Working in the heavily tidal conditions of the Bristol Channel will be one of the toughest obstacles to the smooth construction of the £16bn Hinkley Point C power station, a key figure has admitted.
Gareth Taylor, marine works programme manager for nuclear new build at project promoter EDF Energy, said the vast tidal range was his chief concern.
Taylor was speaking to delegates at New Civil Engineer’s Tunnelling Summit in London this week as the UK’s first new nuclear power station in 20 years edged closer to a start on site.
Parts of the north Somerset project will take place in a stretch of water known for having the second highest tidal range in the world. Costain was in 2013 awarded a contract to design and construct three 7m-diameter marine tunnels totalling 11km in length, to take in cooling water from the Severn Estuary for the nuclear process.
Taylor said: “The tidal range is a key risk. We have spent time in the Bristol Channel and we know what to expect.
“We will have a very significant vessel out there that can deal with whatever nature throws at it.
“The size of the kit and the method of construction give us confidence that people will be able to work safely. But the tidal range is the one item that, not necessarily keeps me awake at night, but has attracted a lot of attention. It will be a unique task in a unique environment.”
Taylor said he was waiting “like everyone else” for the final go-ahead to start main construction works on Hinkley Point C.
Contractors had been expecting a final investment decision from EDF by the end of 2014, but despite a much-publicised agreement between the French energy giant and China General Nuclear Corporation in October, this decision is still awaited.
“The decision is with the EDF board and their Chinese partners,” said Taylor. “There are a series of items that need to be agreed.”