Nuclear Lessons Learned Report - Guidance for Best Practice: Concrete

This Engineering the Future paper gives general best practice guidance for nuclear construction. It focuses on the specific issues arising from current and previous nuclear construction projects, and is not a complete guide.

Nuclear power station
Nuclear power station

Who wrote this?

Engineering the Future is a broad alliance of the engineering institutions and bodies which represent the UK’s 450,000 professional engineers, including the Engineering Council, Engineering UK, Institution of Chemical Engineers,  Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Engineering and Technology, Institution of Mechanical Engineers; Institute of Physics, and Royal Academy of Engineering.

The main authors were: 

  • Chris Bolton, Chair (Institution of Structural Engineers) 
  • Nick Jones (URS Scott Wilson)
  • Quentin Leiper (Carillion Plc)
  • Les Smith (Office for Nuclear Regulation)
  • Neil Tait (Sellafield Ltd) and 
  • Keith Waller (Department of Energy & Climate Change)


It was first published in February 2012 by the Royal Academy of Engineering on behalf of Engineering the Future.


In October 2010, Engineering the Future brought together a study working group, at the request of the Office of Nuclear Development, to examine the lessons that could be learnt from recent civil nuclear power plant construction projects and how they should be incorporated into the proposed UK new build programme. 

Who should read this?

Anyone who is a involved in concrete in a nuclear project, or those who want to understand it, or to minimise potential overruns and delays. The guidance documents in this series are aimed at all those within the supply chain wishing to better understand the demanding requirements of nuclear construction. 


This paper gives a series of 14 recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1: Need for pre-placement quality assurance – given the key role of concrete in nuclear structures and the difficulty of modifying it later in the construction or operational phases, licensees should move the focus from the traditional post placement verification of quality to pre-placement quality of design, specification and training.
  • Recommendation 2: Licensee oversight –the licensee must manage the core capabilities of the integrated design and construction programmes to ensure that the arrangements for oversight of work carried out by the supply chain guarantee quality work that meets the licensee’s ultimate responsibility for quality and safety.
  • Recommendation 3: Early contractor engagement – early contractor engagement should be undertaken to ensure comprehensive integration of the design with the construction approach for complex areas.
  • Recommendation 4: Integrated design and construction programmes – design and construction programmes must be realistic and fully integrated across all disciplines with appropriate allowance for approvals and contingency. In particular; mechanical, services and process plant design should be sufficiently well advanced as to allow design of encast items penetrations and equipment. Co-location of the design and construction teams is desirable. 
  • Recommendation 5: Specification – the specification should be comprehensive, achievable and well understood across the supply chain. This will ensure that it can be enforced as mandatory.
  • Recommendation 6 Need for understanding across the team – concrete has an important role to play in ensuring nuclear safety. Everyone involved in the concrete process must understand the importance of producing high quality durable concrete and the procedures and specifications for concrete works.
  • Recommendation 7: Designers need practical experience – design and technician staff should gain practical site experience of constructing heavily reinforced concrete structures to understand the contractor’s challenges and constraints. Such experience should be an integral part of a formal training programme for all design and detailing staff.
  • Recommendation 8: Importance of Technician role – the role of the lead technician should be recognised as key to the successful delivery of the construction design, as part of a core team of experienced staff specifically identified, trained and supported appropriately.
  • Recommendation 9: Integrated and visible quality assurance process – to achieve the required long-term durability properties the licensee should ensure that there is an integrated approach to quality management, achieved by creating an attitude of teamwork among all parties involved.
  • Recommendation 10: Concrete mix design – All concrete mixes should be designed for all relevant properties, tested and approved. Any changes to the approved set of mixes should be formally controlled.
  • Recommendation 11: Concrete placement – good preparation will ensure that concrete can be place efficiently and correctly. Any problems should be resolved before the pour, nor during or after it.
  • Recommendation 12: Treatment of non-conformance – licensees should give consideration to how non-conformances will be addressed and should make this clear to all parties. They must then follow that process if non-conformances arise.
  • Recommendation 13: Feedback processes – processes should be put in place across all developers to allow for the collection, analysis and implementation of lessons learned and experience feedback.
  • Recommendation 14: Knowledge transfer over plant lifetime – the licensee should ensure that mechanisms are in place for the transfer of knowledge and experience at each stage of the project and the management of ageing from the conceptual stage onwards.

Nuclear Lessons Learned Series

This document is part of the series of four papers:

  • Nuclear Lessons Learned Report - Guidance for Best Practice
  • Nuclear Lessons Learned - Guidance for Best Practice: Concrete
  • Nuclear Construction Lessons Learned - Guidance for best practice: Welding
  • Nuclear Construction Lessons Learned - Guidance for Best Practice: Nuclear Safety Culture

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