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Will Hinkley generate the industry’s future?

It is good news for everyone that Laing O’Rourke and Bouygues have won the main civils contract to build Europe’s first nuclear power station
in 20 years.

Of course it’s disappointing for the losing joint venture partners Vinci and Balfour Beatty, but it’s better for the whole industry to know now, firstly, that the government and EDF really are committed to nuclear new-build and secondly, when we can expect the work to begin.

It also sends a powerful positive message about building information modelling – Laing O’Rourke believes its inclusion in the bid helped it to win, providing reassurance to EDF it wouldn’t face the cost and time overruns that have been seen in France.

Warnings that plans for nuclear new-build could crumble away had been getting louder.

With the EDF and Centrica JV the only energy provider left in the frame after Horizon pulled out in March, the worry had been that either they would get fed up with waiting for the government to provide the detail on long-term power pricing, or they would exploit the timeframe to their own ends.

There is still some way to go until the contracts are signed and work begins, but at least the signal has been sent and the early contractor involvement can begin. Hopefully EDF’s final investment decision will follow.

One of the biggest issues for the industry is to ensure we have the skills in the UK to do the work – and that we can retain those skills and ensure they are carried from Hinkley Point to further schemes.

CITB-ConstructionSkills is investing heavily to train the industry but the scale of the task is enormous.

Many of those who will need relevant skills are still in school right now. The commitment to developing nuclear skills needs to go well beyond the construction industry’s tried and tested forums.

As Construction News reveals this week, there could also be a clash between the need to develop skills and planning requirements around the use of local labour. It’s no use training employees in Somerset if they can’t apply their experience at the new nuclear sites further down the pipeline.


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