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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 117-ii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Energy and Climate Change Committee
Building New Nuclear: The Challenges Ahead
Tuesday 11 September 2012
Alyn Jones, PROFESSOR Nick Pidgeon and Bob Brown
John Earp, Alasdair Reisner, Dr Tim Fox and Steve Geary
Evidence heard in Public Questions 97 - 186
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the Energy and Climate Change Committee
on Tuesday 11 September 2012
Sir Robert Smith (Chair)
Dr Phillip Lee
Dr Alan Whitehead
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Alyn Jones, Lead Officer, New Nuclear Local Authorities Group, Professor Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Cardiff University, and Bob Brown, Corporate Director, Corporate Services, Sedgemoor District Council, gave evidence.
Q97 Chair: Welcome to our second session of evidence taking on Building New Nuclear: the Challenges Ahead. Could you just briefly introduce yourselves and the organisations you represent?
Bob Brown: Good morning. I am Bob Brown from Sedgemoor District Council.
Alyn Jones: Good morning. I am Alyn Jones from Somerset County Council but also representing the LGA Group of New Nuclear Authorities this morning.
Professor Pidgeon: Good morning. I am Professor Nick Pidgeon from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University.
Q98 Chair: Thank you very much for agreeing to give evidence today. First of all, I must remind the Committee of my entries in the Register of Members’ Interests to do with the oil and gas industry and, in particular, a shareholding in Shell. Professor Pidgeon, you have studied public-sector risks relating to all types of energy generation. What are the key factors that most influence the public when it comes to nuclear power stations in the UK?
Professor Pidgeon: Thank you. I think there are some generic issues here. The first point to make is that there is a difference between national attitudes and attitudes at a local level, and we may get on to that. There is no single public as well, and I think that is very important to bear in mind. For example, women and men have, as documented, quite different views on nuclear energy. The second generic point is that we have known from many years’ work on science and technology studies that people do not oppose risky technologies like nuclear just as a result of lack of knowledge. If life were that simple, it would be easy just to say-as engineers tried to in the 1950s and 1960s when opposition was rising to nuclear-this is good technology, it is safe. Actually, that did not resolve the unacceptability issues. Knowledge is a complex matter. A science-literate public is very important, but it is not the only issue.
What are the other factors underlying this? There are really three things. First, there are a series of qualitative factors that nuclear has. Involuntary exposure is one. People do not feel they have control over the risk, which makes the risk more unacceptable to them. Second, the key thing in the literature is distrust in risk governance. We know that if people distrust the regulation and management of risk, either at an industrial level or at a government level, then they are more likely to feel the risk is unacceptable. Finally, the other side of the coin is that if there are visible benefits that go to communities or individuals from a risk issue, they are more likely to see it as acceptable. There is an interaction between the two in people’s perceptions. The only caveat to that is if there are large benefits but they are felt to be unfairly distributed-this was the problem with GM food, for example; the benefits were felt to go to big multinational corporations and not to the local people who were being exposed to the risk-then again that makes things more unacceptable.
In terms of nuclear, it has many of these-involuntary exposure; the fact there have been major accidents reported in the media over the years; the invisibility of radiation, so the fact that you feel you can’t control that exposure; a feared outcome, which is cancer, rightly or wrongly associated with exposure to radiation or certain cancers associated with exposure to radiation. A key message, which I think the industry learnt over time but took a while to really get, is that there has been a history of distrust in the industry, basically stemming from past secrecy around the industry. That stems back, obviously, to its historical legacy, and the link between the military and the civilian programmes. Distrust has been there in the survey and other evidence we have seen for many years.
Q99 Chair: You say there is a difference between men and women. For the record, could you confirm which way the difference shows up?
