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Report aims to keep nuclear new build on track

A group of engineering firms has published lessons learnt from past and current nuclear projects in a bid to ensure the success of new sites approved for the UK.

The report by trade body alliance Engineering the Future follows energy secretary Chris Huhne giving the green light for eight new nuclear sites that could see tens of billions of pounds pour into the sector.

With the last nuclear power station built in the UK 15 years ago, concerns have been raised that the country lacks the experience and knowledge to capitalise on the investment.

The alliance of engineering bodies, including the Institution of Civil Engineers and Royal Academy of Engineering, hopes its report, Nuclear Lessons Learnt, will help the ambitious new-build programme be delivered on-time and as efficiently as possible.   

It draws on six of the most relevant projects in recent history, highlighting unforeseen issues and the lessons that can be learnt from them.

The report categorises the lessons for three audiences: government; the nuclear plant developers; and the supply chain. 

Five high level common lessons 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

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.

“The 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 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)