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Your View | Hinkley alternatives

Hinkley new build

The SMR argument using dated UK military reactor design (originally US designed) has obvious attractions but the real issue is fuel. Currently the UK is sat on a huge stockpile of plutonium that we need to get rid of and that potentially provides long term energy security.

The GE/Hitachi Prism reactor, albeit sodium cooled offers power and a disposal route of our waste rather than creating more waste which the proposal to adapt and use old military technology does not. 

  • Steve Trowbridge, posted online on article headlined “Cheaper, quicker, simpler alternatives to Hinkley” 

Absolutely right to question the use of totally unproven technology, with only a proven record of cost over-runs and schedule over-runs. Add to that the (to me) unimaginable risks associated with handing over substantial control of a strategic energy asset to China and France.

Your editorial rightly draws attention to other alternatives with a much higher UK content and with proven technology, including SMRs. At a time when we have collectively taken the decision to leave EU and in view of all the risks associated with that alone, we need to de-risk our infrastructure investments as much as possible. 

I propose that the ICE joins with IMechE to lobby the government to take the brave decision to decline the proposed contract and install a number of SMRs 

  • Alan Brookes, posted online on article headlined “Cheaper, quicker, simpler alternatives to Hinkley”

What we are suffering from, is the abolition of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) in which technically knowledgeable and competent people had the responsibility for the long-term strategic planning and delivery of electricity supply. Instead we have political and financial objectives driving short-term decisions in technical ignorance. No self-respecting engineer would rely on a solution that involves a technology that has not yet been proved to work.

  • Michael Thorn, posted online on article headlined “Cheaper, quicker, simpler alternatives to Hinkley”

Morality of nuclear power questioned

ICE director general Nick Baveystock has to be completely immoral if he thinks nuclear energy is good for the UK. 

He must think that hundreds of generations of future British citizens have a duty and should look after the contaminated toxic waste he thinks should be produced over the next 30 years to help generate electricity. 

Is he insane or just hasn’t thought things through? Does he not realize this site is uninsurable. Does he not realize a miniscule amount of money will be spent on British jobs and in British industry? Does he not see the end game? 

Renewables are the end game….let’s just go for them directly. We have all the natural resources on and off shore to make this happen.

This would be better for British jobs and industry. They are insurable, they are non-toxic, they can be decommissioned cheaply, they are the people’s choice. 

As for the decision to delay the project it’s best possible outcome other than to totally cancel this expensive toxic white elephant.

  • Richard Annet, posted online on article headlined “Government blindsides EDF’s Hinkley go-ahead” 

M20 crash raises important questions

It’s obvious to me that the offending truck was actually on the hard shoulder when its digger struck the suspended span which then fell off. The positioning of the trucks shows that quite clearly, in that they had both travelled less than a few metres from the centreline of the pedestrian bridge after the span fell off. 

So the two big questions are: why was the low loader plus digger actually travelling on the hard shoulder at speed? And since it was, why did it strike the bridge?

If it had been moving slowly along the hard shoulder then it’s unlikely that the span would have been knocked off; and if its height was within the 5.7m loading gauge, then the bridge must have been too low at that critical point at the back of the hard shoulder due to its steep gradient across the motorway. I’d be surprised if all overbridges gave a 5.7m clearance, since that’s a fairly recent standard and this is an old bit of motorway. 

The other evidence available which suggests this particular bridge was too low at that critical point was the proximity of both the sign gantry and another overbridge just “upstream” of the pedestrian bridge, both of which the low loader would have travelled beneath before it struck the footbridge. 

All in all, a clear pointer for proper asset management so that Highways England should know where all its pinchpoints are.

  • Philip Alexander, posted online on article headlined “M20 lorry accident sparks guidance concerns”

Typical Girls?

Having read the article “Walking with Dinosaurs” (New Civil Engineer last month), it raised a lot of interesting and concerning points. However, there was one particular comment which stood out.

It was this: “The structure of working hours/site mobility in the civil engineering sector is strongly against female progress in particular.”

If this is the case, to some extent we will not be able to remove this barrier. The whole purpose of our industry is to build things and will therefore always require non-standard hours and site-based work. 

Like a girl: Still from YouTube video promoting strong, positive images of girls and women

Like a girl: Still from YouTube video promoting strong, positive images of girls and women

Female stereotypes still need to be confronted

However, this comment also suggests that this type of work is not suitable for women. Whatever the reasoning behind this, it would appear that there remains an unconscious view of what women can and cannot do, even from women themselves (presuming the original comment came from a woman).

This set me thinking, as I watched my daughter playing with her dolls. I have heard many times that we should not typecast girls by giving them dolls to play with. 

However, watching her play, I realised that giving her dolls was the perfect thing to do. Why? Well, they represent women and how she plays with them shows how she thinks of women in the world. 

They were not however doing the cooking, cleaning, shopping or any other stereotypical activity; they were rock climbing, bungee jumping and cliff diving. 

Her play shows that yes they are women and yes they can do anything they want.

  • Chris Lewis (M)

Over 60s are not ready for scrapheap

I refer to the article Moving Target (New Civil Engineer, August),  regarding current efforts to promote diversity and further commenting on the upcoming shortage of engineers, because the latter point has yet again caused me frustration and annoyance.

These sentiments arise as a result of the ageism and bias which is prevalent against older engineers who, having passed perhaps their sixtieth birthday, find themselves in enforced retirement due to the view that at that age or older, they are no longer of use to employers. That this short-sighted approach regarding age prevails is incredible. 

Interviewers, if one ever gets that far, are astounded that people of that age can still be fit and have desire to work, regardless of the beneficial opportunities to their employers of engaging older engineers for their experience and to act as mentors, for example.

Frequently, older engineers meet such comments as “too experienced for the role”, “too expensive – we cannot offer an appropriate salary”, “insurance costs prevent us from considering you” and others, though never “too old” is admitted.

I am not suggesting that the many professional engineers currently frustrated by being ‘retired’ who could be brought back into the industry will resolve the skills shortage in the long term, but there exists a pool of persons who remain unemployed who would rather be working in the industry which they previously enjoyed enormously than be retired.

  • Ian Cosgrove (M),

Vision collision

Having read the editor’s balanced comments on Hinkley Point C (Comment, last month) I was quite frankly flabbergasted to read Emily Ashwell’s tunnel-visioned and totally single-sided article. 

Aren’t we missing something here? Hinkley will cost £18bn and produce 3.2GW. Swansea Tidal Lagoon will cost £12bn and produce more than twice as much power. What’s to think about? Bring on the lagoons. 

  • Nick James (M)

Editor’s note: Thanks Nick. In defence of Emily, I would say our news story reflected the general industry response to the news of further delays to the project. Whether that response was correct is another matter!

Are engineers in thrall to vanity projects? 

It is rather unfortunate that civil engineering as a profession is so in thrall to vanity projects like this one [the Garden Bridge in London]. Our professional code of ethics seems to have been parked as our once greater position enabled us to tell society from the start: “this project is not sensible and the money would be better spent elsewhere”. 

Nowadays civil engineers fall in behind the latest vanity project like High Speed 2, rather than carry out a professional job in pointing out the absurdity of many of these ideas.  

Most of us are technicians and not professionals and that is not to disparage technicians – who do an excellent job delivering what professionals decide. We’re too scared for our jobs to be real professionals.

  • Richard Ashley, posted online on article headlined “Garden Trust admits funding gap”



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