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Didcot’s New Ecological Solution – What does it really mean?

Didcot Power Station have announced new plans for the disposal of fly ash (PFA) at Radley (See News item). However their press release seems to be worded in such a way as to cause some confusion, particularly among journalists not completely familiar with the issues.

So what exactly is Didcot’s New Ecological Solution?

First of all, what it does NOT mean:

  • Contrary to television news broadcasts on Central TV News on 1st February, Didcot Power Station operators have not abandoned plans to dump their waste ash at Radley. This appears to have been due to a misinterpretation of NPower’s press release.
  • It is not a new solution to the problem of PFA disposal. In fact, it is the same old (bad) solution. The waste will be pumped as a liquid slurry to Radley where it will be dumped into a lake.
  • It does not mean that one lake, Bullfield Lake is saved. What Npower actually say is that Bullfield Lake will not be filled, quite a different thing altogether. The Bullfield will be drained and left dry for many months, resulting in the destruction of most of the wildlife inhabiting its waters and immediate surroundings.
  • What the solution is not is ecological. It is essentially the same process of destroy and then (try to) restore. The only difference is that the restoration will involve leaving the Bullfield and its immediate surroundings in a semi natural state.

So what is Didcot’s New Solution?

Quite simply it is the Old Solution except that only Lake E (Thrupp Lake) will be used for the dumping of PFA. Lake F will not be filled – which does not mean it will not be destroyed (see below). To Npower, this is a small concession, as the much smaller, Lake F (Bullfield Lake) accounts for less than 15% of the total capacity of the site. There is still room for 500,000 tonnes of PFA in the larger lake.

Since the two lakes are hydrologically connected, it is impossible to de-water (drain) Lake E without draining Lake F also. Lake F then cannot be refilled until the clay bunds around Lake E are completed, a period of many months. In the meantime, all the wildlife that is dependent onboth lakes will perish (except perhaps for any large fish they manage to rescue).

Also, the entire area will be fenced off (for its “protection”) for an unspecified period. This could be many years.

What is Ecological about this new solution?

Very little that we can see. The large lake is the ecological power house of the area, and its presence is vital to many species, some of which are legally protected, as well as to the high biodiversity of the area that makes it so interesting and important. Its permanent destruction will have a profound adverse affect on the ecology of the whole wider area. Many thousands of trees will be cut down; Hundreds of birds will be displaced and put at risk; Bats, birds and mammals will lose their food supply and many will perish as a result. These creatures certainly cannot wait around until Npower complete their restoration, even assuming there was sufficient suitable habitat remaining. Unlike when previous lakes were filled, there is insufficient remaining suitable habit for refuge.

What is Save Radley Lakes response to this?

The proposal itself is not entirely unexpected, and the campaign will continue. However, Didcot should be chastised for issuing a press release that is so blatantly designed to mislead, and for exaggerating the ecological merits of their “New Solution” when it is really only a marginal improvement on the old one.

The Fight Goes On!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/didcots-new-ecological-solution-what-does-it-really-mean/