When it opened in February 1995, Sizewell B - Britain’s newest nuclear power station - was seen as vital to Britain’s new nuclear aspirations.
Client Central Electricity Generating Board (now British Energy), its consultants and contractors designed and built Sizewell B to programme and within budget, in compliance with the most onerous regulatory rules.
Cooperation between client, designer and contractors was described as “exemplary”.
Designer was Nuclear Design Associates, a joint venture between Sir Robert McAlpine and Taylor Woodrow. It had a long wait to get going. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the United States in March 1979 and a change of government soon after meant the whole nuclear power programme had to be reviewed.
Construction could only begin in 1987, six years after the original planning application was lodged. The 1200MW pressurised water reactor (PWR) power station was be built at Sizewell next to still operational Magnox station, Sizewell A.
Emphasis on safety was extreme, partly as a result of the Three Mile Island accident. Earthquake resistance standards were at their most stringent, under certain conditions, seismic activity had to be assumed to be working in conjunction with other extreme accident loads. The size of the containment structure was also signifi cantly increased. Design and development costs were around £700M.
The relationship between John Laing and client CEGB’s PWC Project Group (PPC) was key to the project’s success.
At one stage the project was threatening to spiral out of control, with the rapidly developing seismic design generating an equally rapid increase in materials quantities.
Rebar tonnage rose by 58% and volume of concrete rose by 25%. Resulting claims and extensions would have crippled the programme, so a partnership deal was struck between client and contractor. The lump sum and remeasure ICE Fifth Edition contract remained in place but with an innovative amendment.
A line was drawn under claims, with a single settlement payment and further payments changed to a cost reimbursable basis. There was a fixed fee for overheads, a target completion cost and signifi cant bonus payments linked to some of the contractor’s 400 key handover dates. No further claims were entertained.
In October 1994 Sizewell B swept the board at the British Construction Industry Awards, winning the civil engineering category and the Supreme Award.
Sizewell B began commercial operation in September 1995.