Professor Pidgeon: Yes. It is not just with nuclear energy, but women are more cautious about nuclear energy. They are less accepting of nuclear energy on average, on aggregate in surveys. That does not mean that there are not lots of men who do not like nuclear power and there are not some women who are supportive of nuclear energy, obviously. That is a very subtle effect and again, as far as we can see, is not due to lack of knowledge. It is more due to the way women and men are differentially socialised, as we could say, into thinking about technology and risk issues and the fact that there are different almost moral frameworks that boys and girls in particular when they are young take on in relation to care for others and the environment. There are some quite complicated factors there.
Q100 Chair: Is there any research that shows the different perceptions by age range?
Professor Pidgeon: There is some research to show this, but no conclusive evidence on that. I think as people get older they become more accepting of technical fixes to environmental problems, problems like nuclear. But that is correlated with the fact that sometimes people become slightly more conservative, not in a political sense but in a traditional sense, as they become older as well. One has to correlate for other factors.
Q101 Dr Lee: Just a small point. In medicine you need informed consent to engage in a procedure. To what extent do you confirm that the people you are asking in your survey actually have informed consent to make a judgement of perception of risk?
Professor Pidgeon: In a technical sense? All our work-
Dr Lee: No. It is all very well saying, "Well, 35% of women surveyed think that nuclear power is risky and only 32% of men do", but if they all do not understand what the risk is then what is the point of having the survey?
Professor Pidgeon: Yes. It is a very good question. All our work goes through ethics committees, so from our perspective we have to ask for consent before we do any research with participants. There are two ways of studying this. You are absolutely right that surveys only give the gross overall characteristics of a set of perceptions and we know that, depending on how you phrase the survey questions, you can get rather different answers. A good example would be we would ask a basic question, "Do you like nuclear power or not?" and you might get 40% for and 40% against with some in the middle. If you phrase it as, "Would you like nuclear power if it could be seen to contribute to dealing with climate change?" you get a slightly higher or a higher endorsement of that statement. So you have to be very careful with surveys.
What we do in parallel with the surveys is qualitative work, and there you get a much richer picture of the way people are talking about a risk issue and a technology issue. Where knowledge is particularly low, you can use knowledge-based techniques where you supply people with information about the technology or the issue as well. There is always a danger there that as a researcher you are framing it around a particular position in what is often a highly political debate, but one tries to be as neutral as possible, presenting the arguments from the industry, arguments from government, arguments from the environmental organisations as well, and then you allow people to debate. Given time, if you took a day and a small group of people and gave them information, you could arrive at a set of positions that people had that were rather more informed. So you can overcome that question by using more deliberative and in-depth techniques.
Q102 Albert Owen: Just for clarification of the differential between support among men and women, it is not unique to nuclear?
Professor Pidgeon: No, it is not.
Q103 Albert Owen: Have you done other forms of energy generation, oil, coal, gas or whatever?
Professor Pidgeon: It has been well known in the literature. It is often quite a small difference, but it is a robust difference. It is always there in surveys. It is primarily associated with what you would call mid-range environmental questions, by which I mean not so much the large-scale things like climate change and not so much the small-scale things like environmental litter. It is things that affect a local community, but at this kind of mid-level, such as chemical pollution from a local plant.
Q104 Albert Owen: It is not an ideological reason?
Professor Pidgeon: No, it is definitely not ideological.
Q105 Albert Owen: You have touched on the fact that it is probably because the industry has been male dominated in the past, as has coal and many other industries. Would that be a factor?
Professor Pidgeon: I think it is the other way round. The fact that we have relatively few women engineers is a function of the early socialisation processes with men and women. Girls are not, therefore, encouraged to go into engineering-type careers. So both issues are a function of that original way society brings up young children to think about technology.
Q106 Chair: Mr Brown or Mr Jones, do you have any views yourselves?
