The 3,260MW Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant under construction in Somerset, South West England, UK, is the first new nuclear power facility to be built in the UK since 1995. It is also the first nuclear power station to be built in Europe since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The plant is being built on a 175ha site on Somerset’s north coast on Bridgwater bay adjacent to the existing Hinkley Point A and B nuclear power plants.

The 500MW Hinkley Point A was commissioned in 1965 and decommissioned in 2000. The 965MW Hinkley Point B was commissioned in 1976 and is scheduled for decommissioning in 2023.

To be equipped with two reactors, Hinkley Point C is estimated to cost £22.5bn ($28bn). The project broke ground for construction in the beginning of 2017, after receiving final go-ahead for construction from the UK Government in September 2016.

First concrete was poured on the HPC construction site in March 2017, while the base for the first nuclear reactor, named J-zero, was completed in June 2019.

The steel containment liner for the first reactor unit was placed using the world's biggest land-based crane Big Carl (Sarens SGC-250) in December 2019.

The first permanent buildings above ground, as well as 760m of seawall were also  constructed at the site by the end of 2019.

Scheduled for commissioning in 2025, Hinkley Point C is expected to produce 26TWh a year of low-carbon electricity to power six million UK households, which is equivalent to meeting approximately 7% of the country’s electricity need, over its 60 years of estimated life.

Hinkley Point C nuclear power project development history

The project is being developed by NNB Generation Company (MNBG), a joint venture of France’s state-owned EDF Energy (66.5%) and China’s state-owned China General Power (33.5%).

EDF and Areva (now Framatome) submitted the EPR design to the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for safety checks in September 2007.

EDF acquired British Energy, the owner and operator of eight power stations in the UK including the Hinkley Point, in January 2009.

EDF submitted the application for Hinkley Point C (HPC) to the UK’s Infrastructure Planning Commission in October 2011. The UK’s nuclear regulator granted site license for HPC in November 2012 and approved the EPR design for use in the UK a month later.

The project received Development Consent Order from the government in March 2013.

EDF and CGN signed a strategic joint investment agreement for Hinkley Point C in October 2015. The final investment decision (FID) on the project was made in July 2016. The UK Government approved the HPC deal and permitted construction in September 2016.

Hinkley Point C plant make-up

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will be installed with two 1,630MW European pressurised reactors (EPR).

Each generating unit will consist of a 7,000m² nuclear island housing a reactor building, a fuel building, four safeguard buildings and an access tower, and a conventional island to accommodate the turbine hall and ancillary buildings.

The reactor core, comprising 241 fuel assemblies and capable of producing 4,500MW of heat, will be enclosed within a 10m-high and 5.5m-diameter thick-walled steel pressure vessel.

Further, the reactor pressure vessel will be enclosed within a double-shell concrete containment building with leak-tight metallic liner in the 64m-high reactor building. The four-loop reactor coolant system will also be enclosed within in the containment building.

Both the units will use seawater sourced from the Bridgwater Bay for cooling, via two separate 6m-diameter intake tunnels.

Each reactor unit will use a single GE ARABELLE large turbine, which will be directly connected to a generator capable of producing 1,630MW of electrical power.

Electricity generated from the generator will be stepped up to 400kV by transformers in the adjacent switchyard building.

Other infrastructure at the plant will include radioactive waste storage facility, water treatment facilities, transmission infrastructure, staff facilities and administration building.

World's biggest crane deployed for Hinkley Point C construction

Big Carl (SGC-250) is a 250m-tall and 5,000t capacity super heavy lift ring crane operating on 96 individual wheels on 6km of rails. It was installed at the Hinkley Point C construction site in September 2019.

Designed and operated by Belgian crane rental company Sarens, the Big Carl will be engaged for heavy equipment lifting and installation works at the site till the end of 2023.

Electricity transmission from Hinkley Point C

The power generated from Hinkley Point C will be evacuated to the national grid  via the new 400kV substation at Shurton located to the south-east of the project site.

The 400kV substation will be connected to the national grid through a 48.5km, 400kV overhead line and a 10.7km, 132kV underground cable.

Financing for Hinkley Point C

The Hinkley Point C nuclear power project will be fully financed by EDF and CGNP. The total cost of the project over its lifetime covering construction, operation, nuclear waste management and decommissioning is estimated to be £45.5bn ($59.8bn) at 2016 constant prices.

The UK Government promised £2bn ($2.6bn) debt guarantee for the project in September 2015. China General Nuclear Power (CGNP) agreed to invest £6bn ($7.89bn) in the project, in October 2015.

