Two very recent articles in Click Green and Professional Engineer indicate that Hinkley Point C is now officially mothballed. Indeed the project seems to be in its death throes.
We already knew that site preparation work at Hinkley Point C was stopped in April 2015, up to 400 construction workers were laid off, and the Final Investment Decision was delayed until the autumn. (1) What wasn’t clear at the time was that NNB Genco – the consortium planning to build the reactors which consists of EDF Energy, China General Nuclear Corp and other investors – put a cap on future spending on the project. (2)
On 1st July the site entered Care and Maintenance which means that activity at the site is limited to the management of material stockpiles and water management zones, remediation of asbestos contaminated land and archaeological surveys. (3)
The budget cap seems to have been greater than the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was expecting. ONR, of course, charges NNB Genco for all the work it carries out to regulate its activities.
ONR says it has taken the decision to suspend the production of future inspection reports until a Final Investment Decision is made. It has also suspended attendance at the local liaison committee – the Cannington Forum. These suspensions are most likely because NNB Genco no longer has the budget to pay for them, so the consortium will have asked ONR to stop visiting the site to do inspections and stop attending the forum because it can’t afford to pay.
In retaliation ONR says it is “monitoring the impact of the budget constraint upon NNB Genco’s competency and capability”. In other words NNB Genco had better watch out or it will lose its status as an organisation competent and capable of holding a nuclear license.
ONR says its inspectors “continue to engage with the programme of design and safety case activities” related to the start of nuclear safety related construction. Its August newsletter said that further submissions are expected in September this year and the Pre Construction Safety Case related to nuclear island construction was ready for ONR to begin initial engagement at the end of July this year. (4)
So while some desk work appears to be continuing all major work on-site appears to have stopped and NNB Genco is so uncertain that the final investment decision will be positive it has asked ONR to stop as much work as possible to save money – even to the point of threatening its own status as a nuclear capable organisation. The Click Green website says:
“Despite recently publishing a list of preferred suppliers for the £24 billion project, the French firm were in behind-the-scenes talks with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), during which they informed them of their decision to mothball the site.”
It looks as though it may be all over for Hinkley Point C bar the shouting.
(1) Gloucestershire Echo 2nd April 2015 http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/400-jobs-lost-Barnwood-based-EDF-stops-site-work/story-26271600-detail/story.html
(2) Click Green 20th Aug 2015 http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/news/national-news/126381-exclusive-edf-mothballs-planned-hinkley-c-nuclear-power-site.html
(3) Professional Engineering 20th Aug 2015 http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2015/08/construction-halted-at-hinkley-point-c-nuclear-project-site.html
(4) See page 7 ONR Regulation Matters August 2015 http://www.onr.org.uk/documents/2015/regulation-matters-issue-1.pdf