Bradwell B CEO addresses Nuclear Industry Association at Conference
Alan Raymant, CEO of Bradwell B, today addressed delegates at the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA)’s Nuclear New Build Conference in London.
Reflecting on his decade of experience in working on nuclear new builds, Alan spoke of the challenges and opportunities that the industry currently faces.
Alan called for the industry to work together to ensure Hinkley Point C is constructed successfully, that government continues to support nuclear energy, and that new projects like Bradwell B are brought forward to offer competitively priced power.
Alan’s full speech can be read below:
“Thank you for inviting me to speak today.
It’s 10 years since I first got involved in nuclear new build when I set up Horizon. At that time, there was huge interest and excitement about the opportunities nuclear would bring. There was a powerful pioneering spirit across the industry and within Government that created huge drive to push the nuclear agenda forward.
At that time all of the Big 6 energy firms were involved – 5 in new build and one in the existing fleet. 5 sites were under development; by now, four of those sites should have been under construction.
A decade later, most of the companies then involved in new build have withdrawn to focus on other parts of the market. Toshiba and Hitachi entered the market and have subsequently withdrawn or scaled back their operations. One project, Hinkley Point C, is under construction. The rest are in development or suspended.
There is a real risk this is viewed as a failure by the industry to deliver its promises. A real risk that as other technologies expand, we are no longer seen as a critical part of the future energy mix.
If we allow this to take hold, we will repeat the experience of the 1980s PWR programme and deploy just one power station – losing all of the benefits of a more ambitious programme
So how do we counter this threat?
Firstly, as an industry we have to make sure Hinkley Point C is constructed successfully, to prove UK can deliver new nuclear.
Secondly, we need to make sure Government policy continues to support new nuclear.
Thirdly, we need to bring forward new projects that offer competitively priced power.
This is the context in which I am going to talk about CGN’s contribution to UK new build as well as the latest developments with the Bradwell B project. But before that I want to set the scene by introducing CGN, and setting out how our ambitions fit into the current policy environment in this country.
For those of you who don’t know, CGN is the biggest developer and constructor of new nuclear power in the world. We currently have 6 units in construction in China, with a total capacity of 7.43GW – in addition to our involvement in the 2 units at Hinkley Point C. They will add to the 22 units, with a capacity of 24.3GW, that we already operate in China.
CGN has grown rapidly to become the third largest nuclear enterprise in the world. But the coming decades will bring even greater changes.China has already set out very significant plans to expand its nuclear fleet. By 2050 it has already said that it will have 240GW of installed capacity. But to achieve the ambitions set out in the Paris agreement on climate change it has been calculated that the amount of capacity will have to rise to 554GW by the middle of this century.
That is obviously astonishing growth. And it is estimated that CGN will account for around 40% of it. The question is what difference that makes to the UK.
My answer is that it is highly significant for this country, in several ways.
First, CGN’s growing experience and expertise is already making a big difference here.
Through our partnership with EDF we are bringing to Hinkley Point C our expertise from the project to build EPR reactors at Taishan in China. At Taishan, Unit 1 entered commercial operation in December 2018. Unit 2 achieved criticality just a few weeks ago and is on track to go online soon. Experienced engineers and project managers from Taishan are increasingly part of the HPC team. We now have 50 colleagues working on the project in this country, with more to follow.
Another way in which the UK can benefit from investment and growth in China is through the deployment of our HPR1000 reactor.
The HPR1000 is a state-of-the-art Generation 3+ technology with passive safety features incorporating post-Fukushima counter-measures within the design. In partnership with EDF we are taking it through the GDA regulatory approvals process in the UK, and we plan to build it at Bradwell. Our growth in China means that by the time we deploy the technology here it will be very much a known quantity. There are already four HPR1000 units in construction; four more have recently been confirmed; and many more are planned. That means the first UK HPR1000 will be at least the 15th in the global fleet.
Our burgeoning experience of constructing and operating the reactor design will mean reduced risks and lower costs when it comes to the UK. And that fleet effect is not limited to the knowledge we can transfer from China, ensuring that the price of Unit 1 is competitive with other modes; our experience means that we can be confident that within the UK costs for each unit will fall over time, meaning that the price of Unit 4 will be around a fifth cheaper still.
