Why is Hinkley Point C Important?
Last month the UK Government gave the green light to Hinkley Points newest plant, Hinkley Point C. The contracts have been signed marking the launch of a new nuclear construction in the UK and Europe, consequently boosting the industry in Britain and France. Hinkley Point C is a 3,200 MWe nuclear power station and will sit alongside its existing neighbours Point A and Point B.
With many nuclear power points shutting down, Hinkley Point C will provide the UK with 7% of its electricity. It is set to be Europe’s biggest construction site and will be costing EDF Energy £18bn in upfront costs. However, in return, EDF energy will receive 35 years’ worth of electricity at a set price.
For most, Hinkley Point C is the first nuclear power station to be built in a generation and North Cumbria and Somerset have opened up a Nuclear College to cater for the 25,000 new job opportunities that the project will be demanding.
Could this motivate new opportunities for Architects and Engineers to work hand in hand on future power plants?
The Somerset plant has already appointed Canaway Fleming as their lead architect due to the structures complex design and procurement structure. The project requires services including feasibility, concept design, masterplanning, development control, detailed design, environmental appraisal and design.
Canaway Fleming has described the complexity of the project:
“The projects included both major logistics infrastructure termed Associated Development and on-site buildings within the nuclear ‘island’ itself. The Associated Development, essential for enabling the construction of the main reactor site, is spread across 7 different sites and comprises road and utilities and civils infrastructure, multiple building design for residential, recreation, teaching and amenities, landscaping and security, landscaping and ecological works.”
With 25,000 new jobs on offer, an Accommodation Village has been designed to house key workers. AHP have been appointed to assist with the development which will spread over 15 buildings and include 500 single person accommodation units. The village will be a modern residential design to compliment the larger site.
In addition, Hinkley Point C will not only create jobs, it will also positively benefit our economy in a number of ways. Thanks to EDF, a French energy company, and China General Nuclear Power Corporation, the costs for the project will not be coming off the back of government spending. The China General Nuclear Power Corporation have investment of 33% in the project which is beneficial to them as they now have a significant presence in Western Europe. For France, it gives them a chance to air their reactor technology around the globe.
With Brexit looming, the Hinkley project is also beneficial as it makes the UK less reliant on imported energy. It has been predicted that, once finished, the project will provide 5 million homes with energy for up to 60 years which may compensate for its astronomical cost to build.
Despite the contracts being signed now, the timeline of the Hinkley project has not been a smooth one and not everyone is happy about the decision to go ahead.
The UK government recently postponed the approval for the Hinkley project as well as legal issues and a conflict between the EDF board, but now Brexit poses a problem for Hinkley. A report by City AM shows that £280bn is contributed to the economy by the engineering industry, but the restrictions Brexit poses on access to specialised skills could delay the building due to the increase expenses of finding skilled engineers.
Although the project is full steam ahead, a poll commissioned by Greenpeace revealed only a third of people actually supported the decision for the build to go ahead.
Whilst France are looking for new ways to showcase their reactor technology, Germany are in the process of phasing out all reactors by 2022, before the Hinkley project is expected to be built. Due to public demand, Italy are deserting any plans to build new nuclear plants.
The recent release of the governments Value for Money Assessment show a costly projection post 2020, which is also off putting for many.
Despite many arguments against Hinkley Point C, it seems that the project is set on its path to be completed by 2025. We will have to wait and see whether it is a catalyst for a global phenomenon of nuclear plant builds.