Wednesday, March 2, 2022
If you ask most people about the UK’s nuclear industry, they will likely respond with a comment about Hinkley Point C, where two new reactors are being built in Somerset, the first in a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain providing zero-carbon electricity for around six million homes. Marking a significant milestone in the revitalisation of our nuclear power industry, Hinkley Point C will make a major contribution to our move to reduce carbon emissions.
Another component of the site’s legacy might prove to be that it has reinvigorated the UK nuclear supply chain more widely. Sizewell C, for example, is another proposed nuclear power station project with two further reactors slated for Suffolk. Sizewell C is ready to harness the skills, capability, and capacity built up from Hinkley Point C. The industry is growing apace, and many opportunities are available for companies and individuals alike in the revived sector.
As you’ll remember, construction at Hinkley Point C began in October 2016, while projections made last year by EDF said that the site should start generating power in mid-2026. EDF hopes that Hinkley will provide a blueprint for Sizewell C. Most of the activity at Hinkley has been in the field of civil construction but work on site is set to significantly increase around the installation of mechanical and electrical components and welding.
All these developments chime with the recent UK gas price hikes and some say that the energy crisis could accelerate the transition to more renewable forms of energy supported by nuclear back-up power.
Sizewell C Consortium
It’s been widely covered by trade media that my company is part of the Sizewell C Consortium, which is a group of more than 200 companies and organisations from every corner of the country. As members agree, each day we face different challenges, do different work, and employ a whole host of different people, but we are all united by one goal. Sizewell C will create 25,000 employment opportunities, up to 1,500 apprenticeships (read on), and provide benefits to as many as 2,500 businesses in every corner of the country.
UK-based companies will receive 70% of the project’s construction value: that’s over £14 billion benefiting British businesses and supporting UK jobs and industry. Sizewell C will provide 7% of the UK’s low carbon power for the next 60 years—and keep us in control of our energy supply and transition for years to come.
As discussions with fellow members prove, there is heightened awareness of nuclear opportunities and it’s interesting to note the synergies between projects like Hinkley Point or Sizewell C and the other major infrastructure-based mega sites that we’ve also been involved with in recent years. The opportunity is always two-pronged, in presenting direct openings to get involved with the manufacture of brackets, pipework, and mobilisation of new workshops, for example, while supporting the tier one contractors that are mobilising as these jobs gather pace.
We can lean on our experience of working with projects like the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a major new sewer. Today, we’re a frequent visitor to the site, providing lifting equipment and periodic Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) inspections, but this is only because we played the long game and committed to supporting Tideway’s buying decision makers long before we started making profit from the endeavour.
The next generation
Regular readers will know how passionate I am about providing a platform and opportunity for young people. As an aside, I welcomed reports that the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) Level 3 Lifting Equipment Technician apprenticeship standard is now officially live. As Ross Moloney, CEO of LEEA, says, “There are many reasons why you should get involved with the apprenticeship: it works for employers, recruits, the industry, and for LEEA because we want our industry to be professionalised.” Hear, hear!
One of the many interesting things about Sizewell C is the Young Sizewell C programme, which is aimed at those aged 16-21 living in Suffolk or Norfolk who can register to hear about career opportunities—even before construction starts.
The initiative helps connect young people to in-demand career and apprenticeship opportunities in the region, including employment openings in Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as providing information and updates on the future Sizewell C project. The group works with employment and training partners to help create opportunities and improve access to training for young people, before construction actually gets underway.
Note that young people who are not sure what they want to do yet can also access help to identify skills that could lead to long-term career fulfilment.
We had some fun here at HQ recently when Alan Varney, our operations director, posted on LinkedIn about our plans to proceed with opening facility numbers nine and 10, in addition to the eight national depots that already serve customers the length and breadth of the country, from Grangemouth, Scotland to Plymouth in England’s southwest.
His post was greeted by numerous messages about the who, what, when, how, why, and WHERE. Of course, Alan remained tight-lipped, but plans are afoot to expand the business in the coming months. Watch this space!
Other people asked: will we be at LEEA’s LiftEx in Aberdeen this autumn? We’ll see 😉
State of the market
In addition to questions about our expansion plans, we’re in constant dialogue with suppliers and customers about the state of our industry as we approach Q2 2022 (already!). As we have been saying recently, while the climate is favourable, we are in the same boat as everyone else, in that we’re battling rising costs that can hit margins if you’re not careful. It’s certainly a time to keep an eye on the order book to make sure that companies can deliver their products and services but preserve the all-important profit margins and bottom line.
With Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C, gas price hikes, Brexit, new depots, LiftEx, business as usual, and so on, it’s shaping up to be a(nother) year to remember.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd