A system using underwater sound projectors would prevent thousands of fish, including protected species like Atlantic salmon, being drawn to their death each day into the water cooling systems of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
Developed in the United Kingdom by Fish Guidance Systems Ltd (FGS), The Sound Projector Array deflects fish away from water intakes to protect both fish and cooling water infrastructure. It uses specially synthesized sound signals that would deter fish from entering the double-decker sized underwater cooling tunnels at Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
The Severn Estuary is the UK’s largest estuary and a designated Special Area of Conservation. Hinkley Point C will be the first of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK that will cool its turbines by drawing in large amounts of seawater from the Severn Estuary.
Important fish in the estuary include protected Atlantic salmon, sea trout and twaite shad and this specific acoustic deterrent system would protect these migratory species as well as fragile and young fish that use the Severn Estuary as a nursery.
The Secretary of State’s Development Consent Order (DCO) requires an acoustic fish deterrent to be installed at Hinkley Point C, but a request has been made to not install one, according to Fish Guidance Systems Ltd. Removal of this vital piece of environmental protection would threaten the biodiverse ecosystem of the estuary over the lifetime of the power station, says the company.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP is responsible for the final decision on whether the fish will be protected in the Severn Estuary, which is imminent.
Dr David Lambert, Environmental Scientist and Managing Director of Fish Guidance Systems said: “At FGS, we create environmentally safe solutions that support industrial development while protecting endangered species or deterring invasive species. The installation of Acoustic fish deterrents (AFD) on coastal intakes are considered best practice by the Environment Agency and FGS have installed these at a number of other gas-fired and nuclear power stations including Doel in Belgium. To remove the system from Hinkley Point C is setting an unhealthy precedent for environmental protection, especially with issues currently facing fish with conservation designations in the Severn Estuary.”
Dr Andy Turnpenny, Fisheries Scientist, said “The Severn Estuary is a Special Area of Conservation important for its role as a fish nursery and migratory corridor. There is uncertainty over the exact impact Hinkley Point C will have on the fish assemblage that supports the complexity of bird species and commercial fish stocks. The Hinkley Point C cooling system will be 3 to 4 kilometres offshore and the number of fish it will draw in will take away the ability of the stocks to withstand normal environmental pressures and natural setbacks. With climate change, we will see significant changes to fish stocks over the 60-year life span of the station and the assessments made by Cefas therefore, carry a high degree of uncertainty. The acoustic fish deterrent is a keystone in the design to minimise harm to fish”