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Nuclear contractors need help

Firms bidding to build the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point will need help to tackle the complexity of the project and deliver the quality of workmanship required, client NNB warned this week.

The skillsets of consortiums preparing to bid for main works contracts are insufficiently developed to deal with the complexity of construction, said NNB head of procurement Alan Cumming.

NNB is the EdF/Centrica joint venture that will manage nuclear power station construction at Hinkley Point and at Sizewell.

Cumming said contractors working on plants in Olkiluoto in Finland, Flamanville in France and Taishan in China have all struggled with reinforcement design and concrete mixes.

EdF has 1,925 separate reinforcement cage designs for its EPR reactor and uses its own special concrete design codes to ensure the buildings can withstand heavy loadings such as aeroplane impacts.

“In a normal building, if you want to put a pipe through a wall and reinforcement is in the way, you just cut it out. Here, this is impossible, and could introduce a delay,” he said.

“Companies must be aware of the complexity of what they are getting into”

Alan Cumming

Cumming told contractors at EdF’s suppliers day in London that they would have to show a willingness to learn from engineers moving off of the sites in Finland, France and China.

“Companies must be aware of the complexity of what they are getting into,” said Cumming. We know there is a skills shortfall, but the Nuclear Skills Academy and people coming from the sites in Finland, France and China will be able to get the skills level up.”

Health & Safety Executive chief inspector of nuclear installations Mike Weightman agreed that the quality of civils work was a concern.

“Feedback from projects suggests that there are problems on the civils side, and we need to rebuild the relationships between contractors and sub-contractors, and change the culture, and make it more open through the supply chain,” he said.

NNB head of quality assurance Gautier Cossart agreed that a climate of openness and trust had to be developed. “Right first time, every time is not always possible. Sometimes there are defects, but we want these defects to be reported early and transparently,” he said.

Waiting for a design

EdF managing director of nuclear new build Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson told contractors this week that it would be “ridiculous” to say that new nuclear power stations would be built in the UK before the HSE’s Generic Design Assessment process is complete, a site license was obtained and the energy market was reformed with a carbon floor price.




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