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Fukushima fallout triggers new nuclear delay

Work to meet recommendations from chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman’s report into Japan’s Fukushima disaster could stop new nuclear schemes coming online in time for 2018, industry experts warned this week.

12 months to respond

Weightman published 38 recommendations in his final report Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: Implications for the UK Nuclear Industry and has given the nuclear industry 12 month to respond.

Weightman said that no new nuclear site licences will be granted until the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) − is satisfied with the industry’s response.

Energy giant EdF − which is expected to build the next UK nuclear plant − is due to begin construction of its power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset next year. It is due to start producing electricity by 2018 − already a year later than the firm had intended.

EdF nuclear new build managing director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson told NCE last year that the timetable was “tight” for delivering Hinkley and the other three planned UK reactors − by 2020 (NCE 18 March 2010).

Nuclear reactor manufacturer Areva is supplying its European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) to Hinkley Point. The EPR is in the final stage of securing a UK operating licence, known as the generic design assessment (GDA).

Areva must respond to the final GDA in December and must address outstanding issues raised by the regulatory process. It will also have to act on recommendations from the Weightman review.

Adjusted timetables

EdF said it would adjust its timetables towards the end of the year accounting for the Weightman report and for developments on its projects in France and China. However, the firm said it still remained committed to UK nuclear new-build.

But experts told NCE that EdF now faced an uphill battle to meet its UK construction schedule.

Independent nuclear expert Tony Roulstone predicted that when EdF does issue a new timetable, it will ask for more time to incorporate the responses from Weightman.

“It will be a tidiness exercise,” added Roulstone. “The deadlines have been slipping.”

Other factors that could contribute to the 2018 completion date slipping include the late tendering of an earthworks contract and a legal challenge to its use a temporary jetty during the construction process.

The £100M earthworks contract was tendered and then re-tendered by EdF earlier this year (NCE 29 April 2010).

Legal challenges

The Fukushima disaster happened just as a final announcement that a URS Scott Wilson/Bam Nuttall/Kier joint venture had won the work was expected.

The temporary works phase has also been set back by the legal challenge to the use of the temporary jetty close to the site for materials deliveries. EdF’s most recent construction timetable suggested jetty construction would begin later this year.

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