Hinkley Point C unit 1 (Credit: EDF Energy)The basemat for the first reactor unit has been completed at the UK’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset enabling construction of the nuclear buildings above ground to begin, EDF Energy said.

Two EPR units are under construction at Hinkley Point C, which is expected to provide 7% of the UK’s electricity when fully operational. Construction at Hinkley Point C began after EDF, its Chinese partner CGN, and the UK government signed final contracts in September 2016.

Hinkely Point C is being built by the UK branch of France’s EDF along with China General Nuclear Power Corp. Under a 2015 deal, China General Nuclear took a 33.5% stake in the project, which will be the first new nuclear plant to be built in the UK in over 20 years.

EDF Energy said on 28 June that the objective is for “initial delivery for unit 1 at the end of 2025”. First concrete was poured for the first part of the unit 1 reactor base in December 2018. The base is reinforced with 5000 tonnes of steel and is being constructed by the UK-French joint venture of Bouygues-Laing O’Rourke. The final 9000 cubic metres of concrete was the largest concrete pour in the UK, beating a record set by the Shard skyscraper in London, EDF Energy said.

Facilities to mix concrete at the site were built by EDF Energy 18 months before they were needed to perfect the mix cement, water and aggregate required to ensure no cracking. Reinforcement bars were laid with precision, no more than 2cm askew from the plan submitted to regulators.

EDF Energy said construction of unit 2 is well underway and is already showing the improved efficiency possible when an identical design is repeated. The 12-month separation in the schedule offers maximum efficiency for the transfer of teams between units. EDF Energy chief executive officer Simone Rossi said the innovation at Hinkley Point C sets up the opportunity to reduce costs for the planned construction of a near identical power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk.

Final contracts have been signed to install the pipes and cables at the Hinkley Point site by a joint venture comprising UK contractors Balfour Beatty, Cavendish Nuclear, Altrad and Doosan Babcock. Forgings for the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators are underway at Framatome in France, and the world’s largest turbine is under construction by GE. The world’s largest crane – the Sarens SGC 250 – is being mounted at the site.  Contracts worth about £1.5bn have been awarded in the South-West, and 64% of the project value is being spent with UK companies. Almost 4000 people are working at Hinkley Point C. Half of them are from the local area.

On 27 June, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signed legislation requiring the UK to bring all its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. EDF says that Hinkley Point C's reliable low-carbon electricity will play a "vital role in helping the UK tackle the climate change crisis." "With a large expansion of renewables, it will make 'net-zero' emissions possible and help the UK have an affordable and secure electricity supply," EDF Energy said. It added that "Innovation and the transfer of design, skills and experience from Hinkley Point C mean the proposed near-identical project at Sizewell C can be significantly cheaper to build and finance, and that subsequent projects at Bradwell B and elsewhere will also benefit."

In a letter to Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the UK should build new nuclear plants and scale up carbon capture technology and infrastructure to reach the government's 2050 target. The letter set out a series of priorities to decarbonise the UK economy and called on the government to use a forthcoming Energy White Paper to give more clarity on its vision. The CBI also called on the government to consider support for innovative nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors.  

Photo: Hinkley Point C has hit its biggest milestone yet on schedule. The completion of the base for the first reactor means that the construction of the nuclear buildings above ground can now begin (Credit: EDF Energy)