29 December 2018

The Oddly Discreet Construction Start of Hinkley Point C

WNISR, 29 December 2018

EDF Energy announced on 11 December 2018 the completion of the first part of the concrete pouring for the base slab for unit 1 of the Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant. Four more pours of concrete will be required before the so-called “raft” that supports the reactor building will be complete, work is expected to be concluded in 2019.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) definition, the official “construction start”, is “the date when first major placing of concrete for the base mat of the reactor building is made”. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) bases its nuclear construction statistics also on this definition. A senior representative of EDF Energy’s partner China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), that contributes a third to the HPC investment, on 14 December 2018, told WNISR that they consider construction started on 4 December 2018 with the First Concrete Day (FCD) of the nuclear island raft foundation. WNISR will also use this date as the HPC construction start.

In earlier correspondence with WNISR, as reported in WNISR2018, EDF-Energy has stated that this does not mean for EDF that the reactor is ‘under-construction’, but rather, “in the HPC project, [construction start] is termed ‘J0’ and is scheduled to be reached in June 2019.” This is despite the fact that billions have already been spent with more than 3,200 people working on the project.

It remains unclear, why EDF Energy is deviating in the case of HPC from the internationally applied IAEA definition for construction start. Of course, the closer the “construction start” to grid connection, the shorter the communicated “construction time”, a crucial indicator for the industry’s performance. However, delaying the announcement of the construction start cannot cover up the fact that HPC has been plagued by serious delays from the beginning of its implementation.

The importance of HPC to the UK’s nuclear sector has increased in recent months with the cancellation of the Moorside nuclear project by Toshiba in November 2018, due to a desire by the company to “eliminate risks to the overseas nuclear power construction business” and their failure to find a buyer for the project. Furthermore, in early December 2018 the Japanese TV station Asahi reported that Hitachi was considering scrapping their nuclear construction project in Wales. A final decision is expected in 2019.