Bob Brown: I do touch upon the issue of risk because I had the benefit of giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on a similar subject. I think for the communities the issue of risk is where is it considered in the process or how it is taken account of in the process of deciding where a new nuclear power station goes. I think that is a critical issue for the communities because, while the communities surrounding Hinkley Point are very well informed-they will have relatives or friends who work at the station because there has been a Hinkley Point A and a Hinkley Point B-so people will understand the issues, in terms of engaging with risk through the process, that is the difficult area because it is not dealt with through the DCO process or it is not dealt with within the planning process. I think under the National Planning Statement it was to be dealt with in the technical area, so it is to be dealt with by the technical, scientific consenting regimes rather than in the planning regime. The difficulty with that is that people and communities generally are not familiar with that more technical consenting regime and how to engage in it. They are familiar with the planning process, and perhaps a move to include issues of risk so that communities can engage in that through the planning process may help address the issues of risk and make possible a wider community discussion about how people perceive risk more generally, because it seems to be hidden in the technical areas.
Alyn Jones: To add to that, in locational terms the closer you get to a nuclear power station the more accepting the community are of that. That is something that is borne out of the consultation exercise that we have done as local authorities, but also the developer has done it in the case of Hinkley Point C. The principal concerns are down to the risks associated with construction; the risks associated with the social impact of such a large number of workers coming into the local area. Beyond that, the risks are understood to be something that is managed and dealt with, but I would agree with my colleague Mr Brown that the planning system is difficult enough and the community do not respect that, and why should they? The planning system is built to be accessible, whereas the consenting regime for some of the licensing and more technical aspects really is not built for that engagement process and is not required of the developer.
Q107 Chair: We are coming a bit more to the difference between local community and national perception, but on that issue of where the risk should be judged, is the planning process informed enough to take the technical decisions on the risk or is the whole idea to try to get the technical risk assessment into a more informed process?
Alyn Jones: That is correct. Essentially, the two processes should be treated separately and the planning issue is not necessarily the technical issue. The key concern is, because the community have the key access point of the planning system, to know that risk is being considered by the planning inspectorate, by the local authority. The key issue is that, relatively speaking, it is undecipherable for the community to see those two points and see the separation. There has been nothing more frustrating for the last three-and-a-half years than explaining to the community the difference between an Environment Agency consenting regime and the planning system. They just want to know about their nuclear power station in their local area and how it is going to be managed. We do not have a single consenting regime that deals with that, so we have to try to fill those gaps on behalf of our communities.
Bob Brown: Those issues of risk were acknowledged in the previous planning process, I think under Planning Policy Statement 25. Where there was an issue of health risk that was significant, it was appropriate to come into the planning process and be considered so that it could get an airing. I think reassurance of the technical regimes that would give assurance about health could come into the planning process to give that reassurance to the local communities when the development was being considered.
Professor Pidgeon: This is not a new issue. It was raised years ago in the original Hinkley inquiry. I think for the last time this issue was raised there. There is a disconnect in the sense that it is not necessarily the developer’s responsibility to engage on this. The local council do not have the resources to do it, and HSE and the ONR, the nuclear regulator, is in some sense removed from that local process. We do not have a process whereby we could have a conversation about that critical issue with local communities. I am not sure what the solution to it is. It is a different planning framework or some kind of different planning system.
Q108 Chair: More engagement by those other authorities with the public in the area that is affected?
Professor Pidgeon: Yes.
Q109 Chair: Does the track record of Britain’s nuclear safety have any perception on public risk? You talked about reports of incidents. There have been some incidents, but the big reports are ones from overseas.
Professor Pidgeon: I think the answer to that question is that it is clear it has had an influence. As you say, since the Windscale accident in the 1950s there has not been a major nuclear accident in the UK. What we have detected from our research into the change in attitudes over the last 10 years-that is prior to Fukushima-is that that is one of the factors that reduced opposition to nuclear energy in the UK, set also alongside the debates about climate change and energy security. If you look at some of the data that showed what people’s main concerns were 18 months ago at a national level, primarily the radioactive waste issue was the unresolved issue that people would raise first. Now, following Fukushima, accidents have become much more salient to people and that is one of the first things people will raise. Again at the local level, we did very indepth interview research, not at Hinkley but at Bradwell and at the Oldbury sites when they were both operational. People said to us, "Well, there has not been a major accident locally", and that was one of the reasons why the local management of the industry there did have some confidence among the local population. Trust had been built up over a very long period of time and that was clearly one of the reasons. Keep your plants safe, I think, is the answer to that one for the industry.