The project is also guaranteed with a strike price of £92.50 (approximately $156) at 2012 prices for every megawatt hour (MWh) produced for a period of 35 years, as part of a deal finalised by the UK Government in September 2016. The strike price was agreed to be reduced to £89.50/MWh after EDF reaches a final investment decision on Sizewell C, another nuclear power project in pipeline.

Key contractors

Areva NP (now Framatome) was awarded a contract worth £4.5bn ($5.8bn) to manufacture and install the two EPR reactors for the plant in September 2016.

GE was awarded a £1.5bn ($1.9bn) contract for supplying two Arabelle steam turbines, generators, and associated equipment for the power plant in September 2016.

A joint venture of Bouygues and Laing O’Rourke (BYLOR) was awarded the £1.5bn ($2bn) main civil engineering and construction contract for the Hinkley Point C NPP, in October 2013.

BAM Nuttall in joint venture with Kier was awarded a £210m ($268m) earthwork package for the project in October 2015.

Balfour Beatty, in joint venture with NG Bailey, was awarded a £477m ($609m) contract in September 2016 for the electrical package for Hinkley Point C. It was also awarded a £207m ($264m) contract for three marine tunnels with a combined length of 9.5km, in August 2017.

National Grid of UK awarded a £300m contract to J. Murphy & Sons, Balfour Beatty, and Siemens for providing the transmission cables for the power plant in January 2019.

German industrial engineering firm Bilfinger was awarded a balance of plant (BOP) contract worth £58m ($75m) to fabricate and install approximately 56km of piping systems for the Hinkley C nuclear energy facility in  February 2020.

Other contractors and suppliers involved in Hinkley Point C

Framatome subcontracted Vallourec for providing a total of 47,500 tubes for eight steam generators for two reactor units of the plant in May 2018.

Harris Pye UK was subcontracted by GE for the engineering design work on tank sets for the turbine halls plant in September 2016.

Hanson UK was subcontracted by BYLOR for the supply of building materials for the power plant construction in 2017, while Esterline was subcontracted for the supply of large stainless steel pond/pool liners, in-containment reactor water storage tanks (IRWST) as well as other tanks and vessels for the power plant in November 2018.

Bouygues was awarded the design-build contract for the back-up plant in 2017 and a £36m ($46m) contract to build a training centre and a warehouse for the project in July 2018.

Ovivo was awarded a £27.8m ($35.5m) contract to design and supply the cooling water intake screening system for Hinkley Point C in June 2017.

Nuvia was awarded a £20.6m ($26.3m) contract to design and construct the nuclear sampling system (NSS) at Hinkley Point C in July 2017.

Nuvia in partnership with Rolls-Royce had previously won the contracts for the Primary Circuit Boron Recycling (TEP) and the Secondary Effluent Treatment system (TEU) for the power plant.

Rolls-Royce was awarded the contract to provide heat exchangers, in March 2018. It was also selected as the preferred bidder for a contract to supply an integrated nuclear emergency diesel system in September 2016.

AECOM is the geotechnical design contractor for HPC. ABB won a £102m ($130m) contract for developing a power transmission structure in October 2017. It also received another $60m contract for the construction of the 400kV line, in the same month.

Cavendish Boccard Nuclear, a joint venture of Cavendish Nuclear and Boccard, has been selected as the mechanical pipework and equipment installation contractor.

Construction Operations Management Alliance (COMA), a joint venture of  five companies including Wessex Water, RM Utilities, Hydroline Solutions, MMES 2012 and Boultings Group, is responsible for the utilities construction, including electrical networks across the site.

Schneider Electric (now a subsidiary of Framatome) was selected to supply the medium-voltage PIX switchgear for the power plant in November 2015.

ACTAN, a joint venture of Doosan Babcock, Renfrew and Crawley, Axima Concept and Tunzini Nucleaire, was selected to provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning for the HPC plant.

Clyde Union and Weir are the providers of pumps for feedwater and cooling water systems for the plant.

Wood was contracted to provide engineering and technical services to improve project delivery and commercial performance of the plant in June 2019, followed by construction design management advisory services contract awarded in April 2019. Wood was also contracted for inspection qualification services for the project in 2017.

EDF Energy awarded a €130m contract to COMECA for the design, manufacturing, and delivery of the power distribution systems for the project site in November 2018.

KBR was contracted to provide project management services including site operations co-ordination as well as contract management support for the equipment supply chain for the project in September 2016.

telent Technology Services won a six-year contract to provide the communications and IT infrastructure for the project in April 2019.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Weir Engineering Services (WES), a subsidiary of Weir Group, was contracted to design and manufacture 34 pumps for the power plant in January 2019.