After 15 years in limbo, new civil nuclear power is firmly back in the limelight. With foreign companies charged with the construction of new plants, the question is what opportunities are available for home grown manufacturers in the nuclear supply chain? Tim Brown reports.
On November 9, energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband told the House of Commons that the UK’s need to increase low carbon energy capabilities would inevitably involve more nuclear energy. The subsequent publication of a draft national policy statement (NPS) for nuclear power generation paves the way for a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Nuclear power provides 80% of the UK’s low carbon electricity. It is the only low carbon base-load supplier (that operates 24/7) and is the only technology with a proven capability to provide large scale low carbon electricity.
Nuclear power prevents the release of around 40 million tonnes of CO2 every year in the UK alone. Renewables and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage capabilities have an important role to play, and a balanced low carbon energy mix will include all of these options.
The draft nuclear NPS approves the building of 10 new reactors by 2025 at sites already suggested by the nuclear industry including:
• Braystones, Cumbria
• Sellafield, Cumbria
• Kirksanton, Cumbria
• Heysham, Lancashire
• Hartlepool, County Durham
• Wylfa, Anglesey
• Sizewell, Suffolk
• Bradwell, Essex
• Hinkley Point, Somerset
• Oldbury, Gloucestershire
The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has been tasked with approving the planned build. Importantly, the planning period has been reduced to about one year, a drastic shortening when compared to the six years it took to approve previous British nuclear power stations. There has been opposition to the IPC from environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, who object to the risk that sensitive decisions that could potentially ruin the local environment will be taken by an unelected and unaccountable body. The Tories have also hinted that if they win power they will abolish the commission and return responsibility for big infrastructure decisions to ministers. It is unclear what this would mean for the current schedule of new nuclear build.
Regardless, the Government has set no limit on the number of nuclear power stations that can be built in the UK. Utility companies including EDF, Horizon Nuclear Power and GDF Suez have already announced that they plan to build between eight and 10 new nuclear reactors over the next 10 years, the construction of which represents a market of between £24bn and £30bn. This market would create a large number of opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to provide goods and services as part of nuclear supply chains.
French utility EDF Energy, who is partnered with Areva, will construct the first nuclear projects starting in 2012. To date EDF have awarded 40 contracts with UK companies for preparatory work on the new build projects. These include among others: Fugro Seacore, headquartered in Cornwall, which will carry out investigative studies of the seabed off the coast near Hinkley Point; Bristolbased Structural Soils who are undertaking onshore investigations including soil and geotechnical studies; and Jacobs Engineering UK who are producing site and preliminary works assessments at Hinkley Point.
As well as a range of other support vehicles, the Government will provide capital investment of up to £15m, to establish a Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) to advise and provide support for new nuclear power stations.
This group will include different UK manufacturers and experts from British universities. Business secretary Lord Mandelson has said that the new NAMRC will be based in South Yorkshire alongside the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. The NAMRC will be led by the University of Sheffield in partnership with the University of Manchester, with Rolls-Royce as the lead industrial partner.
The Cabinet Office has said that NAMRC will “promote the development of cost-effective civil nuclear technology” and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said that the centre will combine “the knowledge, practices and expertise of manufacturing companies with the capability of universities.”
The Nuclear Industry Association and MAS London
The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) is the trade association and representative voice of Britain’s civil nuclear industry. It represents more than 160 companies including operators of nuclear power stations, those engaged in decommissioning, waste management, nuclear liabilities management and all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear equipment suppliers, engineering and construction firms, nuclear research organisations, and legal, financial and consultancy companies. The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) London is working with the NIA to assist companies to monetise the opportunities available within the nuclear industry.
The combined groups are able to offer practical help with elements of nuclear sector contracting including cost analysis, partnership development and quality accreditation plans.
NIA and MAS defines the nuclear supply chain into four tiers:
• Tier 1 – Utility, Nuclear Technology Vendor or Architect Engineer. Utility has responsibility for overall Project Quality Arrangements.
• Tier 2 – Major Supplier of plant, equipment or services contracted to Tier 1 for bundles of equipment or services responsible for application of quality systems.
• Tiers 3 and 4 – Smaller suppliers providing specialist services, elements of plant or equipment to Tier 2 contractors delivering quality assured products to specification provided by Tier 2.
According to the NIA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and RCC-M (a set of design and construction rules for mechanical components of pressurise water reactor nuclear islands) are the most widely recognised nuclear construction codes. But the relevant accreditation requirements for supply to nuclear power stations are highly dependent on what section of the industry the suppliers are in. The NIA says that more dialogue between top tier developers and potential supply chain companies is critical to understand developer requirements. EDF says that there is no special accreditation but there is a process where they will review the organisation of the potential supplier on a quality assurance and technical standpoint.
For more information on the accreditation process, contact: [email protected] or visit: www.nia.org
Don’t miss the nuclear bonanza
The potential opportunities for UK manufacturers to supply to the nuclear industry are wide and varied.
Harold Bolter, former director of information at British Nuclear Fuels and author of Inside Sellafield and The Tenth Child highlights that almost every kind of manufacturing discipline will be incorporated into these power plants including infrastructure, electrical, mechanical, computing and more.
