Keeping costs in mind for new nuclear

EdF chairman Vincent de Rivaz says that the project to build a new reactor at Hinckley Point underlines his company’s determination to keep the project within budget and to invest in training

Immediately after Fukushima, Dr Mike Weightman was asked by the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, to prepare a report into the safety of nuclear power stations in the UK.  He concluded that the UK’s existing nuclear power stations are safe, and that we could move ahead with our new build plans.

In my view, there is no doubt that Dr Weightman’s rigorous and evidence-based report helped underpin and strengthen the political consensus and support for nuclear, existing and new build, and there is a clear message from Government that this project is needed to help kick-start the economy.

I am proud that EDF Energy has been the lynchpin that has brought together so many successful companies in the spirit of collaboration. This is further illustrated by the many French and British companies that are forming alliances as part of the revival of nuclear, embodied by our project to build a third reactor at Hinckley Point in Somerset.

Lloyds Register and APAVE have been appointed our third party inspection agency, with the ability to give us worldwide supply chain assurance. Atkins and Assystem have come together to provide consultancy and engineering services for the development of nuclear power capability. I know AREVA and Rolls-Royce have made significant progress in this area after having signed an memorandum of understanding in March. Beyond this is the collaboration between Areva and EDF Energy, which has been ongoing for many years.

Hinkley Point C will be a success only if it is affordable to investors and affordable to customers. At the end of it all, we must always keep customers in mind, and bills are a big issue for business and the public alike.

One key element of that affordability is productivity, which is a measurement of the effectiveness of management. Too often in the construction industry there have been entrenched positions: management on one side and unions on the other. Therefore we want to create a new social covenant between us, our contractors and unions.

We want to have better training for our people and improved long term career opportunities for our workforce. We must treat our people as skilled, valued workers, and create an environment in which they can be high performers meeting high standards. That includes the 20,000 people who will work on the Hinckley Point site.

These principles will help us to retain workers and give them pride in their work.

If we get it right, we will create the legacy of a highly skilled workforce.

In conclusion, all of us together are creating more than a nuclear power plant.  It is a project with a sustainable legacy – for skills, communities and the country — and it also addresses one of the biggest issues of our age – climate change.  One thing we can be sure of is that our project will be a major contribution to help the UK reach its carbon emission reduction targets.

This article is adapted from a speech given by Mr De Rivas at last month’s nuclear energy strategy conference