UK industry gearing up for new build, NIA reports

29 April 2008

UK industry has the capability to provide the majority of a sustained program of new nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has concluded in a report published today.

The NIA said that the review - an update of a 2006 report - found that the conclusions of the original report, that the UK is capable of building a program of new plants, are still valid and "in fact there have been several changes for the better."

The report concluded that some 80% of nuclear new build is not nuclear, but is similar to other major construction projects in terms of their project management, planning and technical implementation tasks. UK industry could supply some 70% to 80% of a new build program, it said. In addition, the report shows that less than 5% of UK construction capability would be required to complete a program of building a new generation of nuclear power plants in the country. The report suggests that, with careful planning, construction workers could be recruited and trained during the project development, planning and licensing period.

The NIA said that the vendors of the designs available to UK safety regulators - Areva's EPR, GE-Hitachi's ESBWR and Westinghouse's AP1000 - had clearly detailed the equipment they require and their global procurement policies. In addition, the Energy and Planning Bills have indicated the likely timescales for approvals, allowing UK industry to plan investments and the allocation of resources. The NIA also noted that schemes have been initiated to train the necessary skilled workers needed for a new build program in the UK. Moreover, the nuclear new build program and training initiatives launched to support it have been supported by British trade unions.

However, the report recognises that some of the key components - such as very large forgings, reactor pressure vessels and turbogenerators - cannot currently be produced by UK companies and will probably need to be imported. The NIA noted that Sheffield Forgemasters is planning to extend its capability into very large forgings, but forecast demand will still outstrip supply for several years to come. The NIA recognises that procurers of equipment and services will not be obliged to use UK suppliers.

The report says that, so far as construction is concerned, nuclear power plants are very similar to other major infrastructure projects, therefore lessons can be learned from other industries and "headline" projects. The NIA suggests that lessons can be learned from such projects as the construction of the Wembley and Arsenal Emirates stadiums, Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport and the Channel Tunnel rail link.

"There has been real commitment to developing skills across the engineering sector," said Keith Parker, chief executive of the NIA. He added, "The UK nuclear industry holds a wealth of skilled and experienced workers - who will be key to building a future of secure low-carbon energy."