Nuclear urges big lifts from government

Jason Ford - News Editor, The EngineerJason Ford, news editor

A quarter of a century ago a series of cranes appeared on the north east Suffolk skyline that would help engineers with the construction of the last nuclear power station to be built in Britain.

The construction site at Sizewell B witnessed a number of deployments in what was dubbed the Year of the Big Lifts, including the station’s four-beam turbine hall crane, and a Gottwald MK1500.

Each of the former’s beams measured 65m and weighed 130 tons. Once coupled, the crane was deployed – with its ability to raise 320 tons – to lift plant and equipment into place in the twin-turbine hall.

It took 71 lorry loads and a week of construction to raise the Gottwald MK1500, a machine whose lifting schedule had been planned nine years in advance.

The most high-profile lift of them all was the topping out of the reactor building, a feat that could be witnessed from miles around, and one which prompted a gung-ho advertising campaign proclaiming that all nuclear power stations would be built the same way from that moment onward.

The UK is now set for its first new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, but in the interim cranes on nuclear sites – whether generating electricity or being decommissioned – have been doing the job asked of them by their operators from behind the perimeter fence.

To this end, a seminar is being held on November 16 at Manchester United Football Club where attendees can gather to discuss best practice.

IMechE’s Nuclear Lifting 2016 brings 13 speakers under one roof to discuss topics that addressing the challenges facing nuclear lifting operations, the regulatory landscape, and strategies that ‘balance maintenance with safety regulations.’

Included among the speakers are Mammoet’s Erik Kroes and Alex Scott who will present case studies on Mammoet’s involvement in raising the Russian submarine Kursk, plus the company’s involvement in the Chernobyl project.

Further contributions sharing best practice will be provided by representatives from EDF, AWE, Sellafiled Ltd, Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and Dounreay Site Restoration.

Still with nuclear and news that the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) wants government to work with industry to ensure that industrial strategy is focused on energy infrastructure in its submission ahead of the Autumn Statement, due on 23 November.

With Hinkley Point C approved, NIA has highlighted the significant industrial, economic and export potential that can come from a focus on nuclear power to replace retiring power stations, reduce emissions and improve energy security.

According to NIA, policy needs to focus on providing the framework for the UK’s industrial base to maximise opportunities that will drive jobs, growth and exports in low carbon energy infrastructure.

To do this, the NIA has called for:

  • The roadmap for delivery on Small Modular Reactors (SMR), following the Phase 1 competition, to be released as soon as possible, so industry can capitalise on increasing international interest and for the UK to benefit from the supply chain and intellectual property developed here
  • Clarity following the decision to leave the European Union, to give investors in key infrastructure developments the confidence that a stable policy framework will be maintained to deliver vital new projects that promote growth
  • Assurance that the Levy Control Framework, or successor mechanism, is set for the period beyond the current 2020-21 funding cap, to accommodate Contracts for Difference agreed for further low carbon energy infrastructure, including new large scale nuclear power stations at Moorside in Cumbria and Wylfa Newydd in Wales
  • Sustained and predictable funding for decommissioning the nuclear legacy, and maintaining progress made in recent years, while also promoting our advanced supply chain and decommissioning expertise in export markets