A white “reactor pressure vessel” that is 13 meters long and weighs 500 tonnes has arrived by barge at Hinkley Point C in the UK. It is the first nuclear reactor to be installed in the country since the 1990s and the first of two reactors that will power some of the largest steam turbines in the world to generate power. Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power station in Somerset, is currently under construction, with plans to start generating electricity in 2026. The project is expected to cost £20 billion, with the figure potentially rising by the time of its completion.
In 2017, EDF Energy warned that there could be another £700 million in costs. There are now 4,000 people working at Hinkley Point C, with half of them from the local area and a quarter from Wales. EDF Energy says the arrival of the reactor marks a “significant milestone” for the power plant, where more than 8,000 workers are now on site every day.
EDF operates all of the UK’s eight nuclear power plants that provide around 13% of the country’s electricity. Installation of the reactor will take place once the reactor dome has been installed sometime in 2023, but it will not generate any power until 2026. Hinkley Point C is an environmentally controversial project, with some campaigners saying that the government should be funding renewable fuels instead.
Full construction began after EDF, its partner Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, and Theresa May’s government signed final contracts in 2016. While EDF is funding two-thirds of the plant, China is investing the rest, leading to concerns over this partnership. Mrs May decided to go ahead with the scheme, and construction began seven years ago.
Hinkley Point A, the first nuclear power station on the site on the north Somerset coast, stopped operating in 2000 and is being decommissioned. Hinkley Point B began operating in 1976 and stopped generating electricity at the beginning of August 2021. The Hinkley Point C project was recently affected by the death of a construction worker at the site in November 2020.
Most of Hinkley Point C, which is due to open by 2027, was closed in the week following the tragedy. In January 2021, it was revealed that the popular holiday park Pontins Brean Sands would be used to house workers building the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset. Sedgemoor District Council approved the move following a request by EDF Energy. A Hinkley Point C spokesperson said that workers would be accommodated at the Brean Pontins site for the next three years and that the company would invest millions of pounds into its refurbishment