Q110 Albert Owen: Still on the theme of attitudes and public opinion, the media have been suggesting that non-European corporations are interested in the Horizon nuclear power station, in particular China and Russia. Do you think this has an impact on public attitude towards nuclear power per se because a non-European company could be running it?
Professor Pidgeon: It is a very good, interesting question. It is an interesting question for the whole of the debate about energy infrastructure, I think, not just nuclear. Partly my answer is that the question should be studied and it has not been studied, certainly in the last 12 months. Work that we have done does show, though, that people are very concerned about dependence on overseas countries for energy, our energy security. I know there were examples. One narrative that has come up in our work is, "Remember when the Russians cut off gas to Ukraine or wherever it was". People have picked that up from the media. My suggestion would be that any connection between Russia, China and rather more distant countries and ownership of nuclear power would raise some questions for people, but it is an interesting empirical question as to how significant those would be. EDF is a French-owned company by contrast and the engagement at Hinkley Point seems to have accommodated that. That does not seem to have materially changed the way people are engaging with that site and that company.
The one thing I would say, which is not exactly on the perceptions issue, is that we have to think about what has happened in Germany. There is a phenomenon in the literature that is called secondary amplification of perception of risk, and I mentioned it briefly in my evidence. It is quite a complicated effect whereby perceptions may well change in other countries or in other industries. There is a classic example of some French cheese makers who once had a problem with bacteria in their cheese and their Swiss competitors were pleased to hear that because they thought they would sell their cheese and the other cheese would be embargoed for a while, but then sales in their cheese collapsed as well. That is a secondary- what we call a ripple-effect. What has happened with Fukushima is that perceptions in Germany have changed quite radically-they were always very different from the UK-and that has affected the decisions of the German Government. As we know, that has fed through to decisions that the German-owned companies have made.
Q111 Albert Owen: I am sure we will come on to that but, just for clarification, you do not believe that the fact that there is a potential for non-European companies to take it over is going to affect the attitude of people and people are a bit concerned now about the dominance of non-British companies within the European Union running energy.
Professor Pidgeon: No, I do not think I said that. I said it is an interesting question that we should study.
Q112 Albert Owen: I know you said that. I want some answers.
Professor Pidgeon: It is difficult if you do not have direct evidence. But what I do believe is-
Q113 Albert Owen: Fine. Can I try to help you? Were you trying to say that in the last 12 months, because there was no Chinese and Russian involvement, there were concerns about the French dominance or the EU dominance of the UK’s-
Professor Pidgeon: No, I was not trying to say that. I was trying to say the opposite.
Albert Owen: The opposite? Okay.
Professor Pidgeon: Yes, but I think if China and Russia were involved as partners or owners of one of these facilities, one of the proposed nuclear facilities, that would raise genuine concerns for people because of the distance and the obvious political history between the West and China and Russia over time and what has happened over the Russian gas being used for apparently political ends and that being reported.
Q114 Albert Owen: Mr Jones or Mr Brown, do you have any-
Alyn Jones: At the particular local level, to deal with the question as directly as I can, I think one of the key issues is that the developers are often very good in terms of making sure there is a presence locally. While there may be a global French, German, Chinese corporate feel to the organisation, we have certainly found, and I know from working with my colleagues in Anglesey, that Horizon, for example, and EDF make a presence felt. They do their utmost, I think, to integrate into the community, but also they are dealing with the current station as well. They have that legacy associated with it, so there is an association that is there. Again, it strays beyond where the company is from. There are some comments from the community around some of the attitudes of the developer, when they see something they do not particularly like, that is predominantly based upon the country of origin of that particular developer. But we are not seeing anything that has come from that; that is purely an opinion from the community.
