South West companies set for nuclear boost

The South West is ideally placed to capitalise on economic opportunities worth £50bn to the UK economy, according to research commissioned into the region’s nuclear sector.

Emerging research commissioned by Nuclear South West highlights huge opportunities in the region for specialist suppliers and companies not connected with the supply chain. It states that South West-based SMEs, large companies and training providers could supply £15bn worth of work to the nuclear sector.

Projects include the construction of a new tranche of power stations, decommissioning four existing sites and the development of new reactor designs. In addition, skills could be transferred to support the UK’s nuclear submarine programme at Devonport in Plymouth and across the South West.

The size and scope of the South West’s nuclear sector presents opportunities for employers from a huge range of sectors,” said Matt Burley, Nuclear South West’s chairman.

“We want to work with employers from across these sectors, to enable them to benefit from these opportunities and support the region’s success.

“It’s vitally important that we put measures in place to build on the significant progress made to date, so that the South West can capitalise on the opportunities available to the region.

The research from Fraser Nash makes some key recommendations to enable the industry to capitalise on these opportunities. These include:

  • Continue work to ensure that major projects have the skilled workforce they need. This will build on the progress being made across the region’s extensive network of schools, colleges and skills programmes, which are delivering training opportunities for thousands of people.
  • Promote innovative skills in the South West to meet demand for the development of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset and improve local links to supply future projects.
  • Produce a guide to the nuclear supply chain in the South West, to help potential suppliers find out more about how to win work and where to get help and support. This would build on the work of the Hinkley Supply Chain, which has had thousands of registrations, to include opportunities from across the region ranging from new build to decommissioning and defence.
  • Support South West companies to connect their skills with new build-reactors at Bradwell B in Essex and Sizewell C in Suffolk. Potential areas of involvement include engineering, project management, planning, logistics and IT.
  • Develop proposals to boost cross-sector skills by combining the South West’s defence and civil nuclear supply chains.

Looking to the future

The research also highlights opportunities for the South West to capitalise on future generations of nuclear reactors. AMRs (Advanced Modular Reactors) will be cheaper, more flexible and potentially smaller than existing designs. With the global market for such designs expected to be worth £250 - £400bn by 2035, Nuclear South West will keep abreast of the opportunities.

And there are opportunities to capitalise on the next generation of nuclear reactors, through the development of nuclear fusion. This clean, sustainable form of energy is at an early stage but in 2017 the UK Government committed £86m to research. This investment is seen as key to allowing UK firms compete for contracts worth £1bn around the world.

Nuclear South West is among the organisations promoting opportunities within the region at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris between 26 and 28 June. The organisation will be joined by West of England Mayor Tim Bowles, and partners from the Heart of the South West, West of England and GFirst Local Enterprise Partnerships, to present the comprehensive breadth and depth of opportunities available within the region.

Mr Bowles, West of England Mayor, said: “Our region is providing thousands of people with the skills and experience they need to access opportunities within the industry. These facilities are rewriting the training manual and will deliver training for more than 7,000 people by 2020. We have the capability to deliver an important part of the government’s growth ambitions, which will unlock huge opportunities for the entire region.”

Steve Hindley, chair, Heart of the South West LEP said: “The South West’s nuclear sector has the capacity and the capability to service all the industry’s needs. It has an unparalleled body of expertise and track record of delivery across all aspects of new build, decommissioning and defence activity.

“The south west region is poised to take up £50bn worth of opportunities in the nuclear sector over the 10 ten years, and the Heart of the South West LEP, along with other LEP partners and the industry itself, are at the ready to realise this transformation in our local economy.

Dr Diane Savory, Chair of Gloucestershire’s GFirst LEP, said: “Gloucestershire has an important part to play in supporting the significant planned expansion of the nuclear cluster in the South West. To support this will require investment in training and skills, which we are working closely with partners to deliver to ensure that we can capitalise on the opportunities available.”

A track record of delivery

The South West’s presence at the World Nuclear Exhibition will present the very best of the region’s delivery track record and the opportunities available within it. These include:

  • The region is already home to one of the world’s largest construction project at Hinkley Point C, where two reactors will be built with a combined investment of around £18bn. The project is expected to create 25,000 job opportunities over the next 20 years across all phases of its construction and operation.
  • It hosts more than 8,000 nuclear engineers and this number is expected to increase to 42,000 as new build activity increases.
  • With seven universities, 29 colleges and other training providers, the region is well placed to deliver the skilled workforce and capacity needed to support the sector. It has already established several centres of excellence, including the Energy Skills and Advanced Engineering Centre at Bridgwater College, the Construction Skills and Innovation Centre at Cannington and the National College for Nuclear.
  • In addition, The Hinkley Point Training Agency is bringing together colleges and training providers from across the region to provide a wide-ranging and comprehensive set of nuclear training to thousands of people.
  • Local companies are already benefiting by being part of the Hinkley Point C supply chain. Over 3,000 suppliers have been matched to £465m worth of contracts by the Hinkley Supply Chain. There is potential for a further £200m in future contracts available to companies today.
  • At Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, the largest naval base in Western Europe, operations are set to continue beyond 2050. Devonport is the only facility in the UK licensed to refuel and defuel submarines, and operator Babcock International has a pipeline of Trident submarine contracts worth £30bn.
  • Other centres of nuclear defence activity in the South West include MOD Abbey Wood in Filton, where the Submarine Delivery Authority (SDA) is responsible for the delivery of new vessels, managing all in-service submarines, and preparing to dispose of legacy vessels. A further 250 submarine engineers are employed at an office in Keynsham, near Bristol.
  • Expertise developed by companies in the Hinkley supply chain could also be utilised in decommissioning existing nuclear reactors and in the defence sector. A consolidated supply chain would require significant leadership and management but would create huge gains for the region for decades to come.
The South West is an unparalleled destination for businesses and staff because of its combination of opportunity for growth, access to talent, professional development opportunities and quality of life,” Mr Burley added.

“The South West’s nuclear industry is dynamic, highly skilled and diverse. We are determined to build on the region’s success to build a bright future for the industry in the South West.