A computer generated cutaway of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor

Majority of new nuclear plant work to go to UK firms

The lion’s share of work on three new nuclear reactors to be built in the northwest of England will go to UK firms.

Toshiba announced earlier this week that it had agreed in principle to buy a 60 per cent share in NuGeneration Ltd (NuGen), which plans to develop a 3.4GW nuclear power plant at Moorside, near the Sellafield site in West Cumbria.

Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric Company will construct three AP1000 nuclear reactors, which the firm says will create thousands of skilled jobs over the next decade leading up to the plants 2024 switch on date, and speaking at a press event today CEO Danny Roderick said they firm predicted that 57.5 per cent of work would go to UK firms.

However, with EDF gearing up to start building a new reactor at Hinkley Point and the government having formally agreed to support construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant on Anglesey in Wales, Roderick’s key concern is with the UK’s labour capacity.

“These plants will primarily be built by UK companies. Right now there’s a lot looking for work, but when all these projects kick off everyone is going to be very busy,” he said. “Some places you’ve got to worry about skills. Here I see plenty of skills but what I worry about is capacity.”

A final investment decision on the project will be made in 2018 once key licences, consents and permits are in place, which will be followed by two years of site preparation, a four year construction cycle and a six month start up cycle.

While the firm’s reactor design has yet to pass through the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s Generic Design Assessment process, the AP1000 has already received design approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Roderick believes there is only a year and half of work left to complete the process.

“We won’t start construction until we have regulatory certainty,” he said. “When we say move quickly its move smartly too.”

Despite being the last of the three new nuclear projects to put pen to paper Roderick believes Westinghouse’s UK supply chain – the firm already works with Sheffield Forgemasters and Rolls-Royce to build parts for their reactors – and the AP1000’s modular design will mean they will be able to build far quicker than their competitors.

He said: “There’s a lot less equipment in the AP1000 and the modular construction allows us to build it in a much shorter time and we think that’s going to give us a competitive advantage in the UK.”

“We actually build the entire plant in parallel, whether it’s the top floor, the bottom floor, the reactor containment building,” he added. “Instead of everything being done out in the cold weather, the wet and the rain these modules are built in temperature controlled buildings and then shipped to site.”

And he is hopefully that the protracted process EDF underwent to secure a strike price for the Hinkley Point plant will smooth the way for NuGen. “Hopefully that will plough a path for us to go through much quicker than EDF,” he said.

The firm had initially attempted to buy into the Horizon Project at Wylfa, but Roderick has no regrets about not matching the £700m Hitachi paid E.On and RWE for their stake.

“The price for Horizon just got beyond what we thought was reasonable,” he said. “What we really like about NuGen is that we have an operator, we have a community that is favourable to nuclear and we have a labour force already there, a lot of nuclear qualified workers already there.”

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