Devonport Dockyard
Devonport Dockyard

Luke Pollard has today submitted a consultation response to the Environment Agency’s consultation on an application by HMNB Devonport to release radioactive rainwater into the River Tamar.

You can read Luke’s letter in full at the bottom of the page. Luke said:

Luke said:

“In the middle of a climate crisis I want companies to be polluting less, not polluting more. Although the amount of radioactive rainwater involved is about the same as two thirds of a banana, it is important that the health of local people and the health of our rivers is properly assessed.


“Having held a Zoom roundtable for local people and having discussed this issue with the Royal Navy I have submitted a view to the Environment Agency on behalf of the people I represent. I am concerned about this application but if it is to be granted I hope the EA will attach conditions about monitoring and better communication with local people.”

Luke’s consultation response is as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam


Thank you for providing the opportunity to feedback on proposals by HMNB Devonport to release radioactive rainwater into the River Tamar. On behalf of the people I represent I want to express concern about this plan and for the way this application has been communicated to local people.


I am a supporter of Devonport and want to see Plymouth attract more well-paid engineering jobs at our dockyard and naval base. Plymouth benefits hugely from the presence of the naval base and dockyard and these operations account for around 10% of Plymouth’s GDP. Babcock, their supply chain and the Royal Navy are significant employers and have a significant impact on our city. Their environmental impact on Plymouth, its population and our fragile natural environment must be carefully managed and carefully communicated to
local people.


At a time of climate crisis I am concerned about this application to release untreated radioactive rainwater into the River Tamar. I believe we should be taking steps to pollute less, not pollute more.


I have held a roundtable with residents and concerned groups and spoken to the Royal Navy about their application. On behalf of the people I represent, I want to share a number of concerns and questions that have been raised with me. Firstly, what testing will be carried out to ensure that levels are properly managed in the river? Secondly, what procedures will be put in place as conditions of the licence to ensure radioactive contaminants are not aggregating or affecting local habitats? Thirdly, what material improvements can be made to the dockside facilities to reduce the amount of potentially contaminated rainwater being
generated and thus released into the river?


I have asked that future applications be accompanied by public engagement work to answer questions and explain complex applications in plain English. For many people the first they heard of the application to release “radioactive rainwater” was via the Environment Agency’s twitter feed or via our local media. Neither is acceptable and although I recognise poor communication from the applicant may not be a reason to refuse the application, I do believe the Environment Agency should specify and require better engagement in serious applications like this one.


Having heard from the Naval Base that the equivalent radioactivity is similar to two thirds of a banana, some constituents I represent have been reassured, some not.

Regardless of the amount of radioactivity involved the way the public is informed about changes to environmental procedures around the nuclear dockyard and Royal Navy operations matters.


I do not believe the Royal Navy have covered themselves in glory with the way they have approached this.


As such, can I ask that the Environment Agency, if you are minded to approve this release, requires better communication with the public as a condition of the licence for this and any future activities. Furthermore can I ask that regular testing of the local marine habitat be an additional requirement of the release to ensure that levels are minimal and that there is no aggregation or collection of radioactivity in the water column, river and sea bed and in local
marine and coastal habitats. I am sure existing licences require such testing, but I believe such conditions are necessary in building public understanding and support for any decision you take.


I am concerned about this application and the way it has been communicated. I hope that you will be able to make a swift determination and accompany your decision with a clear explanation of your decision in plain English as there is considerable public concern and interest in this.


I look forward to hearing from you in due course.


Best wishes,


Luke Pollard MP

You can view more about this on the Environment Agency’s website here.

To add your own comments to the consultation, click here.

Luke's consultation response.
Luke's consultation response.
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