Hinkley Point C: a long-lasting energy boost?

Hinkley Point C: a long-lasting energy boost?

The build of Hinkley Point C (HPC) has captured the imagination of our young professionals at PBA many of whom see new nuclear as a vital part of the energy mix. Graduate engineer, Emma Brown, told me, ‘By 2030 a significant proportion of the UK’s older power stations are expected to close, including all but one of our existing nuclear power stations. As such, new nuclear power is a vital part of the future energy mix.’  Energising though it is at a national scale, as a local man, it’s made me question how enduring will its effects be on the local economy?

Positioned nearly exactly midway between our Bristol and Taunton offices, I was one of the PBA civil engineers who first got involved with HPC in 2010 when we were asked to work on the site preparation contract. The first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the development, to give you some perspective, EDF Energy statistics predict HPC will create:

  • 26,000 job opportunities with 5,600 people working on site
  • 200,000 tonnes of rebar (being supplied from Neath and Newport)
  • 4 million cubic tonnes of earth (equivalent to 1,300 swimming pools)
  • 3 million tonnes of concrete (75 times more than was used in the Millennium Stadium)
Jon Heath and the team involved with the Wylfa works on site at Hinkley, October 2016

Jon Heath and the team involved with the Wylfa works on site at Hinkley, October 2016

 As the closest town to HPC is Bridgwater, which has a population of only 41,000, the project will need to draw on resources from across the wider South West region and beyond.

Some local trades are already experiencing resourcing issues and no doubt the draw of HPC will only make this worse. Recent major constraints around obtaining bricks when the foundries stopped production through the recession and then there was insufficient labour to lay the bricks when they were available.

As the Main Tier 1, 2 and 3 contracts are awarded to the major international contractors this work will draw in a national workforce and also filter down through local contractors. As prices rise due to market forces, links between builders and sub-contractors will obviously be tested and the temptation will be to ‘follow the fast buck’, this is where long-standing trusted relationships will become more important, as they were in the post-recession times.

So, is new nuclear a sustainable new industry? With this major workforce mobilising to the South West the question must be what happens to them in five to six years’ time when their element of the new nuclear build is complete. The ‘plan’ appears to be that the workforce will have the opportunity to move up the M5 to Oldbury and in supporting roles on Wylfa, both of which are moving forward and have major earthworks and civils contracts being awarded. It’s no coincidence that Horizon Nuclear have recently opened their new UK head office (which we at PBA had the pleasure of supporting through the planning process) at Gloucester Business Park which is well located to pull resources from Bristol, Gloucestershire and the surrounding area.

Whilst the impact of Hinkley on the local economy might not be long-lasting, as part of the overall mix of energy projects in this region it certainly will be and, at PBA, we’re already re-using the knowledge gained and value engineering from Hinkley Point to input to the site preparation works at Wylfa. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.