Seven months after Theresa May gave her blessing to the £18bn Hinkley Point C project, work is gathering pace on what will be Britain’s first new nuclear power station since the 1990s. The once grassy valley, carrying the Holford stream towards the Bristol Channel, is being filled with earth and rubble excavated from the adjacent construction site. Last month concrete pouring started on the first permanent structures: an 8km network of tunnels that will carry piping and cables around the site. Hinkley is one of the biggest construction projects in Europe, with dozens of cranes, cement silos and giant earthmoving vehicles scattered across the scarred ground. There are tougher tests to come if EDF, the French utility leading the project, is to meet its target to be producing electricity from the two new reactors planned for Hinkley by 2025. But Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF in the UK, says work is on schedule. “People have not been recognising the success of EDF in getting to where we are,” he says. “Aligning the planets in London, Paris, Beijing and Brussels was not easy but we did it.” Mr de Rivaz is referring to the years of wrangling to secure political and financial support — including a £6bn investment from CGN, the Chinese state-controlled nuclear group — and the overcoming of EU state-aid obstacles. Yet as one set of hurdles is cleared, another is looming. French nuclear regulators are investigating potential safety problems with steel components destined for Hinkley from a foundry suspected of falsifying quality-assurance documents. The probe involves Areva, the French nuclear reactor manufacturer and close partner of EDF, and has already caused temporary shutdowns of several existing reactors in France to check for faults. Mr de Rivaz says he is confident Areva will solve the problems at its Le Creusot foundry, in eastern France, in time to supply Hinkley but insists there are alternative sources if necessary. “It is absolutely crystal clear that all the components for Hinkley Point C will come from suppliers that meet the requirements of the UK nuclear regulator,” he says. For EDF and Areva, avoiding hold-ups at Hinkley is crucial to restoring faith in their European Pressurised Reactor technology. Construction managers at the site say they have learnt lessons from the long delays and big cost-overruns that have beset EPR projects at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland. Mr de Rivaz argues that Hinkley is competitive with the projected average of £130 per MW/h for subsidised renewable power, such as wind and solar, in 2021, although critics point out that these costs are falling fast. Mr de Rivaz says the cost of future nuclear plants will also be lower, including another planned by EDF at Sizewell in Suffolk, as the UK nuclear supply chain is rebuilt after decades of decay.
FT 21st April 2017 read more »
Guardian 21st April 2017 read more »
Delays to the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station could be on the cards, if a dispute over bonus payments flares up into industrial action, unions have warned. Trade unions Unite and the GMB will be holding a consultative ballot of the 700-strong workforce preparing the groundworks at the site near Bridgwater, and the news comes days after crew members had to be rescued from a Hinkley Point ship as it began to sink in the Bristol Channel. The pay dispute centres on the failure to pay bonus rates in line with the spirit of the HPC Civil Construction agreement, and the unions argue that the rate offered is insufficient to attract the quality of workers needed to ensure that that the civil works phase of the £18 billion project is completed on time.
Western Daily Press 22nd April 2017 read more »
A ROW over bonus pay is threatening to lead to an industrial dispute among construction workers at the site of the new Hinkley Point power station. A consultative ballot is to be held among 700 members of the Unite and GMB unions, which could lead to a vote on industrial action. The unions claim contractors at the £18 billion project in Somerset have failed to pay a predicted bonus.
Somerset County Gazette 20th April 2017 read more »
Energy Live News 21st April 2017 read more »