Hinkley Point C delayed until at least 2026

27 January 2021

EDF has again revised the schedule and budget for the commissioning of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction in Somerset, England. The start of electricity generation from unit 1 is now expected in June 2026, compared with end-2025 as initially announced in 2016. Delays arising from the pandemic will also increase the cost of the project by GBP500 million (USD684 million) to GBP23 billion.

Stuart Crooks, managing director of Hinkley Point C (Image: EDF)

"Despite being affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, Hinkley Point C has made significant progress in 2020 on site, in the design execution plans and on the manufacturing of equipment," the French state-owned company said today. "In this context, a detailed review of schedule and cost has been performed to estimate the impact of the pandemic so far."

This review has concluded that the project completion costs are now estimated in the range of GBP22 to 23 billion (in 2015 prices), which changes the projected rate of return for EDF from 7.6-7.8% to 7.1-7.2%.

The forecast announced today "assumes the ability to begin a ramp up back to normal site conditions from the second quarter of 2021", EDF said, adding that the project is focused on the objective to lift the dome of unit 1 at the end of 2022. In a message to staff broadcast on YouTube, Stuart Crooks, managing director of Hinkley Point C, said everyone on the project is looking forward to that moment.

In December, Big Carl - the world’s largest crane - completed its biggest ever lift at Hinkley Point C when it moved a total weight of 575 tonnes to install the first of three massive prefabricated steel rings which form the reinforced cylinder around the nuclear reactor. Crooks said the ring was pre-fabricated on-site to a precision best described as "watchmaking on an industrial scale".

"We've been able to keep working through COVID because our teams have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the site and our community safe, with many measures put in place to prevent infection and to enable social distancing. So, in these very challenging circumstances, it's a considerable achievement that we hit 18 of our 20 milestones last year, with the last two not far behind. That is being done with fewer people on site and with considerable disruption among our suppliers," Crooks said. For example, the first 3.5 km tunnel for the cooling water was completed "just before Christmas" and the electricity grid connection is already under way, he added.

"During the pandemic, we've monitored our schedule very carefully. At the start of the crisis we postponed some of our work in order to create space and keep people safe onsite. The aim was to bring in additional resources to catch up that lost time but, 10 months on, it's clear that the pandemic is still in full force.

"Reducing people onsite has effectively eaten away at the opportunity to recover that lost time from 2020. So far, we estimate that we've lost around three months of schedule time and we estimate that we could lose another three months in 2021, assuming that the conditions allow us to ramp back up the resources following Easter. Of course, with scheduling increases come increased costs, but this is the first time we've adjusted our schedule since the project commenced construction in 2016."

He stressed that "this is a health crisis, not an issue with construction", adding that the fundamentals of this project remain good.

"We remain committed to building a power station of the highest quality and being transparent about our progress. What we do here matters. The low-carbon electricity produced by Hinkley Point C will be critical in our fight against climate change and our journey to net zero," he said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News