An assessment published today by CORE titled ‘All Spin and No Substance’, reveals the extensive threats facing NuGen’s impossibly tight timeline for its Moorside project where the construction and operation of three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors is scheduled to be completed in a period of just six years (2020-2026).
In countering the consortium’s spin, CORE’s assessment outlines a range of site-related issues that, though not insurmountable, have the potential to delay if not derail NuGen’s planned investment decision in late 2018. It then identifies the significantly greater threat to the reactor construction phase, scheduled to begin in 2020, posed by the fabrication and ‘lego-style’ assembly of the 600-plus modules – many weighing hundreds of tons – that will make up Moorside’s three reactors. Based on Westinghouse’s current inability to do this at four separate AP1000 projects overseas – where building just two reactors per site is taking up to seven years (and still counting) – NuGen’s schedule for Moorside is neither credible nor achievable.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today: ‘There is no realistic chance of NuGen’s timetable being met. Our assessment, which draws largely on the woeful Westinghouse experience overseas – a true template for what is likely to happen at Moorside – knocks the stuffing out of NuGen’s timetable and points to inevitable delays that could push back completion of reactor construction to 2030 or later. In swallowing their own perverted propaganda, the NuGen consortium has clearly lost touch with the realities on the ground both here and abroad’.
Westinghouse is currently struggling with the construction of eight reactors overseas. The ‘Achilles Heel’ for the four twin-reactor sites – the only AP1000’s under construction in the world – is an ongoing failure to manage the fabrication, delivery and assembly of the mammoth modules. The latest delay in China, announced just last month, led to one Chinese expert concluding that ‘Westinghouse oversold the system, oversold the technology and promised more than it could really deliver’. This stark warning to NuGen underlines the problems it will face in relation to the modules required for Moorside and their delivery to schedule via West Cumbria’s inadequate transport infrastructure.
In summary, those issues that underpin the weakness of NuGen’s project schedule, and which pose disruptive and damaging threats to its viability, are highlighted in CORE’s assessment as:
a) NuGen’s belief that site-related issues, including its geology, grid connection and securing all permissions will be resolved or secured in advance of its late 2018 investment decision. b) completion on time of the regulators’ Generic Design Assessment of the AP1000 reactor c) the restrictive timeline for what is a novel experience for Westinghouse of building three reactors on one site within a 6-year period starting in 2020. d) the claim to be producing electricity from all three reactors by 2026 when, as a ‘first of a kind’ and immature technology, the AP1000 has yet to produce electricity anywhere in the world. e) the failure to account for the complexities of fabricating and transporting giant reactor modules via West Cumbria’ inadequate transport infrastructure. f) A naivety in the belief that the problems that continue to dog overseas projects will not cross the water to Moorside, and that schedule-busting gremlins are extinct in West Cumbria.
On employment numbers for Moorside, the confusing range of jobs projected to be created are also assessed and found to be overstated. The currently fashionable official figure of ‘14,000 to 21,000’ jobs is collectively signed up to by Government, NDA and NuGen, all of whom have subsequently refused to provide a further breakdown of the numbers or reveal the sources upon which they are based.
A comparison with the twin-reactor AP1000 project jobs overseas, scaled up to the three reactors proposed for Moorside, suggests an estimate of a peak on-site construction workforce for all three reactors totalling 5,000 with around 300 operational jobs per reactor. Many positions are likely to be filled either by workers transferring from Sellafield’s closed-down reprocessing plants and their supporting facilities, a Westinghouse workforce shoe-horned into the project, or by West Cumbria’s transient contract workers.
Martin Forwood added: ‘With Westinghouse now taking seven years or more to build just two reactors per overseas site, the chances of three being built and producing electricity at Moorside in six years are zero. Though our assessment does not cover Austria’s imminent challenge to the EU on the legality of the Government’s nuclear subsidies, the fallout from the challenge will clearly impact on the UK’s already faltering nuclear new-build plans – to which we remain wholly opposed – and provide a further setback to Moorside as the weakest of all links in the chain of UK proposed sites’.
CORE’s assessment can be found at: http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Moorside-Build-and-Job-Projections.pdf