Construction of two new EPR reactors at Britain's Hinkley Point C nuclear power station on the south-west coast of England is proceeding at full speed. This project is an interesting reference for the Czech Republic, as EDF has successfully aided the former nuclear powerhouse revitalize its nuclear newbuild industry after years of slow activity and loss of experienced ressources. EDF is offering a similar EPR reactor for construction at Dukovany based on its european EPR1200 reactor design.
The latest major milestones at Hinkley Point include the completion of the feedwater system for cooling the reactor. Two giant ship cranes, the Neptune and Sea Challenger, were in action at sea, placing vertical shafts for the plant's cooling water intake at a depth of 20 metres below the seabed. The pipeline connecting the shafts to the reactor will be over three kilometres long.
Another extraordinary piece of construction machinery on the Hinkley Point site is a mammoth crane called Big Carl, the largest of its kind in the world. It was recently used to settle a 730-tonne prefabricated reactor shaft pool into place. And it's about to install a 13-metre-long, 500-tonne reactor vessel. This has been in place since February, when it was shipped from France by sea and river.
You can see the reactor vessel up close and other unique footage of the construction in progress in this video.
64 per cent for UK firms
There were up to nine thousand workers a day on site recently. The total number of people involved in construction is around 22,000. Most of the work is being carried out by UK companies, with their share of the total contract volume for the first pair of EPR units so far amounting to 64%. Advanced discussions are underway for two identical EPR units at SizewellC with similar, if not better, localized added value. EDF is planning the same model of cooperation with local companies for the Czech Republic.
Czechs are already involved in the construction of Hinkley Point C. Škoda JS of Plzeň is supplying the internal parts of the reactor pressure vessel. Another Czech company MICo of Trebic, has been awarded a prestigious contract to supply the giant 65-tonne fuel tanks.
The project at Hinkley Point C is progressing on a revised schedule, due in particular by the covid-19 pandemic. The current plan is to connect the first new reactor to the grid in 2028 and to supply electricity to three million UK homes.
A fleet of EPR reactors is being built
In mid-April 2023, another EPR reactor began supplying electricity to the grid at Finland's Olkiluoto 3 power plant. This is Europe's largest nuclear reactor with a capacity of 1,600 MWe, and is already providing 14 per cent of the country's electricity. Another EPR is being completed at the Flamanville plant in France. As of 2018, this reactor is already operating successfully in China.
For the Czech Republic, EDF is offering a medium-sized version of the EPR1200. This option is also being considered by other countries such as Slovenia, the Netherlands and Sweden. A fleet of state-of-the-art EPR reactors is gradually being built, which brings with it the possibility of sharing experience in construction and operation and the chance for Czech companies to position themselves as suppliers in other countries.