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Faith in new nuclear delivery plummets after Fukushima

Engineers’ confidence that the UK will have a new nuclear plant online by 2018 has plunged as a result of the Fukushima disaster and its subsequent fallout, NCE can exclusively reveal.

Nuclear takes a blow

NCE’s latest State of the Market survey shows that the number of respondents who believe Britain will fail to build new nuclear power stations in the timescale planned has jumped from 56% in December last year to 72% now.

The six-month period has seen Japan’s Fukushima disaster unfold and government plans called in to question. The findings also come in the week that Germany announced it had entirely scrapped nuclear power from its energy plan because of Fukushima.

But confidence has not surged in alternatives to new nuclear as a result.

Just 27% of respondents believe that the 2020 planned completion date for the Round 3 offshore wind farm programme will be met, down on 30% in December.

And just 6% believe that the Severn Barrage will be built now the government has pulled all funding. This is a small increase on the 2% in December that could see it being built.

Planning reform doubts

Expectations surrounding the current state of the planning system have also fallen with 84% of respondents −10 percentage points more than in December − stating that the replacement of the Infrastructure Planning Commission with the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit would not speed up the process, despite it being billed as doing just that.

Enacting legislation is currently rumbling through Parliament with an April 2012 target date for its implementation.

The State of the Market survey aims to gauge confidence in the market by asking NCE readers and civil engineering consultants and contractors for their views on the big issues facing the industry today (see table). The latest survey ran last month, six months after NCE first polled the industry in November last year. Results of the first survey were published in NCE’s Infrastructure in 2011 supplement in December (NCE 16 December 2010).

“The months since the first survey was published have seen a dramatic decline in new infrastructure orders, and confidence reflects that”

The months since the first survey was published have seen a dramatic decline in new infrastructure orders, and confidence reflects that.Office of National Statistics figures published this week show that new construction orders fell by 23% for the first quarter of 2011 compared with the fourth quarter of 2010 and by 18% compared with the same period in 2010.

This makes it the worst quarter for the industry since the first quarter of 2009.

Orders for infrastructure were particularly hard hit, falling by a remarkable 48% compared with the previous quarter and by 45% compared with the same period a year earlier. Just £1.97bn of infrastructure orders were made during the quarter, compared with £10bn across the whole of 2010.

NCE’s review reflects that downturn, with 71% of respondents fearing the sector is heading for another skills shortage as jobs are lost as a result of the government’s programme of cuts. This is up significantly on 49% in December.

Major project confidence low

Confidence is also low on individual projects.Now, only 47% of engineers believe that tunnelling work on Thames Water’s mega sewer will begin in 2017 as planned. This is down on 53% in December.

Confidence in London’s other mega-project, Crossrail, is also mixed. Costs were revised down following last October’s spending review from £15.9bn to £14.5bn and just 25% believe that it will be delivered for this price. However, there is a stronger belief that it will now be delivered to the delayed deadline − 71% now believe the central section will be ready by 2018 compared with just over half in December.

Since the last survey, Crossrail has let all its multi-million pound tunnelling contracts and is now well underway with station contract tenders.

Confidence in High Speed 2 (HS2) and the Tube upgrades on the Northern and Piccadilly lines also remains low, albeit improved on December.

Around a quarter of those responding believe HS2 will start construction as planned, up on 16% in December. This upswell in confidence is likely to be tied to the start of public consultation on the scheme.

A slightly healthier 37% now believe that the Tube work could come in on time in 2018, up on 23% in December.

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