Firms in East of England net £1bn from UK new nuclear scheme

An asessment day in Suffolk for apprentices for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C

Former East Coast College student Jack Milton, year 2 apprentice Doosan Babcock and Dave Whitehouse running assessment days in Suffolk for apprentices for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C - Credit: Warren Page

More than £1bn-worth of nuclear contracts have been awarded to date to 200-plus companies in the East of England, according to latest figures from the Hinkley Point C project in Somerset.

The nuclear plant – which provides a useful blueprint for the proposed Sizewell C scheme – is now five years into the build, and has seen its overall workforce climb to 22,000 as it reaches the next stages of construction.

A prefabricated 17m high section of the first reactor building at Hinkley is ready to be lifted into place and an “Arabelle” turbine is due to arrive later this year. Training has begun for the first cohort of power station operators.

If all goes to plan, bosses at EDF, the energy company steering the projects, are hoping the Suffolk nuclear scheme may get the go-ahead from business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in spring 2022.

EDF bosses say the Somerset scheme has already exceeded the socio-economic targets set and hope the Leiston project – if approved – will mirror or even surpass this.

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Among the East Anglian companies which have won work at Hinkley are Cory Brothers Shipping agency of Ipswich, EFDAQ Ltd in Lowestoft, Goldwing Cable Ltd of Beccles, Novum Structures in Diss, Portable Space Ltd of Stowmarket, Ipswich-based G&M Tex Ltd, Poundfields of Ipswich, Safety Boat Services of Fakenham, SBLC Ltd in Eye, Lowestoft-based Sharp Contract & Surveying Ltd, Stuart Wells Ltd of Attleborough and VRC Modular Ltd in Newmarket. 

Water treatment company Ovivo, which has its UK base in Colchester, was awarded a £27m contract to supply a cooling water intake screening system at Hinkley.

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EDF says at least a third of the Sizewell C workforce will come from the local area with 1,500 apprenticeships expected to be created, for people like Jack Milton, who studied at East Coast College in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. He is with boiler engineering firm Doosan Babcock at Hinkley with the aim of transferring back to Suffolk to work at Sizewell C.

Union boss Jerry Swain of Unite said: “It is essential that the lessons learnt and the skills developed at Hinkley are not allowed to be lost in the sands of time. To avoid this, the government must urgently make a decision to support the development of Sizewell C.”

But Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C pointed out the “vast majority” of the £23.5bn Hinkley project was being spent outside of the East of England. “This will still be the case should Sizewell C go ahead, and such figures take no account of the expected loss to businesses in the east Suffolk economy let alone all the other negative impacts.”

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