Today's UK Nuclear Energy Industry
Long before the debate on the UK fleet of Nuclear New Builds (NNB) with the much publicised Hinkley Point C (HPC) and the saga of Chinese funding, an unproven technology and negotiations on the strike rate the UK was for a long time the leading authority in nuclear energy. Many people do not realise but the UK already has 15 reactors generating about 20% of the Countries electricity - the issue is that almost half of the current nuclear energy capacity will be lost by around 2025.
Each of the current 15 reactors are all owned and operated by EDF Energy with 14 utilising the AGR (Advance Gas cooled Reactor) British design becoming operational between 1965 to 1980 with Sizewell B remaining the UK's only PWR (Pressurised Water Reactor) designed by Westinghouse in the early 1980's becoming operational in 1995. The construction of the previous fleet of UK NNB's to deliver nuclear energy spanned over 30 years with the lead nuclear energy station at the time, Dungeness B, being finally delivered 13 years late - In the UK Nuclear Industry you hear many of the old timers talking about the good old days' when they just got on a delivered ... they never seem to mention the delays at Dungeness B!
The most obvious choice is when considering starting to look for the nuclear energy jobs available on the current fleet of UK nuclear power plants is the EDF Energy website which gives you a lot of information on the plants, the technologies used, the current performance of the plant, the number of employees and contractors currently working on the sites with links to current vacancies on their sites.
As mentioned above the major issue facing the current fleet of UK nuclear power stations is the concerns around the current life expectancy of the plants. To combat this an extensive operation is underway to provide Plant Life Extensions (PLEX) to the sites with a steady, staggered ramp down delayed to commence from 2023 to 2035 - the aim of the NNB is to fill the forecast nuclear energy void and then some!
UK Nuclear New Build Plans
When Sizewell B was originally given the go ahead it was planned and the intention was that this would be the first of a fleet of PWR's. However, through the 1990's following a review of nuclear energy in the UK the option of any further Nuclear New Builds (NNB) was off the table due to continued debates around funding, privatisation and dealing with the radioactive wastes. NNB's remained on hold up until 2006 when the then Labour government brought in measures which meant that the nuclear energy regulators had the ability to pre-licence designs for NNB's via the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process. This quickly lead to four reactor designs being tabled in July 2007. There has been a bit of clambering for position and a couple of changes in the technologies but the plans currently remain based on four reactor technologies being;
Hitachi-GE's ABWR and
China General Nuclear Power Group's (CGN) Hualong One.
There are an additional two design options being considered to deal with the disposition of the plutonium currently stored at Sellafield by utilising it for nuclear energy production. The designs are the smaller Hitachi-GE PRISM and Candu Energy Candy EC6.
Interesting point of note... operators of the upcoming NNBs need to set aside funds into a secure and independent fund during operations as part of a Funded Decommissioning Programme (FDP) to ensure the government is not in the same position as it is at the moment with having to fund the current UK decommissioning programme with a large proportion being due to having to deal with the wastes produced as part of the nuclear energy production process.
The currently planned NNB sites are:
EDF Energy's Hinkley Point C (HPC) in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk
Horizon's Wylfa Newydd 1&2 in Anglesey
NuGen's Moorside 1, 2 & 3 in Cumbria
CGN's Bradwell B 1 & 2 in Essex