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Letters: Nuclear is welcomed by some but not all of us in the engineering community

Nuclear is welcomed by some but not all of us in the engineering community

You report that “Engineers welcomed” the news of new nuclear power stations being developed (NCE 21 October). You were certainly was not talking about the majority of engineers. Perhaps you refer to the few directors that are reluctantly in charge of company departments that are bidding for work.

For in my mind’s eye this affair is a complete disaster. Quite rightly we have not built any new nuclear for a long time and so it should continue.

Only the short sighted, for example our ICE’s director general, go for this relatively quick fix approach, although I dare say he is a voice puppet of those directors mentioned earlier.

For an island with our vast potential renewable resources that we could develop for ourselves, and we have to plumb for some dumb Franco-American solution. Pity us and our immorality. I hope the true engineers amongst us can find a way to ensure the new power stations are never switched on.

  • Richard Annett, annett@edgbastondesign.co.uk

Shoot lower with barrage

Instead of the government dropping the Severn Barrage (NCE 21 October) it would have been better to have pressed ahead with a small scheme like the Shoots Barrage.

Being upstream of Newport and Avonmouth, it needs only a small ship lock instead of a huge one, and it gives the best value in terms of watts per pound.

Given the intermittent, although highly predictable, nature of tidal power, a number of smaller schemes is more use than one big one. Getting early experience of building such projects would be useful too.

  • David HT Smith, The Thursfield Smith Consultancy, 25 Grange Rd. Shrewsbury SY3 9DG

Severn Barrage: doing the math

In your article “Severn Barrage is dropped as nuclear plans gain pace”(NCE 21 October), you compare different cost estimates for the Cardiff Weston Barrage at various points in the study.

It is important that these should be on a like-for-like basis.

The headline figure of £34bn published in the government’s Feasibility study summary report includes optimism bias applied by government whereas the figure of £20.9bn you quote from the study’s first phase does not. The equivalent figure at the completion of the feasibility study is £23.2bn.

The increase of approximately 10% results from the more detailed work undertaken during the second phase of the study.

The derivation of the £23.2bn cost and the equivalent costs for the other options studied during the second phase are available in our own reports to government, which are published alongside the government’s reports on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website.

  • Peter Kydd, director of strategic consulting, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Surrey GU7 2AZ

HS2 and the Duke of Wellington

Dr Billam’s letter (NCE 21 October) casts doubt on the need for High Speed 2 by suggesting that existing first class compartments would empty and motorways would be a pleasure to drive on if business travellers used video conferencing instead

He has clearly not spotted the number of HGVs from all over the UK and Europe that clog up our motorways and trunk roads.

One massive plus for HS2 is the relief it will bring to the West Coast Main Line, which is fast approaching capacity. But HS2 will make road to rail freight movements on WCML and elsewhere so much easier, more reliable and quicker. It should also encourage a significant reduction in short haul flights on domestic routes out of London. I think this is called sustainability.

HS2 most certainly does not promote the new line because everyone else has got one. Some people may well think that but it is not part of their business case. A comparison with nuclear weapons using the same argument is totally illogical.

Dr Billam can be compared to the Duke of Wellington who forecast that the introduction of the railway would be a dangerous thing as it would allow the working classes to travel. And three hour lunches vanished a long time ago. Dr Billam should get out more, preferably by a high speed railway.

  • Patrick O’Sullivan (M), consultant, 22 Highclere Drive, Sunderland SR2 0DB, patrick.m.osullivan@btinternet.com

Roads: surface over substance

It would appear that significant highway maintenance cuts are likely on our non principal road network. Perhaps a return to good old surface dressing may assist?

We seem to have moved away from the tried and tested ways of waterproofing the road construction and returning a textured road surface in favour of very expensive thin surfacing, or full resurfacing.

I suspect part of the problem has been the need to avoid public complaint, but advances in techniques have improved the situation dramatically.

Granted, surface dressing does not provide a new, perfectly shaped longitudinal and lateral cross section but it does extend the road’s lifesignificantly and keeps potholes at bay – and potholes are vastly expensive to repair with the required traffic management, not to mention delays.

Bring back some of the exceptionally cost effective solutions which also are very eco-friendly.

  • Roger Stanbury (M, Ret) rogerstanbury@uwclub.net

Learning from ICE Conditions

I have to support the criticisms of the NEC form of contract (NCE 21 October). I don’t recall very many contacts let under ICE Conditions during my career with a county highway authority that resulted in serious cost and time overruns or disputes that couldn’t be resolved satisfactorily.

This was in contrast to my experience involved in an early contract let by the Highways Agency’s consultant under NEC with apparently every intention by all parties to embrace the partnership/open book approach.

The contract overran many times over in time and cost with numerous compensation events that seemed impossible to resolve without the benefit of the detailed clauses of ICE Conditions.

I recently attended a talk by a chartered arbiter dealing with construction disputes since 1972. He was in no doubt that use of NEC instead of ICE had greatly increased problems of dispute resolution.

Steve Rowsell’s comments may relate to Highways Agency contracts but I don’t think they are a reflection of county council let work. He refers to some of us as dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were very successful until they were wiped out by something far more catastrophic than the Comprehensive Spending Review.

  • Frank Bedford MBE, (M), frank.bedford@ntlworld.com

Letters to the editor

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.

Readers' comments (2)

  • On nuclear power Mr Annett should have some evidence for the majority of engineers being against it, likewise his belief in his purity as an engineer, whatever that may mean!
    The most powerful arguments for nuclear seem to be (1) our avoidance of being totally dependent for supplies from overseas and (2) the severely adverse criticsm of wind power in the Royal Academy of Engineering report on The Cost of Generating Electricity by PB Powe,r which shows the real total costs of all the known methods of power generation.
    The delay in bringing in nuclear power means getting a-move-on with renewables and bringing down their cost as soon as possible to ensure a fully renewables supply is possible when nuclear can be phased out. Mike Adams (M retired), mike@mikeadams.demon.co.uk

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  • On surface dressing in lieu of newer surfacing methods - in built up areas, the principal pollutants are engine fumes and noise from tyres, which makes the 'new' quieter surfaces much more healthy.
    But in the country, okay use the cheaper methods until we can afford better?

    A minor point - flying stones from surface dressings are probably more frequent - and fly further? - than from newer surfaces and are sometimes dangerous and - expensive - when they hit vulnerable people or glass, which will be more common in built up areas.
    Mike Adams (M retired), mike@mikeadams.demon.co.uk

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