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EdF set to award Hinkley earthworks contract to URS Scott Wilson/Bam Nuttall/Kier JV

Energy giant EdF is set to award a significant earthworks contract for new nuclear site Hinkley Point to the URS Scott Wilson/Bam Nuttall/Kier JV, NCE understands.

The contract has been the subject of much speculation since a year ago. Tenders were originally received for the earthworks contract – thought to be worth in the region of £100M – on 5 March 2010 but the client then asked bidders to re-evaluate costs for the Somerset site.

A source close to the likely winning team said that the award from preferred bidder to final sign off had been due this week but was now delayed until next week - senior representatives have been meeting in Paris to discuss the contract this week in the hope of confirming the award next week.

The earthworks contract involves creating a standard platform for the modular power station. Geotechnical work at the Severn Estuary site includes diaphragm walls, sea-walls and two shafts for water cooling intake and discharge tunnels.

Five teams were understood to be in the running including Balfour Beatty and Vinci; Bam Nuttall, Kier and URS; Laing O’Rourke and Ferrovial; Carillion; and Sir Robert McAlpine.

“The original design involved constructing a diaphragm wall around 1.8m thick for bunkers and shaft,” a source told NCE at the time the firms were asked to re-submit bids. “Some of these have changed to secant walls, which will be less than 400mm [thick] in some sections. This a drastic change and will produce a dramatically different wall.”

Contractors had to present EdF with modified prices in May last year with a view to the contract being awarded by the end of the year but the schedule apparently slipped.

The contract is even more vital because many of the key contractors hope that the early contracts could leave them well positioned to win the next, more lucrative, civils contracts on future EdF projects. Civils works for Hinkley Point alone are said to be in the region of £1bn.

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