We ventured down to Taunton for this evening’s event looking at the Hinkley Point C power station project. Our speaker tonight, Ross Edwards, is an environmental scientist and is the communications manager for the Hinkley Point C project.
Ross started with a video covering the background of Hinkley Point C which will provide 7% of the UK’s power demand, with 3 times the capacity of the existing Hinkley Point B power station, and will fill a major gap in energy supply. EDF, are the world’s largest nuclear operator and are leading a consortium to finance, build and run Hinkley Point C for the next 60 years. During construction, up to 25,000 jobs will be created, with 400 apprentices, leading to 900 operational jobs and around £40 M per annum for the local economy.
Ross outlined the background and Government Policy which is essential to have in place for such a major project. The policy for nuclear energy providing part of Britain’s energy solution has full cross party support, which provides the certainty needed for such a major private investment. With the push for low carbon energy, and the closure of coal fired power stations, electricity demand is predicted to start to exceed supply in the next 5 to 7 years. The Russian political situation has emphasised the need for security of supply. The UK does not want to be too dependent upon foreign fossil fuel supplies. Nuclear power meets the need for a reliable, low carbon base load supply.
Ross explained that a final investment decision had not been taken partly due to the upcoming general election tomorrow, 7 May. Centrica an original investor in Hinkley Point C pulled out in 2013, but there are now Chinese firms ready to invest . EDF have 30 years of experience working with the Chinese and the UK Government welcomes investment from abroad. Agreement has been reached with the UK Government for finance covering the ‘contract for differences’ to provide the necessary RoI to incentivise the massive private investment in the infrastructure. There has been 5 years of investment to date, with about 10 years of construction and commissioning before any real return. EDF Energy has invested over £1Bn so far, but, preparation work on site has now stopped pending final investment decisions from EDF and other investors.
Ross explained that the UK regulation environment was one of the toughest in the world, and that the proposed pressurised water reactor (PWR) design was a development of known and proven technology, with many lessons learned and applied from Japan and 9/11. The new PWR are more efficient, require less fuel and produce less waste. The industry is very transparent about what they do and welcomes external scrutiny. Safety is always the top priority.
Ross then outlined the work undertaken over the last 5 years in preparing the site and the necessary logistics, working with the regulator and the local councils. The logistic challenge is massive, how do you deal with the transport and accommodation for thousands of workers, the supply of equipment and materials. 1500 beds are needed, 4 park and ride facilities are planned for workers, 2 freight management facilities and, a 500 m long jetty to bring bulk materials in by sea are also planned. A bypass is being built around Cannington. £15M is being invested on road improvements locally. At the site 80% of soil remediation has been completed, 5.5 km of fencing installed, 50 ha of ground cleared, wildlife impact has been sensitively managed and archaeology investigated.
Establishing supply chains has been important, with 57% of the value of the project expected to go to UK businesses. The local chamber of commerce has helped organise local businesses to respond, such as small local business working together to set up the ‘Somerset Larder Company’ to supply the food needed for the workers.
Local schools and colleges have been engaged, to establish routes through education and skills to employment. EDF Energy is engaging local pupils with STEM subjects to encourage them to look to the industry for jobs and careers. Bridgewater College has grasped the opportunity to become a world leader in nuclear courses.
Ross explained that EDF Energy take their responsibility with the local community seriously and there is almost £100M of Section 106 funding being made available.
Following the formal presentation, we moved on to a very lively and informative Q&A session. Questions covered decommission costs: which EDF Energy are responsible for; the importance of stakeholder engagement; the ability to get skilled construction workers is a risk being managed; lessons from the 2012 Olympics, were being applied as the Commercial Director was the Olympics CD.
There was a debate about whether Hinkley Point C was a project, a mega project or a programme. Given the description of the work so far, it is clearly a programme, which will also involves ensuring the existing power station continues to operate effectively. EDF Energy are using their standardised project management approach and methodology, which is adapted to meet the French technical needs and practices as well as the UK nuclear regulator.
In all, the presentation was a fascinating introduction into what will be one of the largest projects in Europe, and one which the Branch hopes to follow of the coming years.
The presentation slides can be viewed below
SWWE Branch Chairman