UK nuclear supply chain needs certainty — company exec
The UK nuclear industry’s supply chain needs certainty that newbuilds will proceed before it can make the necessary human and capital investments, nuclear services firm Doosan Babcock has told ICIS Heren.
Glen Little, the company’s head of nuclear newbuild, argued that, although overall nuclear policy is going in the right direction, risks do remain. He signalled out the potential impact of a victory by the UK opposition Conservative Party at the next election on the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) as an area of concern.
“The Conservatives say they will bring the IPC under ministerial control. This could lead to delays, as the minister is unlikely to simply rubber-stamp the IPC’s recommendations,” Little said.
However, he added that any delays were unlikely to come from local opposition to new nuclear build, as lands pencilled in for this purpose is generally on, or adjacent to, existing reactor sites.
The UK’s process for licensing new reactors was also a potential source of risk. A decision on the generic design assessment (GDA), which looks at the safety standards of particular reactors in the running for newbuild, is scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2011.
Nuclear design risk
“The GDA has already experienced some delays, although the government says it is back on track. But while some uncertainty has been mitigated, there is still the chance that utilities will have to go ahead with construction at risk,” Little said.
This would involve utilities proceeding with newbuild, despite not having received the necessary site licence from the UK’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). The alternative would be a delay of up to six months while the NII considered the application. But it was unlikely the NII would refuse permission at such a late stage, Little added.
He said the nuclear industry was heartened by recent comments from Business Secretary Peter Mandelson suggesting that the government would more actively argue the case for new nuclear plants when challenged. “It’s good the government has recognised that legislation is not enough,” Little said.
The first new nuclear reactor could be on line by the end of 2017 if France’s EDF is able to keep to its stated timetable. But while this remained a challenging target, Little argued the nuclear supply chain was capable of stepping up to the plate.
“We are working closely with suppliers to ensure they are up to speed with new nuclear build. But the industry still need to make investments. We need more apprentices, more training, more awareness of the nuclear code,” Little said.
He added that the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) had a major role to play in ensuring the supply chain is ready for newbuild. “NDA has a raft of nuclear projects on at Sellafield. As long as these are not scaled back, the skills base will be there to easily move to reactor newbuild from 2014, when a significant amount of the Sellafield work is due to be completed,” he said. RA
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