Costain, Sir Robert McAlpine and Hochtief lose chance to win key contract on nuclear power station

The only remaining consortium with no French partners bidding for the £2.5bn civils job to build a nuclear power station at Hinkley has been cut out of the race for the job.

According to separate sources, the “ConstructEnergy” consortium of Costain, Sir Robert McAlpine and German firms Heitkamp and Hochtief has been told by French utility EDF, which is the ultimate client for the project, that it is no longer in with a chance of winning the key contract.

The decision means the remaining consortiums in the running for the prime job on the new reactor are Balfour Beatty with Vinci, and Laing O’Rourke with Bouygues.
It is understood these firms were invited to discuss the procurement in more detail with EDF senior executives in Paris at the start of February, but that the Costain/Sir Robert McAlpine team was told not to attend.

One source close to the bidding teams said: “EDF has confirmed to the teams that it is only going forward with the Balfour Beatty/Vinci and Laing O’Rourke/Bouygues bids. This means that only a few major jobs are now still open for others.”

The source said that a decision on who will finally get the job is likely in May or June. EDF has the right to build four nuclear reactors on two sites in Hinkley, Somerset, and Sizewell, Essex.

Horizon, a joint venture between E.ON UK and RWE npower is planning stations on two further sites in the UK.

It is thought likely that EDF will wait to see which technology and contractor Horizon chooses to use - a decision expected imminently - before making its final call. A final decision on whether to go ahead with the plant will be made by EDF before the end of the year.

The fact that the remaining bidders for the civils package include French-owned contractors, has led to speculation that the decision reflected a desire on the part of EDF, in which the French government has a controlling stake, to award the contract to a French firm.

The ConstructEnergy consortium was told there were technical reasons for the decision, but one source said: “It wasn’t overt but there’s a feeling it was a political decision to go with the French bids. When it’s essentially French government money, it’s understandable.”

But a separate source played down the possibility the decision was taken for nationalistic reasons. The source said: “There’s no evidence of that that I’ve seen, I think the decision was taken for genuine reasons.”

EDF said it did not comment on open tenders.