Secretary of State Chris Huhne re-confirmed the government’s commitment to the new build programme by announcing the publication of the draft Nuclear National Policy Statement, which confirmed eight potential sites for new nuclear power stations, with the first estimated to be online by 2018. However, with the last nuclear power station built in the UK constructed 15 years ago, much of the experience and knowledge no longer exists within the industry today.
The alliance of engineering bodies, including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), hopes their report, Nuclear Lessons Learnt, will help the ambitious new build programme be delivered on-time and as efficiently as possible.
The study aims to demonstrate that despite the long intervals between domestic new build programmes, lessons have been learnt that will significantly reduce risks and delays in UK new nuclear build programmes. Six of the most relevant projects in recent history were examined, and the outcomes and recovery of unforeseen issues that arose were documented to identify the common lessons learnt.
If the eight new stations in the UK are successfully developed, there will be opportunities to maximise on the experience and skills gained, as well as capitalise on economically efficient repeat projects to plug the growing energy gap. As Government will not be financially supporting the programme, it will be even more essential that the sector delivers the programme at the lowest cost, with the highest possible opportunity for return, whilst still ensuring nuclear safety is paramount.
The report categorises the lessons for three audiences: Government, the nuclear plant developers, and the supply chain. Five high level common lessons that can be applied to the current and future UK new build programme to help ensure smooth and economically efficient delivery were identified:
- Follow-on replica stations are cheaper than first-of-a-kind
- Designs should be mature and licensing issues resolved prior to construction
- A highly qualified design and planning team is essential
- Sub contractors used must be experienced or taught nuclear-specific construction skills
- Early and effective engagement with communities is crucial
Spokesperson for the alliance and chair of the report steering group John Earp said: “The nuclear new build programme is critical for the UK, guaranteeing our security of energy supply in the future and providing an opportunity for us to become a role model for energy investment globally. Government has committed to supporting the programme through reforms to the planning and regulatory systems, but more needs to be done to incentivise investment in low carbon electricity if we are to attract and retain long-term private investment.
“The sector should also take heed of these lessons, investing now in upskilling workers to meet future demand and engaging early on with the supply chain and affected communities.”
The six projects assessed in the study were:
- Sizewell B (UK)
- Sellafield (UK) – the Installation of a Waste Processing Facility
- Olkiluoto 3 (Finland)
- Flamanville (France)
- Taishan (China)
- Sanmen and Haiyang (China)
Earp continued: “Nuclear construction is unique, it demands that all those involved - from civil engineers, contractors to investors and project managers - understand its complex nature and the nuclear safety culture that exists throughout the sector, and plan, design and build accordingly. We hope that providing industry and the supply chain with clear and accessible information on lessons learnt in the past will enable the upcoming UK new build programme to be delivered to time, cost and quality ensuring reliable nuclear generated electricity and helping to meet UK climate change targets for many years to come.”
The report can be downloaded at www.ice.org.uk/nuclearlessons