Interruption.] Can I just finish? Can I just finish?
Not off the top of my head, no. I deal with quite a large number of sites around the UK. I couldn't tell you the locations off the top of my head.
The Environment Agency would be better suited to do that.
So, to find out what tests have been carried out where, we need to go to the Environment Agency.
Yes. They're responsible for doing the sediment sampling around the Hinkley area.