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The UK is embracing a nuclear future, but how is it progressing?



Hinkley Point C

No talk about the UK nuclear industry would be complete without a mention of Hinkley Point C, EDF Energy’s huge, and hugely controversial, nuclear plant located in Somerset, South West UK. With an initial project cost of £18bn, and delivery date of 2025, Hinkley Point C was already an ambitious project. However, the cost of the project has recently risen to £20.3bn and industry analysts are sceptical that the project will hit the 2025 completion date.

Nevertheless, Hinkley Point C has continued to progress, creating an estimated 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships whilst doing so. Construction began in the latter stages of 2016, with concrete poured for the first permanent structures on site in early 2017. Already, over 4 million cubic metres of earth have been moved and the construction of 8km of tunnels is underway.

It's not all been plain sailing though. Several issues in the construction have arisen- after concrete was poured for the 8km of tunnels beneath the site, over 150 cu m had to be dismantled and laid again as parts of the site’s geology were unsuitable for the type of concrete that had been laid. In addition, Costain pulled out of their £350m marine and tunnelling contract with Hinkley Point C due to a delayed start.

Despite these setbacks, the UK government remains confident that Hinkley Point C will help bridge the looming energy supply gap whilst also helping the UK to meet its ambitious carbon emissions targets. Hinkley Point C alone is expected to generate 3.2 GW from its two EPR reactors, avoiding the emission of nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

EDF's Hinkley Point C is now expected to cost in the region of £203bn exceeding the original £18bn figure.

(Visualisation of Hinkley Point C. Image via EDF).

Sizewell C

The second of EDF's UK nuclear new builds is Sizewell C located in Suffolk.

(Visualisation of Sizewell C. Image via EDF).

The second of EDF’s UK nuclear new-builds is Sizewell C, an EPR reactor-equipped plant that is currently about two-thirds of the way through its consultation process. If a nuclear site licence and development consent order are granted then construction of Sizewell C could begin in the early 2020s.

With concerns looming over Hinkley Point C’s projected cost, EDF is exploring ways it could shave as much as £4bn from Sizewell C’s costs, by replicating Hinkley’s design and using a more mature UK supply chain.

With the same EPR reactors as Hinkley, Sizewell C can be expected to produce in the region of 3.2 GW, helping to make up the shortfall from Sizewell A which is currently being decommissioned

Wylfa Newydd

Located next to the former Magnox Wylfa Power Station in Anglesey, Wales (which closed in 2015), Wylfa Newydd is being developed by Horizon Nuclear Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese technology giant Hitachi. 

Unlike Hinkley and Sizewell C, Wylfa will use Hitachi’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) which will generate in the region of 2.7 GW.

The developers applied for a nuclear site licence in spring 2017, and are hoping to receive it in the latter half of this year. 

A particular note of contention for the Wylfa Newydd plant is the funding model. Unlike Hinkley Point C, which received no public funding for its construction, Wylfa is potentially going to be part funded by the UK government to the tune of £5bn. This marks a reversal in policy, with the government previously stating it would not take any stake in nuclear new builds.

Wylfa Newydd will use Hitachi's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor to generate in the region of 2.7 GW of energy.

(Visualisation of Wylfa Newydd. Image via Horizon Nuclear Power).


Moorside is yet to begin but it has been planned as a 2.8 GW power plant.

(Visualisation of Moorside. Image via NuGeneration).

Perhaps the most troubled of the projects on this list, Moorside has yet to begin but has already experienced much turbulence with the developer's JV partners Toshiba and Engie taking steps to exit the scheme in 2017.

NuGeneration had planned for Moorside to be Cumbria-based nuclear power plant with a generation capacity of 2.8GW. However, following various financial wrangling, the Moorside project has now been rescued by state-owned Korean energy firm Kepco. Further details beyond this are scant, by Kepco has stated that it expects Moorside to be completed and generating energy towards the end of the 2020s.

Bradwell B

Being developed by China's CGN in conjunction with EDF, the Bradwell B project will be a HPR1000 reactor-powered plant located in Maldon, in Essex.

CGN and EDF have formed a joint venture named General Nuclear System, which will take the lead in developing Bradwell B.

Whilst funding arrangements and other details are still in the very early stages, the developers have submitted the reactor design to the Office of Nuclear Regulation's Generic Design Assessment (GDA)- the approval process that every new nuclear reactor must go through before it can be used in the UK. It takes an average of 6 years for this approval process to be completed, so it's likely to be some time before Bradwell B is contributing towards the UK's energy supply and carbon emissions targets.

The current Magnox power station which will be replaced by Bradwell B.

(The current Magnox power station which will be replaced by Bradwell B. Image via Wikipedia).


The current closed Magnox power station at Oldbury.

(The current closed Magnox power station at Oldbury. Image via Wikipedia).

Situated around 15 miles north of Bristol, Oldbury is located on a 39-hectare site adjacent to the old Oldbury Magnox plant which shut down in February 2012 after 44 years of safe and successful operation.

The new Oldbury plant will be developed by Horizon (a subsidiary of Hitachi), using Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) which received approval for use in the UK in December 2017.

Horizon is aiming to cut the cost of the project by replicating the majority of the design and construction work carried out at Wylfa. The new plant will be some 4 times bigger than the existing station in terms of its physical size.

Expected generation capacity of Oldbury will be 2.7GW, with energy generation beginning at some point in the early 2030s.

The UK is embracing a nuclear future, but what about renewables?

Since the government announced new nuclear projects in 2011 the costs associated with renewables have fallen rapidly.

As the projects outlined above show, the UK government is betting big on nuclear being the low-carbon energy source that will power the economy into the future. But since these projects were announced in 2011 renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have come on leaps and bounds in terms of construction costs and required subsidy levels.

As a report in Construction News stated, in 2017 the 'government was able to agree a guaranteed electricity price of £57.70 per MWh for two new offshore wind developments- significantly lower than the £92.50 EDF is guaranteed for Hinkley Point C.

As many keen eyed-observers will point out, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation.

Whilst battery storage technology is progressing rapidly, renewables still face issues with intermittency and integration into the wider power grid, leaving space for nuclear power plants to pick up the strain on days of high demand etc.

Nuclear new builds powering up the UK job market

As well as helping to bridge the UK’s looming energy gap, and addressing carbon emissions, these nuclear new builds are having a positive impact upon the UK’s job market for engineering and technical professionals. Consider the following:

  • Hinkley Point C will create 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships during the lifetime of the project.
  • Wylfa Newydd will create up to 850 permanent jobs and will have a construction workforce of approximately 4,000 workers (rising to 8,000 - 10,000 during peak periods).
  • Oldbury will create around 1,000 permanent jobs and 6,000 during the construction of the site.
  • Moorside could create an estimated 500 permanent jobs and employ upwards of 5,000 people during the construction stage.
  • Sizewell C could create 900 permanent jobs and as many as 25,000 jobs during the construction of the plant.

Secure your next nuclear industry job with Fircroft

Since the 1990s Fircroft has been supporting nuclear projects across the world with their recruitment and workforce requirements. Today, we are playing an integral role in supporting the UK’s nuclear new builds. To secure your next nuclear industry job, register for free now or explore our current job vacancies.

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The UK is embracing a nuclear future, but how is it progressing? - Time to read 7 min
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