“There is also a raft of ancillary non-reactor based manufactured products that will be required for nuclear build,” says Bolter. “You’re going to need protective clothing, protective footwear, monitoring machines (radiation monitors, whole body monitors), fencing, security systems plus all the technology needed for the control rooms and the emergency rooms.” Business development manager for pipe manufacturer Pipex, Patrick Forster, suggests the best place to start for companies interested in supplying to the nuclear industry is to attend nuclear supply chain seminars. “There is a lot of it happening and there are plenty of organisations that are involved in setting up these supply chains. It is just the case of doing some digging and finding them.” Dr Tim Stone, senior advisor to the Secretary of State for energy and climate change and founder of the global infrastructure and project group at accountants KPMG says that in terms of the engineering aspects of construction, there are two very different categories. “The products that go into the nuclear island clearly must be designed to very high nuclear standards but the non-nuclear elements of the civil engineering is relatively straightforward work,” he says. He adds, however, that the approach to nuclear construction is very different to other forms of construction and must be completed with “incredible precision in terms of the original specification.” Tristram Denton from the NIA says that the UK nuclear industry is among the most highly regulated industries in the world. “Any nuclear facility built in the UK goes through the most rigorous safety assessment,” he says. “The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and Environment Agency will only allow new facilities to be built — or existing ones to continue operating — if they are totally assured of their safety.” The responsibility, therefore, for the success of these projects will rely on the fastidiousness of the suppliers and developers involved.
EDF Energy representative Jonathan Levy concurs, saying that working on a nuclear site requires particular levels of expertise, competency and quality control. “Even for companies supplying non-nuclear equipment or skills, the fact that they are working on a nuclear site means special arrangements apply. These skills and competencies already exist in the UK and we will work with the supply chain where possible to help companies attain the necessary standards. Above all, safety is our primary concern. EDF Energy already maintains a zero harm policy which we will expect to be adopted by all staff and contractors down the supply chain.” His advice for prospective suppliers is to implement plans in certain key areas including: training and resourcing; quality assurance; developing relevant experience; and developing relevant partnerships.
Pipex’s Forster describes construction for nuclear as “the same as any other large industrial job. Anything that is outside of the nuclear island tends to have similar requirements to other power generation schemes,” he says, “but you do have to be seismically qualified for some areas of the site.” While the required work might be comparable to that needed for the construction of other kinds of power stations, he concedes that nuclear construction work is not always straightforward and likens the high-level of sophistication required to that of offshore work.
Both Harold Bolter and Tim Stone say that a certain level of strengthening of the UK skills and manufacturing base will be required to satisfy the needs of the nuclear industry over the next two or three years. Bolter says that while he agrees that UK industry is up to the task of adequately supplying the ambitious levels of planned build, he concedes that fulfilling the projects’ needs will be a challenge.
“One of my concerns is that Britain has, over the last decade, moved away from manufacturing to more of a city-based economy. I just hope that our industry is in a position to pick up this business.” With construction not planned to commence for at least a couple of years, Bolter says that industry should have enough time for preparation. But it must clearly act soon to align and convert the necessary skills.
Areva and Westinghouse
New nuclear power station designs by construction companies Areva and Westinghouse are being assessed by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency. The HSE has cited several issues with the current designs, which may potentially delay the projects. Regardless the first Areva EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) design is expected to start construction in 2012. The NIA’s Denton says “the first new nuclear power plant is due online towards the end of 2017. Industry is confident that this is a realistic deadline.” For companies interested in supplying to Areva and/or Westinghouse, early approval is crucial.
The first step in approval is to register via the weblinks below. These sites indicate the standards needed to become approved suppliers to the two build companies.
To register initial interest, go to:
Areva — http://suppliers.areva.com/UK_ supply_chain_EPR
At the Areva UK Suppliers day held in Birmingham in March 2009, Luc Oursel, president and CEO of Areva NP, told attendees: “We can’t achieve our objectives without you. We need you.
The available market for UK companies is some 70% of the total EPRTM reactor scope. The first wave is likely to be between four and 10 EPR reactors in UK. We need also significantly more suppliers if we are to deliver our target of 30 per cent of the worldwide new build programme.” Additionally, Areva has signed memorandums of understanding with Rolls-Royce and Balfour Beatty, while Westinghouse has signed MoUs with Rolls-Royce, Doosan Babcock and BAE Systems.
These companies will be taking steps to secure their supply chains in the contracts. Rolls-Royce has confirmed its intention to base its planned new civil nuclear factory in South Yorkshire. This factory is part of an investment programme that Rolls-Royce announced on 28 July 2009, which included £45m of investment from the Government as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund.
Plan ahead today
Worldwide electricity demands are expected to nearly double by the year 2030. The International Atomic Energy Agency is projecting an increase of a minimum 45 to a maximum of 257 new nuclear power plants worldwide by 2030.
Areva estimates the UK nuclear new build programme could be as much as 20 to 25GW, an opportunity that represents between 10,000 and 15,000 British jobs in manufacturing and construction for 25 years. This will be followed by over 60 years of plant operations and plant support. The nuclear build programme therefore clearly represents a very big UK supply chain opportunity.
The nature of nuclear power intrinsically requires a high level of dedication and expertise.
UK manufacturers must now prepare themselves to capitalise effectively on the new opportunities.
A lack of previous experience does not prevent entry in to the nuclear industry and assistance and information is available at several industry seminars as well as from industry and government bodies.
What is most clear is that interested parties need to begin their nuclear preparation now in order to secure future nuclear business.