UK’s fleet dreams

16 July 2019

Delegates at a recent industry conference in London were given updates on the UK’s nuclear new build plans, Caroline Peachey reports.

DESPITE THE CANCELLATION OF THE UK’s Horizon and Moorside nuclear power projects last year, Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and Bradwell B appear to be proceeding, with the developers keen to reap the benefits of series construction, executives told delegates at the Nuclear Industry Association’s Nuclear New Build conference in London.

The nuclear industry has voiced its desire and readiness to be part of the solution to the UK’s goals to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2050. But it is looking for clarity from the government.

Construction work is well underway on the first 1600MWe EPR at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, and the project remains on track to reach the first key milestone (J0) in June, according to Cadoux-Hudson, EDF Energy’s managing director. Hinkley Point C is owned by EDF Energy (66.5%) and China General Nuclear Corporation (33.5%).

“We are gearing up for the last big pour of the foundation of the nuclear island,” Cadoux-Hudson said 11 June.

This final concrete pour of more than 9000m3 will be the biggest in the UK, and nearly twice the previous largest pour, which was at Sizewell B, he noted. The final pour is expected to take five days.

“J0 is has been a big focus for us,” said Cadoux-Hudson. “It was a date set four years ago, and we are looking like hitting it exactly when we intended to.”

The focus has now shifted to dome installation, which is scheduled to take place in 2021 for unit 1. At this point 90% of civil construction work and 20% of equipment installation will have been completed, Cadoux-Hudson said.

EDF Energy is already seeing “much higher levels of productivity” at the second unit on the Hinkley Point site, he added, noting that excavation work has been completed 15% more quickly than at unit 1 and spray concrete work 30% faster.

Further benefits are expected at Sizewell C. “We are targeting the start of Sizewell C at the end of 2021, at a time when we have learnt the lessons and have got a completed design finished for Hinkley Point C, ” Cadoux-Hudson said. At this time EDF would be looking for supervisory staff to transfer from Hinkley Point C to Sizewell C.

“The most effective way to drive down risks is to make a copy,” Cadoux-Hudson added. EDF believes that copying the Hinkley Point design at Sizewell could reduce construction costs by 20%.

First generation is expected from Hinkley Point C in 2025, while Sizewell C could come online in 2030.

A Chinese-designed nuclear plant could also begin operation at Bradwell B in Essex during the early 2030s, according to Alan Raymant, chief executive of CGN UK, although he admitted that to have it operating by 2030 would be “a challenge.”

At least one UK HPR1000 reactor is planned for the Bradwell B site in Essex, which will be owned by CGN (66.5%) and EDF Energy (33.5%). The design will be a UK variant of the Chinese Hualong One. Four Hualong One reactors are already under construction in China at Fuqing 5&6 and Fangchenggang 3&4, two are being built in Pakistan, and more are in the pipeline.

Growth in China means that by the time the technology is deployed in the UK it will be a “known quantity,” Raymant said. CGN believes the first UK HPR1000 will be at least the 15th in the global fleet, which means “reduced risks and lower costs.”

“The fleet effect is not limited to the knowledge we can transfer from China ensuring the price of unit 1 is competitive with other modes,” Raymant said.

“Our experience means that we can be confident that within the UK costs for each unit will fall over time, meaning that the price of unit 4 will be around a fifth cheaper still.”

The UK HPR1000 has been undergoing the UK’s generic design assessment (GDA) since 2017, and is “on course” to complete step 3 of the four-stage process by the end of 2019. The GDA process typically takes five years and CGN is “confident it can complete on schedule,” Raymant said.

CGN’s current focus is on defining the project and confirming its feasibility. Since the end of 2017 it has been undertaking investigative works at Bradwell B to increase its understanding of the site, the estuary and surrounding area. The aim, Raymant said, is to confirm the concept design and environmental impact ready for initial consultation in 2020.

CGN is also working on its delivery model to ensure successful completion of the design and construction phases, and starting to engage supply chain.

“The first new nuclear project, led by EDF at Hinkley Point C, is underway. Now we must all build on that strong start,” Raymant said. CGN is now “looking for government to give clarity” in its Energy White Paper that it is “committed to new nuclear if the cost is right, and specifically to a joined-up new build programme on multiple sites.” 

Alan Raymant addressing the NNB conference in June

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