The UK nuclear new build programme will be delayed by a year in the aftermath of the Japan Fukushima disaster, according to ICE vice president Richard Coackley.
“It has changed processes [in the UK] and delayed decisions by a year,” he said, speaking at last week’s formal launch of research firm Ciria’s Preventing Catastrophic Events in Construction guidance.
He added that typically people tend to ignore the follow-on effects of catastrophic events on safety and policy.
“No civil engineering project is without risk, and the answer is to plan for and manage it. It is often said that our industry only gains attention with the public when disasters and project failures have taken place.”
“Last year’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; the Hatfield Crash, and even stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan are all evidence that when serious incidents happen the consequences for other projects - in terms of public opinion, political support and regulation - can quickly impact across the globe,” added Coackley.
Last week, the Health & Safety Executive decided to postpone the outcome of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for nuclear reactors until government chief scientist Mike Weightman has completed his report into the Fukushima accident, due in September (News last week).
The first new nuclear plant was due to come online in 2018.
Already, new nuclear developer EdF Energy’s attempts to build a power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset have run into trouble, with two local councils objecting to its proposals earlier this month (NCE 7 April).
“[There should be] evidence-based decisions not knee-jerk reactions”
Decc senior advisor Keith Waller
Stage two of its public consultation for the plant ended last week with Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council still objecting to parts of the proposal. However, a top government advisor told NCE that there was “no cause for concern” and the nuclear new build programme will go ahead as planned.
“[There should be] evidence-based decisions not knee-jerk reactions,” said Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) senior advisor Keith Waller referring to decisions taken by other countries such as Germany to entirely suspended their nuclear programmes.
“Nuclear is part of a balanced energy portfolio and it is cost effective,” said Waller, who is on secondment at Decc from contractor Costain.
EdF Energy nuclear new build team leader Colin Robertson added that the government’s review into lessons learnt from Fukushima is a “measured response” and that EdF has incorporated the delays in the GDA within its build programme for Hinkley Point.