Lessons from past key to success for nuclear new build

Date:

28 OCTOBER 2010

A study released today by engineering alliance Engineering the Future (EtF) has brought together lessons learnt from past and current nuclear projects which if adopted should help ensure the success of the future UK nuclear new build programme, given the green light by Government last week.

Secretary of State Chris Huhne re-confirmed the Government’s commitment to the new build programme last Monday, 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.”

Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Rt Hon Charles Hendry MP said: “Nuclear power will be crucial in ensuring we decarbonise our electricity supply and reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. We are fully supportive of new nuclear power in the UK but will not be subsidising it. We are under no illusions however, that to attract the inward investment necessary will require significant commitment from Government.

“I see it as my job to remove unnecessary barriers to investment in nuclear power and endeavour to provide a landscape that facilitates private sector investment. Government has already taken active steps to enable new nuclear by publishing for consultation the draft Energy National Policy Statements including a list of potential nuclear sites and making a decision on Regulatory Justification.

“We are therefore very pleased to have commissioned this work on lessons learnt for nuclear new build. The report will help all project stakeholders to understand and limit risk, and to minimise potential overruns and delays, which are both expensive and reduce public confidence.”

The report was launched by the Minister of State at the Nuclear Development Forum, a quarterly meeting of industry stakeholders and Government representatives, today. ICE director general Tom Foulkes also addressed the forum, welcoming the report on behalf of the Engineering the Future (EtF) alliance.

The report can be downloaded here www.ice.org.uk/nuclearlessons

[1] See notes to editors for full list of participating bodies

Media contacts

Emily Beadon, ICE Media Relations Manager:
t: 020 7665 2261
e: emily.beadon@ice.org.uk

Notes to editors

1. The Nuclear Lessons Learned report was commissioned by the Institution of Civil Engineers, on behalf of Engineering the Future (EtF), which includes a range of engineering bodies such as ICE, RAEeng and the Nuclear Institute. It was supported by the Office for Nuclear Development, and was prepared by the Department of Engineering at Lancaster University.

2. Engineering the Future (EtF) is a broad alliance of the engineering institutions and bodies which represent the UK’s 450,000 professional engineers. We provide independent expert advice and promote understanding of the contribution that engineering makes to the economy, society and to the development and delivery of national policy. The leadership of Engineering the Future is drawn from the following institutions: The Engineering Council; EngineeringUK; The Institution of Chemical Engineers; The Institution of Civil Engineers; The Institution of Engineering and Technology; Institution of Structural Engineers,The Institution of Mechanical Engineers; The Institute of Physics; The Royal Academy of Engineering.