It is fair to say that we have seen, certainly in our local community, and I know from working with colleagues across the country, developers being in amongst it, if I can be so direct. They are there day to day; there is a presence in the local town; there is a presence in the local school. I think that is probably one of the key issues. While there may be those higher corporate issues, we are finding that there is a much more aggressive attempt to make that feel like a local project and see the local community as part of that and be part of the local community.
Bob Brown: I think that is right. We see the local people engaging on the ground from EDF and they are seen to be locally orientated and dealing with it within the community. The wider issues of where ultimately the finance is coming from is not playing out significantly, I do not think, compared to the real local issues of the impact of the immediate development as it comes forward.
Q115 Chair: So advice to any new entrants is to copy that model of a local presence that reflects the local community and interacts at that level?
Bob Brown: Absolutely.
Alyn Jones: I would agree with that. To drag it down to its absolute base level, understanding that there is somebody within the organisation who can talk about a particular road junction, a particular roundabout, a particular school where there is a particular impact is a key issue for the community in how they would deal with that point.
Q116 Dr Lee: It is one thing for Americans to own Asda. Okay, so foreign ownership of business like that, I think most people would say, "Fine". I am not so sure that the people would feel the same about foreign ownership of something like a nuclear power station. Do you think that the public know that EDF is essentially the French state? Do you think people know that?
Alyn Jones: I would argue that there is an acceptance within the community that it is definitely a French company.
Q117 Dr Lee: No, but the French state? Not a private company, that it is a state organisation? Do you think they know that?
Alyn Jones: I do not think we have the evidence or the experience to answer that point directly other than to say that they certainly know it is a French company.
Q118 Dr Lee: Do you think it would make a difference if they knew it was the French state as opposed to a French company?
Alyn Jones: There are a limited number of respondents that we have seen through the Hinkley planning process that have commented on that point. The key issue is that it is not material to the planning process, but also the assumption will be that there is a longer process. The community feel that there is a longer process that Government are dealing with in relation to final electricity market reform, the strike price for electricity, and that that is being managed through. Whether they are accepting of that point I can’t answer.
Q119 Dr Lee: The same applies to the Chinese involvement. That would be the Chinese state as well, wouldn’t it?
Alyn Jones: I can only assume so, yes.
Q120 Dr Lee: I am not convinced that the public know this. It is very difficult to make a judgment on the perception of foreign ownership. Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea; we know that a foreigner owns a football club. Everybody knows that. We know that Walmart owns Asda. But I am not so convinced that people understand that these power stations are going to be essentially owned by a foreign country, foreign state or government.
Alyn Jones: The only way I could answer that is to recount a particular incident whereby a member of the community particularly close to the site itself was commenting on concern about French construction technique, about delays that have happened in the Flamanville construction and how that would be taken into account, how the matter of delay would be taken into account in the planning process. So there are members of the community out there who know that it is a French company and that the French company will be coming to build it. There is no doubt about that, and it has certainly been a key feature of the evidence about how do we know that the regimes are the same, how do we know that the practices in France, or any other location in the world for that matter, will be suitable and appropriate for Hinkley Point? They are the sorts of questions that the community are asking, so I can only infer that they understand.
Q121 Dr Lee: I guess my point is that when you are dealing with something like a nuclear power station it is not like you are dealing with a car plant. I think people are quite comfortable in Britain about the concept of foreign ownership of business. They are accepting of it. They understand that British companies own foreign businesses themselves, so there is a sense of free trade that is part of the British psyche, I would suggest. But when it comes to infrastructure projects and something of such great importance as a nuclear power station where potentially-forget aircraft carriers and tanks and everything else-somebody can turn a switch off, this country is in a pretty weak position, is it not? If something of integral importance to the country is owned by another country, I would suggest that the public perception of it is less supportive than for private enterprise.
