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EDF chief: nuclear wins can open doors for UK firms

Success in the UK’s nuclear build programme will unlock opportunities in international markets for UK contractors, EDF Energy’s nuclear procurement chief has told Construction News.

Alan Cumming said lessons from the French plant Flamanville, which has been put back by four years and has overrun its estimated budget by billions of pounds, would be applied to the UK supply chain for nuclear build at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, benefiting contractors.

He said: “We are looking at improvements in how (plants) are put together and constructed and at issues we have had in the supply chain to make sure they are not replicated again.

“On Flamanville we have a learning process in place but the contracting structure we have adapted in the UK is different…it is more about target cost and a collaborative way of working.”

He added: “We are putting huge emphasis on the capability and attitude of the organisations and the people that they’ve got.

“We are constantly learning from Flamanville and Taishan in China and we are putting those lessons into construction and doing things better.”

Mr Cumming said contractors that win work in the UK and prove themselves under EDF Energy’s new nuclear plans can expect to take advantage of a multi-billion pound market internationally. EDF alone wants to develop plants in Italy, China, South Africa and the US.

Firms already building in biotech, oil, gas and chemicals industries could secure a place in the expanding nuclear supply chain, he said. “Transition is easier than people think, it’s just the marketplace hasn’t been there.”

The energy giant is moving forward with plans for new reactors at Hinkley Point C, Somerset, and Sizewell C, Suffolk, with a supply chain being put in place to deliver both, which will cost more than £10 billion.

He said: “The eyes of the world are on the UK and Hinkley Point C and we see this as an international project. Whoever works on it, we want them to be the best, most sought-after people, not just in the UK but the world.

“We recognise there is a huge shortfall on capacity and capability in this country and globally. We will set out clear goals and responsibilities between client, architect, engineer and contractors so there are clear roles and good contracts.”

Mr Cumming said his concerns about the UK nuclear industry included gaps in training, project management capability and the number of bodies offering skills training, which led to confusion.

He said EDF would dictate to its main contractors the supply chain they need to put in place.

“We will be intrusive in our supply chains. We will look top to bottom at how they work both from a regulatory viewpoint but also from a commercial viewpoint because it makes sense to know where the weakest link is.

“We will meet everyone on the supply chain. If contractors’ supply chains collapse, our supply chain collapses and we need to have confidence they can deliver - if you can get quality and safety right scheduling costs generally fall.”

Mr Cumming also stressed that contractors with experience in other industries can put their skills to work on nuclear projects, and that 70 per cent of Hinkley Point C will be non-nuclear work.

EDF has already organised supply chain events, along with Somerset Chamber of Commerce, which have involved about 800 companies and already led to 47 firms signing deals.

“Our civil contractors will start to work up their supply chains and we will be working with them to build up target costs, schedules and risks and to see how they are using regional, national and international supply chains as well,” Mr Cumming said.


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