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Hinkley nuclear plant faces two year delay

Construction of EdF’s new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset has slipped by a full two years, NCE has learned this week.

Contractor Laing O’Rourke is working on a timescale that would have the first concrete pour on the nuclear island take place in mid-2015, a full two years later than originally planned.

This programme was confirmed by Laing O’Rourke head of new nuclear Norman Haste.

The first pour is seen as a key milestone in the construction of the plant and Haste’s admission is the first firm indicator of how delayed the project has become.

hinkley

Hinkley: Lengthy planning and approvals processes mean the first concrete is unlikely to pour until 2015

Developer EdF’s last official statement on project timescales was in February last year.

Then it said that the first concrete pour would start in mid-2013. It has since refused to give revised details of the construction timetable, saying it would wait until it reached its final decision on whether to build the plant (NCE 24 November 2011). This is due at the end of the year.

Laing O’Rourke was named preferred bidder for the £2bn main civils works in joint venture with French construction giant Bouygues in June (NCE 14 June).It hassince been working in an advisory capacity to ensure the design can be “delivered to time and quality”, said Haste.

“We are working with EdF and looking towards starting on site at the end of 2013,” said Haste.

Bouygues/Laing O’Rourke’s work follows on from earthworks, which is currently being carried out by a Bam/Kier joint venture under a £100M contract.

Haste said work would ramp up in 2014 as earthworks were completed, “leading to a first nuclear island pour in mid-2015”.

From 2014 there will be a “continual process” of construction until both reactors are complete, said Haste.

EdF is planning to build twin Areva European Pressurised Reactors on the site.

But it will not award the construction contract proper until it has made its final investment decision, received a development consent order from the Planning Inspectorate and got sign-off for its generic design assignment (GDA) and nuclear site licences from the Office of Nuclear Regulation.

This is still some way off as the planning process is ongoing.

The six month examination phase finished in September with the Planning Inspectorate due to make its recommendation to the energy secretary on 22 December.

Energy secretary Ed Davey then has a further three months to decide whether to rubber stamp the recommendation.

Areva said it hoped to close out the remaining issues in the GDA by the end of the year.

Haste said he understood the difficulties facing EdF as it seeks the various levels of approval for its project and the reason why it was not yet in a position to awardthe contract.

“I should stress we don’t have a contract,” said Haste. “This is a big ask for any private sector firm in terms of investment,” he added.

But he did acknowledge that not having a contract was a risk for Laing O’Rourke.

“It is a risk but we have made a long term commitment to nuclear,” he said.

Once the contract is signed Haste said the jv will be looking to let six to eight subcontracts worth a combined £600M.

Increased engagement with second and third tier contractors will be sought on a “partnership basis”, Haste added.

Haste said the firm will be “looking to embrace” the latest in 3D and 4D building information modelling techniques to help ensure the project does not suffer delays that have plagued the nuclear new build sites at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland.

These projects are also using Areva’s EPR design.

“We will be working with EdF to see which elements can be prefabricated and precast,” added Haste. “Our plant in Worksop could be used.”

Bouygues/Laing O’Rourke will employ up to 3,000 staff at the peak of construction, while a total construction work force of almost 6,000 will be on the site.

Haste said Laing O’Rourke’s policy of using a directly employed labour force was a “key component” of the jv winning the job.

“It’s not a job that lends [itself] to project management,” he said. “The rigour of project control becomes very important.”

But the competence of site supervisors is a key concern for Haste. He said he wants to address this by retraining experienced staff from other sectors.

“We need quality and a quantity of supervision,” he said. “We are looking at reskilling the supervisor’s role.”

“It does not matter that they worked in another industry.”

Hinkley Timeline

  • Infrastructure Planning Commission consent Edf’s plan Mid 2012 Likely Early 2013
  • First nuclear concrete pour for unit 1 Edf plan Mid 2013 Likely Mid 2015
  • First nuclear concrete pour for unit 2 - Start 2015
  • Construction complete Unit 1 and fuel loading begins - End 2017
  • Start of generation at Unit 1 -Mid 2018
  • Construction complete Unit 2 and fuel loading begins- Mid 2019
  • Start of generation at Unit 2- Start 2020

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