Cardiff’s ‘nuclear’ mud threatens to become a toxic Tryweryn of our own making

Hinkley Point A nuclear power plant

Ifan Morgan Jones

‘Contributionism’ has long been the dominant mode of thinking within Wales’ unionist parties.

This term, coined by Ned Thomas in the 80s, is best summed up as the belief that Wales’ glory is best sought via its contribution to the rest of the UK.

If that means serving as a foolish but loyal Baldrick to the UK Government’s dismissive Blackadder, that’s fine.

As long as Wales can bask in the reflected glory of Britain’s (admittedly rapidly diminishing) global prowess, all is well.

I had a glimmer of hope that this mindset may finally be changing in the wake of Brexit.

However, the revelation that the Welsh Government gave the go-ahead for 300,000 tonnes of mud from a disused nuclear plant to be dumped near Cardiff quickly brought me to my senses.

The scheme unearthed by newly independent AM, Neil McEvoy is absolutely jaw-dropping.

In 2013 the Welsh Government granted permission for the developers of Hinkley Point C to dispose of sediment from the construction work outside Cardiff Bay.

EDF Energy has given assurances that the work is not harmful. But now a marine pollution consultant, Tim Deere-Jones, has weighed in to warn that the sampling to check the mud for harmful contaminants was inadequate.

Waste from the nuclear plant could have been seeping into the mud for 50 years, he said.

“Rather than being relatively stable at the Hinkley site it is being churned up and brought over here to be dumped,” he told the BBC.

“As a result, Welsh coastal populations could be exposed to doses of marine radioactivity.”

Politically toxic

The whole episode is utterly mind-boggling. Potentially radioactive mud is not something to be dumped on the doorstep of your capital city, whether the work is “in line with legal requirements” or not.

What on earth were the Welsh Government thinking?

Unfortunately, this latest revelation seems to be part of a disturbing pattern.

It follows a number of super-prisons being built in Wales, accusations of social cleansing, and the First Minister’s invitation for Trident to relocated to Pembrokeshire.

Wales seems to be becoming a dumping ground for problems too unsavoury for the rest of the UK, and our politicians seem to be perfectly happy with that.

But to reach out a bowl over the Severn Estuary and ask ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more potentially toxic sludge?” is taking Ned Thomas’ contributionism to a whole new level.

If it’s discovered that the mud is in any way radioactive, it will be a toxic Tryweryn that the Welsh Government will find it hard to live down.

It will be worse than Tryweryn in many ways because this isn’t an indignity being forced on us. This is our government – we’re doing it to ourselves.


Another question is why it is being left to an independent AM, Neil McEvoy, to dredge up the Welsh Government’s dirty (and potentially toxic) laundry?

If this is what he can discover when left to his own devices, however, perhaps Plaid Cymru should suspend him more often.

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