The Global Opportunity
As global electricity demand continues to rise and pressure increases for a low carbon future, nuclear energy is increasingly being chosen as part of the international energy mix. Countries with existing nuclear power plants such as the United Kingdom, India and China are instigating new programmes of nuclear build. There are also a range of countries across the globe entering the nuclear market for the first time including Poland, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Vietnam. These countries need support not just in the nuclear island construction but in the wider framework of legal, regulatory, financial, programme management, engineering consultancy, education and training services.
In addition to the rapid increase in nuclear new build there is an existing fleet of ageing reactors that require continued operational support, fuel supply and expertise in upgrades to enable extensions to their operational life. Some markets have accelerated decommissioning plans further to the 2011 Japanese tsunami and its impact on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. These programmes are in addition to the existing first and second generation nuclear plants that are entering the decommissioning phase. The decommissioning market alone is estimated at £250bn by 2030.
The UK is one of a few countries in the world who has experience of the full nuclear life cycle from conception and planning through to decommissioning and waste management. Today the UK has a world class nuclear supply chain that can provide front end support for developers, technical and engineering support throughout along with the provision of plant and equipment. As a country without indigenous vendor capability the UK is also well positioned as it can provide independent advice and assistance. The UK has a track record of working closely with countries that have complementary expertise such as France on projects such as ITER and Hinkley new build.
The UK’s experience in complex decommissioning and waste management in some areas is unique with Sellafield at the cutting edge of capability. Atkins has been at the forefront of UK and international decommissioning throughout.
The UK is embarking on a complex new build programme using a variety of nuclear vendor technologies. This programme is generating substantial international interest in the arrangements the UK is putting in place on assessment of the technology, financing and regulation. Faithful+Gould is leading in the support of new build providing a range of professional services.
The international nuclear market presents a number of hurdles to overcome including questions over financing, public opinion and changes in government strategy. For markets entering new build or decommissioning for the first time expertise is required to advise on the structures, programme of projects, obstacles and risks that need to be identified and overcome.
Each country presents new challenges to UK firms. The availability of clear information, variety of cultures and points of entry all present their difficulties. Pressure is often applied to programmes to achieve certain level of localisation of the supply chain including building of capability. Therefore it is important to consider partnerships with local firms and seek support of government networks when entering a market for the first time.
What The UK is Doing
In 2013 the UK Government launched The Nuclear Industrial Strategy identifying priorities and how industry and Government will work together in a long term partnership. As part of this the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) was established by representatives from leading UK nuclear organisations including Atkins and Faithful+Gould with government support. The NIC has developed and is implementing strategies in increasing UK capability, public engagement, skills, trade and investment.
Organisations such as the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Centre have both been established in the last 10 years to increase UK capability and support the new build programme. Both these organisations and the NIC show industry’s willingness to work towards a common goal. The UK Trade & Investment department High Value Opportunities programme supports UK industry interests in significant value international developments across a number of sectors including nuclear.
While international competition in the nuclear market is strong the UK has unique capabilities. Industry and the government have jointly instigated initiatives to strengthen the UK offering. The objective is to now realise this opportunity.