Bob Brown: I think perhaps there are two issues. One is that the community around Hinkley Point are looking at the immediate development by EDF of a nuclear power station on their doorstep. The ownership of the wider programme that is proposed and the other developers, I think, do not play a part in that community development. They are looking at the immediate issue of EDF. They know EDF because they have been receiving their bills from EDF for some time. They have a base in the area. They did the sensible thing of setting up local offices in Bridgwater, which is the closest town, and they have really developed a presence. I think certainly Sedgemoor’s experience is that the communities will look at EDF rather than necessarily the wider programme. They will comment about the French, that it is a French company, but we have not seen the debate go wider than that over the whole programme of those developments.
Q122 Albert Owen: Can I bring you back to the local and national attitudes towards it. I think the three of you have mentioned a differential. What are the big pluses that the local community sees and what do those opposing it see as a negative? Can you explain that with particular reference to Hinkley C?
Alyn Jones: I think the key concern for the community is the construction process.
Albert Owen: Jobs?
Alyn Jones: Or the impact of the construction process. Clearly, they are keen to derive as much benefit from it as possible in terms of jobs and local opportunities entering the supply chain. That is something that we as local authorities are working with the developer to try to facilitate, as any local authority would. One of the key issues is that that is one of the absolute key concerns, mainly because the people who live closest to the current sites of Hinkley A and B have friends and family members who work there, so there is already an association with that. It is about the fact that there will be a significant number of HGVs going past their front door for a 10-year period. There is going to be a significant increase in work force in the local town. They are the sorts of concerns when you get to the real local level. I think what we have seen is the-
Q123 Albert Owen: What do you call local? It is a genuine question. I live close to a nuclear power station, but I am 16 miles away. Are we talking 30 to 40mile radiuses here and less? Do you see the attitudes changing in those radiuses?
Alyn Jones: I think anecdotally we have seen that within that 25 to 30-mile radius there is a good understanding of the project within reason. There is a good understanding of what the potential impacts could be. The further you move out the concern changes. The concern changes to one of principle-the principle of new nuclear, the principle of a new nuclear station. There are a number of residents of Somerset, for example, who do not know there is a nuclear power station in Somerset. Why would they? It is something that is just a characteristic of their community, and if you are at the fringe of Somerset that might not be the case. We know from our other colleagues across the country that is the same point. The construction is the key issue for the majority of the local community. There are those who have the usual concerns associated with any new nuclear station, but the closer you get the more concerned they are about how it is going to operate, how noisy it is going to be, how dusty it is going to be. Then it gravitates away. The further you move away from the site, the concerns become more about the principle of new nuclear as opposed to the actual construction of the site itself.
Q124 Albert Owen: Would you like to add anything?
Professor Pidgeon: There is the phenomenon that people who live very close in, in this 10 to maybe 15-mile radius, are more positive than in the national polls, although again that is more complicated because they are a bit more polarised as well. Those who are for are more strongly for and those who are against are more strongly against. Interestingly, as you move out, that is right, you tend to get more opposition than in national polls. Geography also matters greatly as well, so it is not just a geographic radius. An interesting one is Bradwell, which is obviously on this side of the country. Across the water in West Mersea there has been very strong opposition for years and years and years. Even though they are quite close, because the station is visible, they do not benefit from any of the local jobs because they are a long way around the estuary there, and they feel they just get all the potential risks if something went wrong. So you have to look at the local geography as well.
I think in our research we did pick up that waste was a concern. Again, coming back to the trust question, everybody wanted to be consulted about a new nuclear power station at Hinkley irrespective of whether they were for or against the principle of it. I think the involvement question and the process question is very important here as well.
