Halcrow among contractors preparing for £12bn of nuclear investment following publication of energy review

The construction industry is gearing up for a £12bn nuclear power station programme after the publication of the government’s energy review this week.

engineer Halcrow is to expand its nuclear division and is talking to British and international firms with a view to forming alliances. Balfour Beatty, Atkins and Costain are also understood to be talking to firms with nuclear expertise.

Among the findings of the review, which follows eight months of consultation with energy providers and the industry, are the following:

  • Confirmation that nuclear power has a role in future UK power generation.
  • Overhauling the planning system for nuclear new-build.
  • Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and Office for Civil Nuclear Security to pre-license generic designs.
  • Government to appoint “high powered inspector” to ensure planning and procurement is run to timetable.
The government has now launched a further consultation over policies for establishing nuclear new-build. It will include the findings in a white paper to be published at the start of the year. It is expected that between six and 10 power stations will be built in the first wave.

Launching the review, Alistair Darling, the trade and industry secretary, said nuclear power stations could make a “significant contribution” to meeting energy policy goals. He added that the new-build programme would be privately funded, saying: “It would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, construct and operate new nuclear plants and cover the costs of decommissioning and take their full share of long-term waste management costs.”

Halcrow, which is working on two nuclear fuel stores for British Nuclear Group, is revamping its nuclear capacity in anticipation of the workload. The firm is launching a recruitment drive for a nuclear business, to be called “Nuclear Focus”.

Stephen Wells, nuclear business development director at Costain, confirmed that it is talking to nuclear generating companies and financial institutions over potential partnerships for new build. He said: “We are talking to people across the field. We’ll upskill our nuclear workforce.”

Atkins, which has announced that it is forming a nuclear and power skills academy, said it was bringing in more specialist staff.

The consultancy sector is also preparing for the enhanced workload. EC Harris and Turner & Townsend are understood to be finalising a joint venture that could be used as a vehicle for new-build work.

The government’s statement was greeted with dismay by parts of the industry hoping for a stronger push on renewables. The government said 20% of generation should be provided by renewables (see right). Robin Webb, chief executive of low-carbon engineering firm XCO2, said nuclear was not the long-term answer.