CALLS to halt the dumping of dredged mud from near the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset off the coast of Cardiff have been blocked.

Campaigners have been lobbying for the the licence granted to EDF Energy, which is building the power station, to dump 300,000 tonnes of mud to be suspended while more studies are carried out into whether or not it is safe.

Some have raised concerns the mud may contain unsafe levels of radioactivity and had not been tested properly, but the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have insisted it is safe.

And, speaking as AMs voted 26 to 22 on Wednesday to throw out a motion presented by Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth calling for the licence to be suspended while more studies are carried out, the Welsh Government's energy, planning and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said she was concerned about "scaremongering and lies" spread by campaigners.

Opening what proved a bad-tempered debate, Mr ap Iorwerth accused the Welsh Government of "refusing to engage in a process that could and should have been conducted months ago".

"This motion is about listening to people and recognising real concerns," he said. "That hasn’t happened."

And Independent South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy, who has been one of the most vocal campaigners against the dumping, urged fellow AMs to "listen to your voters and not the whip".

"You have a choice now," he said. "We all have a choice.

"This is the National Assembly for Wales. People vote for us to look after Wales, do things in their best interests and hold the government to account.

"So, will you stand up for Wales today? Or will you let the nuclear industry dump all over our country?"

But Labour Caerphilly AM Hefin David accused Mr McEvoy of generating "hysteria" over the issue, although he conceded more work needed to be done to reassure the Welsh people that studies had shown the mud was safe.

And Labour Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone, who described herself as an "anti-nuclear campaigner", also backed the Welsh Government's position.

"The fact is that they have tested these samples on three different occasions - in 2009, 2013 and 2017," she said.

"They have taken multiple samples, and they have simply been unable to find any of the materials that could be a cause for concern.

"Were there to be nuclear materials present, they simply would not be able to dispose of them in the Cardiff sand, because that is not what's in the licence."

Speaking at the end of the debate, energy, planning and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said: "This licence has been granted lawfully, assessments have been carried out robustly, and the evidence has been assessed by experts and in line with international standards.

"The evidence and decision-making process has been made available, and there are no grounds for further testing or suspension of the licence. NRW will undertake wider engagement and targeted communications.

"I also believe it is deeply disappointing there are some who are deliberately seeking to mislead the public for their own political gain."

The Assembly instead backed a Welsh Government motion expressing confidence in studies which showed the mud "poses no radiological risk to human health or the environment" and calling on NRW to "carry out further public engagement to explain the process and evidence to reassure the public".

A protest against the dumping was held outside the Senedd as AMs voted on the motion.

Speaking after the vote, former Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies accused the Welsh Government of being "shockingly out of touch with the concerns of the general public".