Bob Brown: I support what my colleague Mr Jones has said, but particularly with emphasis on Bridgwater, which is the main town, which is in a difficult position inasmuch as Hinkley Point is situated in West Somerset, which is the neighbouring local authority, but actually on a peninsula that runs out to sea slightly, but all the transport needs to come through Bridgwater and Sedgemoor. A lot of the temporary campuses that will host the workers will be based in Bridgwater. Those issues play out locally as concerns, as well as the transport, which means that all the lorry movements will have to funnel through Bridgwater and out the other side. I think also there is considerable benefit in terms of the jobs and the economic investment that is going to come with that, but they will not all be local jobs. The travel time for the local area is 45 minutes, which means that people will be coming from some distance, and that will be considered local within the development itself. But there is a significant element of outside labour that will come because of the immediate need for skills in the area that will not be either in this country or immediately locally because this is going to be the first nuclear power station that has been built for some considerable time in the country.
Q125 Albert Owen: Thank you. Final question specifically for you, Mr Jones. You have mentioned in your evidence the importance of not just the local community but the local authority in the process of new nuclear build. Do you see the current processes, from experience of the past and the current experience in Hinkley Point, as being sufficient or do you think there should be some sort of national guidelines from central Government to say there should be this minimum amount of engagement and there should be this amount of benefits going into the local area?
Alyn Jones: To a degree it is horses for courses in terms of what is appropriate, what is relevant for that particular local area and how that is going to be derived-the availability of a work force, for example, to deal with particular issues. Prescribed guidance may reduce flexibility between a local authority and a developer. I think we have found, and certainly colleagues across the country in the LGA group are finding, that there are different circumstances, and there are different solutions. Colleagues in Cumbria have very different views about how to approach assessment of the application, and how to work with a developer. It is not that we have done it wrong in any way; it is just that they want to do it slightly differently. Everyone is learning the lessons from the mistakes we have made and the things that we have done well. From our side, I think there is a value in the local authority being engaged in that process, but I think it is for the local authority to determine the impacts with the developer and then work out the best approach to mitigate those impacts.
We have found that it has been a very long process and the formal consideration of the application is relatively short now. We have been working on Hinkley Point for about four years now, and I am sure the developers have been working slightly longer than that. The teams have been working very hard to make sure we take account of all those particular concerns. We have done what we can in the time allowed. There are clearly some issues that will not be resolved, there are clearly some residual impacts, but we have done our best to make sure that those are addressed.
Q126 Albert Owen: Isn’t the focus of attention too much on the construction period? When you are talking about such a big infrastructure project, there is going to be strain on the local authority for many years, on new schools and various things like that. Shouldn’t there be some sort of guidance from Government to say, "You need to look beyond the construction period"? Yes, you will have a skilled work force, but they will be predominantly construction workers and then it is down to just the generators, and there will still be the transport issues if many of them are within a radius. Shouldn’t we be looking more long-term? I think that is your concern from what I read in your evidence. What can be done? Our report is your opportunity to get the message across to Government that we should not be just looking to short-term jobs, welcome as they are, but to the longterm future of the communities.
Alyn Jones: I think one of the key points is that the Energy National Policy Statements could have more reference to the legacy benefit, ensuring that legacy is taken into account-
Albert Owen: Just like the Olympics.
Alyn Jones: Absolutely-more in relation to the construction, but also then the operation of the site itself. By virtue of how those documents are written at the moment, we have to focus on the construction process naturally because that is where the majority of the impacts are borne out. But how we deal with the operational impacts is something that is, relatively speaking, given very little airing.
Q127 Albert Owen: I mentioned the Olympics because the kind of investment is similar, isn’t it? The volume of investment in London could be the same in Hinkleys and Angleseys and Cumbrias.
