The reactor pressure vessel (RPV) for unit 1 of the UK’s Hinkley Point C NPP (HPC) has been delivered to the site from Framatome’s Le Creusot facility in Burgundy, central France. Framatome completed manufacture of the RPV in December 2022. EDF Energy said teams had spent 80,000 engineering hours on its construction. It measures 13 metres in length and weighs 500 tonnes.

The high strength steel cylinder will house the reactor core and reactor vessel internals and will provide the path for coolant flow and guiding movement of the control rods. It is designed to run continuously for 18 months between refuelling outages. The reactor core will have an average temperature of around 300°C and will be able to withstand five times more pressure than a submarine at normal operating depths.

Hinkley Point C, when complete, will comprise two 1,630 MWe EPR reactors supplied by EDF. Construction began in December 2018 but the project has already faced delay challenges. In May 2022 EDF, following a review of the project, confirmed that the plant would begin operating a year later than planned and could cost up to £3bn ($3.7bn) more to build than originally budgeted. This put the start date for unit 1 at June 2027, with the cost estimated at £25-26bn, an increase on the previous estimate of £23bn. It was originally estimated to cost £18bn.

Nevertheless, construction progress has continued at HPC. In 2022 the 304-tonne steel liner ring was lifted onto the unit 1 reactor building. This was the third and final ring to be installed on the building, raising the height by 11.6 metres to 44 metres. More than 8,000 workers are on site at HPC.

The reactor first arrived in the UK at Avonmouth Docks, in Bristol, before being transported by barge to Combwich Wharf on the River Parrett in Somerset. The final journey was a 6.4km trip by transporter to the construction site, with police escort, which took five hours. The RPV will be installed in the reactor building after the dome is lifted into place.

Images courtesy of EDF