Nuclear plant ‘could help build back Britain’
PUBLISHED: 10:32 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:37 08 September 2020
Sizewell C could play a key role in “building back Britain” as it emerges from recession, according to the team behind the proposed multi-billion pound project.
Managers at the Leiston site earmarked for a next-generation nuclear plant have expressed their delight that 1600 companies have so far registered interest in supplying the project – 1400 of which are regional firms versus 200 national ones.
In addition, energy firm EDF has discovered that 200 of its Sizewell B suppliers have not yet registered their interest in supplying Sizewell C – possibly because they think they will be automatically registered. Suffolk Chamber is helping to get them on board too.
EDF – the company behind the project – sees its potential to provide a major shot in the arm for the regional – as well as the national – economy, which is now in the grip of a recession.
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Suppliers will be assessed on a range of criteria, but the energy company says carbon footprint will be a key factor in deciding who wins the contracts – a big advantage for local firms.
“Buying back local can be best value in terms of financial best value as well,” said supply chain director Graeme Bellingham.
The company was respectful of those who oppose the controversial project – but believed the advantages it would bring were huge, he said, and the company believed it would have a “positive impact”. “There are people obviously who have different views and we have to respect those.”
Mr Bellingham – who is based in London – said the scheme was progressing in spite of the coronavirus crisis – in particular on the supply chain front. He visited Suffolk in September to help build the local supply chain network further.
Construction is already well advanced at Sizewell C’s sister project in Somerset – Hinkley Point C – which is providing the blueprint for the Suffolk project which would take around 10 years to build. EDF hopes to replicate its local supplier success stories in Suffolk, such as the formation of the Somerset Larder scheme, co-ordinating local food suppliers to sustain the workforce.
Sizewell C bosses – who are still seeking approval for the plans – are hoping that the plant will get the final go-ahead in early 2022.
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The large-scale project appointed Leiston-based Steve Carroll – previously responsible for supply chain management at Sizewell B – as senior supply chain lead for the plant in July 2020. He is working with Suffolk Chamber to get the Sizewell B contractors on board and says he is “very, very pleased” so far at the response from prospective local suppliers.
“We have got that support with other organisations to deepen the supply chain and I think we are in very good shape,” he said. “Suffolk Chamber knows local businesses very well.”
He added: “There’s capability in Suffolk we are confident we can deliver.”
Mr Bellingham stressed the economic potential of the project.
“This could be a key part of building back Britain in terms of the government’s strategy,” he said. “If Sizewell C is considered part of that then obviously that would be great for us and great for Suffolk and great for the country.”
EDF is stumping up 80% of the cost of the current pre-construction phase, while its partner, Chinese state owned CGN (China General Nuclear Power Group) puts up 20%. EDF wants the build stage to be funded via a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model and is lobbying government to back this. This would enable EDF to charge a fixed price to bill payers in exchange for providing the infrastructure but it is controversial and campaign group Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell C (TEAGS) is opposing the move.
“We think it’s a model that could work – it’s for the government to decide, and the next step in that we see will be the Energy White Paper which is due out,” said Mr Bellingham. “We think the need is there but it’s for the government to decide the funding model.”
The build costs should be around a fifth lower than the Hinkley project because it would be a direct copy, EDF says. It also argues that it will help the UK achieve its zero carbon emissions target by 2030.
Suffolk has “great skills” to offer the project said Mr Bellingham. “I believe that Sizewell C is great for Suffolk, great for the region, great for the UK,” he said. “Suffolk has the location, the skills and the great relationship between the community and Sizewell B and you can’t build these power stations without that goodwill.”
The project would bring highly skilled jobs to the region, he added. EDF is appealing for local companies to register interest in becoming part of the Sizewell C supply chain so that it can assess local capabilities.
Among the early-stage projects at the site will be moving some facilities on the proposed site such as a store and a visitor centre. EDF is looking at the possibility of a joint visitor centre for Sizewell B and C. Even before construction, engineering, construction planning and logistics services will be required.
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