Globalisation of nuclear sector to radicalise supply chain
Nuclear plants are planned to be built or currently under construction in all corners of the world, these developments will ask inevitable questions on the supply chain, and what is expected of companies who wish to contribute to the growing nuclear industry.
Despite EDF offering a helping hand to overseas companies, they estimate that up to 57% of the requirements for our Hinkley Point C project could be met by British companies, either working independently, or in partnership with others in the UK or overseas. Photo Source: ChainLink Research
One such plant that is firmly in the pipeline is the Hinkley C project in the UK, based in the south west of the country, where reactors are targeted to be fully operational in 2023, and there is currently an ongoing supply chain registration process.
Operators EDF, through conferences and organised events, are interacting with potential members of their supply chain for the Hinkley project.
In December last year, a major conference was held where 300 delegates attended, who had the opportunity to listen to the latest updates from Hinkley Point C and their other new plant at Sizewell C, located in the east of England.
The information was presented by the EDF’s new Nuclear Build Executive, about the available supply chain opportunities.
Recently a joint event was hosted with the PFME, a cluster of French companies who are experienced in dealing with nuclear issues.
The purpose of the gathering was to explain how smaller UK companies could be part of the nuclear supply chain, and outline opportunities for partnerships with French counterparts.
In an attempt to connect the Hinkley C plant to the local area and its residents, two steering groups have been formed, to explore how companies in the project area can be part of the manufacturing process.
So far the results have been positive, as there has been a creative and entrepreneurial response from local organisations.
New joint ventures have also been designed to ensure there is a local contribution, one initiative called the Somerset Larder has been one success story from collaborations, and consists of a group of local companies who will work together to feed the estimated 5000 workforce, when construction is in full flow.
There has also been an input on the supply chain from the UK central government, as there has been discussions on the issue, with the Departments of Energy and Climate Change, and Business, Innovation and Skills.
National industry organisations have also provided information to companies who wish to be a nuclear supply chain provider, the Nuclear Industry Association and Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance, have given the appropriate advice to companies who wish to advance in the nuclear industry.
Despite EDF offering a similar helping hand to overseas companies, they estimate that up to 57% of the requirements for our Hinkley Point C project could be met by British companies, either working independently, or in partnership with others in the UK or overseas.
A spokesperson for EDF explains: “We are committed to delivering our new build projects on time and to budget without compromising safety. Requirements for supplying to the nuclear industry are stringent and we will only select those companies who demonstrate the right culture and working practices to ensure compliance.”
“Work packages are being tendered competitively, and the scoring criteria cover many aspects including cost effectiveness, and compliance with the required standards.”
“The supply chain also needs a high focus on management of the sub-tier supply chain activities. Tier 1 suppliers must have appropriate oversight, control and surveillance of the tiers in the supply chain underneath them.”
“This is a critical area for all large projects, and particularly in nuclear new build, where manufacturing and constructing products have to be right first time and to schedule,, this is crucial for technical and commercial success.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a membership list that comprises of 162 nations, and is involved in assisting their member states in how to understand the complexities that are involved in a nuclear supply chain process.
They have also held workshops on the supply chain, for those countries who wish to expand their nuclear power capability.
The organisation believes that the nuclear power plant vendor patterns that will appear will be dictated by the dual trends of vendor designs from specific development host nations; plus the increasing number of emerging nuclear power states, leaving the supply chains to be provided by a mixture of local and international companies.
John Moore, a nuclear engineer with the IAEA, says: “Supply chains today are sourcing increasingly on a global basis. Nuclear component suppliers have been consolidating and reducing in number, while at the same time becoming more global. Vendors and operators are less likely to be able to source the bulk of their components from local or even regional suppliers.”
“Globalization does have the potential to reduce overall costs, as production can move to areas of lower cost. Increased costs can however arise with the need for auditing quality programmes and factory inspections in areas far from the power plant.”
The IAEA expects several technology developments from potential supply chain companies, before they are accepted by power plant operators.
These include increased use of electronic documents and design management systems for the transferring and review of documents, and other information between companies.
Controls around software and digital equipment to meet nuclear safety and cyber–security standards, and increased production of modular systems, that can address plant needs with a minimum of installation activity on site at a nuclear plant.
As the nuclear industry becomes increasingly global in nature, there will be many exciting developments to come in the supply chain sector.
Source: Nuclear Energy Insider