That’s why we are looking to Government to give clarity in the White Paper that it is committed to new nuclear if the cost is right, and specifically to a joined-up new build programme on multiple sites. Building at least 4 new UK HPR1000 reactors will deliver the full upside of the fleet effect.
Which takes me to the third benefit to the UK of working with CGN and becoming part of our global investment plans.
In order to deliver the fleet of UK HPR1000s I have described we are committed to working with and investing in the UK supply chain.
There are many highly skilled companies and highly talented individuals here that can be part of a strong supply chain which will work together on the HPR1000 programme in the UK – and also in China. Being part of the huge and growing market in China presents an enormous opportunity to the nuclear and wider engineering sector in the UK. It would be transformational. We are already developing plans to engage supply chain companies in what we are doing in China. As well as opening that market to them, being involved now will allow them to build up their skills and experience and thus reduce risks and costs when it comes to the UK HPR1000 programme.
Again, we are looking to Government to do all it can to facilitate this UK-China Industrial Partnership. It is worth noting that if the Partnership delivers its full potential it will mean not only achieving the goals of the Nuclear Sector Deal but smashing them. Part of this will be talent management, and the creation of jobs and building of skills. The growth projected for CGN means that we will have to expand significantly in the UK, in China and elsewhere to achieve our domestic and export targets.
We will need to invest in a suitably qualified and experienced workforce needed to deliver a fleet of UK HPR1000s, aligned with other UK new build projects. Our colleagues in China will support training in specialist areas. We will create graduate and post-graduate opportunities with British universities, and in due course develop an apprenticeship scheme.
With that as the backdrop let me tell you the latest about Bradwell B – and also the Generic Design Assessment for the UK HPR1000 reactor.
Our current focus is on defining the project and confirming its feasibility – technical, commercial and consenting. Since the end of 2017 we have been undertaking investigative works, increasing our understanding of the site as well as the estuary and surrounding area, all with the aim of confirming the concept design and environmental impact ready for initial consultation next year.
The key factors we are considering are site conditions and the impact on design, plant layout, material balance, cooling solutions, supporting infrastructure, socio-economic, transportation, and environmental factors. In addition we are working on the delivery model to ensure successful completion of the design and construction phases. The momentum is growing.
We have been getting to know our neighbours during this time, introducing ourselves to the local supply chain, meeting the young people of Essex as they learn about STEM, and helping people understand our plans. Our local Bradwell B office will be opening later this year, a crucial step in demonstrating the benefits of nuclear new build to local communities. This is particularly important as the existing Bradwell A station has entered the Care and Maintenance phase of its decommissioning and there is minimal activity on site.
Moving to GDA…
The process began in 2017. It takes around five years to complete and we are now in Step 3 of 4. We are on course to complete Step 3 at the end of this year and move into the final stage next year. There’s still much work to be done of course, but we are confident we can complete on schedule. Our UK-based team working on the GDA is supported by highly experienced engineering and design teams in China and France. We are drawing on experience from GDA of EPR and other technologies, capturing the lessons from these. And, to make sure we are best-placed to develop and deliver the HPR1000 in the UK, the GDA team is working in tandem with the Bradwell B team.
We are building up the BRB team, combining experience from CGN, EDF, UK employees and the supply chain. We are starting small and taking care to ensure we match our capabilities with the needs of the project. I myself joined in January this year and we are building the core team as we speak.
Developing nuclear projects in UK is expensive and risky. We have to make sure we balance financial commitment against risk and opportunity throughout the development. This means taking a hard-headed assessment of progress and prospects at key points in the programme.
Coming back to an earlier comment, Government policy and commitment to nuclear is a critical part of this assessment. We need to be confident that in committing investment policy is stable and the prospects for reaching a conclusion remain sufficiently positive. Because nuclear remains crucial for the UK’s future energy needs. And it will be even more vital if we adopt the even stricter targets for emissions envisaged by the Committee on Climate Change.
CGN is already making a big contribution to delivering that much-needed new nuclear power. We are matching our promises and commitments with action. We have already spent £2.8 billion in this country. And the first new nuclear project, led by EDF at Hinkley Point C, is underway. Now we must all build on that strong start.
Pulling together – us, the supply chain, government, and others – to deliver a truly ambitious and transformative new nuclear programme. And delivering too on our vision for a wider and stronger partnership in civil nuclear power between the UK and China that delivers huge benefits for both.
It is time to make it happen.