Alyn Jones: Absolutely, and over, dare I say it, a much longer period and with a lasting impact, because the community are going to be dealing with both the operational issue but then subsequently the management of onsite waste, as all facilities will be storing that. That is not something that is lost on the community at all. I think if we can make one plea it is to make sure that within those documents is enshrined consideration of how the legacy will be derived, and how the training and skills programmes will be used to benefit local people. Local people must be able to access those opportunities that are created, but also to create the supply chain associated with new nuclear. If we are going to make new nuclear work, in our view as part of that renaissance we need to make sure that the local community, the regional community and the national community can all enter into that business opportunity. The question earlier was on concern about a company from another state building something, but there will be great concern, I am sure, in the local community if there is no supply chain benefit as well. Constructing the plant and owning the facility is one thing, but to have UK companies, local companies, not accessing the supply chain will be a very big concern. Some guidance, some thoughts from Government, would be very helpful on that point in particular.
Q128 Ian Lavery: Continuing on the theme of engagement and consultation, it is very interesting to hear now-and I hope you will correct me-that the nearer the community to the power station the more people appear to be in favour of the power station. It is very interesting, and the further you get away the questions are quite different. I am not sure if that would be me, by the way, if they wanted to build a new power station in my back garden. I merely make that point. However, Professor Pidgeon has argued that it is better to think of risk communication as a process of participation, dialogue and decision support rather than a oneway transfer of detailed information. How does this actually work? How is it carried out on the ground? What does it look like?
Professor Pidgeon: A number of proposals have been made for this and I should just say, to pick up your point about completely new sites, that what is unusual about Hinkley and the existing civilian sites is they have had this long history of operation. The situation there is very unique to that site because the nuclear industry has been there.
Ian Lavery: We will probably come on to that issue later on.
Professor Pidgeon: Very different from the centre of London or somewhere like that.
Ian Lavery: Well, next to my house I would not be very pleased.
Professor Pidgeon: Yes, and all the surveys show that. In terms of the process of engagement, I think the key thing is how you listen to people. All communication is a dialogue and risk communication has failed multiple times in the past, for a number of reasons. The first one is that you do not do it early enough, which I think the industry has learnt-we have heard the experience from Hinkley Point that an attempt has been made to engage early. The second is to do it in a way that is open about what the issues are and what the risks are as well. There is nothing worse than just saying, "The Government has said this is safe enough, and therefore it is okay". That does not persuade anybody and it certainly should not persuade anybody. You have to have a genuine dialogue with people. People are not stupid. They understand many of the issues that need to be raised. The question of onsite storage is one for local communities. There should be a proper discussion with them about what that means over a long period of time and what some of the risks are. It is early, it is long term, it is an open process, and it involves listening and responding to local communities when they raise concerns.
Some of it, as we have heard, is about things like roads and waste and dust and stuff like that, and changes are then made. When you are having a consultation, again there is nothing worse than having a meeting, listening and then doing nothing, or seeming to do nothing. You also have to close the feedback loop and say, "We came and listened to you, we engaged with you and this is what have we done about it". It requires genuine commitment. It also requires a wide scope, and again the current local situation is not as good as it could be because risk is seen to be more for the regulator and it is therefore looked at, at a national level rather than the local level. That disconnect does not allow what could be a better process, notwithstanding some of the things that have already been done at Hinkley Point.
Q129 Ian Lavery: EDF claims that it carried out extensive consultations at Hinkley Point C. Would you say that that was a process of participation, dialogue and decision support?
Professor Pidgeon: I am not sure whether it was decision support. You would have to ask the local council whether they felt all of the key things they wanted resolved had been supported.
Bob Brown: I suppose there are two issues. In terms of whether there was a dialogue, there has been significant consultation-the process provides for it-but it is a dialogue about the detail of the development rather than the principle of the development. One of the unique things about nuclear power stations is that the decision as to where they go and which one is going to be developed was made in the National Planning Statement rather than the DCO. The DCO process was never going to reach a conclusion about the location of the sites. That was already determined in the first place. It is a dialogue of detail.
To some extent there has been a feeling, I think, in Mr Jones’ evidence that in some communities it is an issue of fait accompli, but that is always going to be the case where the planning statement in the first place had already decided on the locations. It is about a wider discussion with the communities on the detail, the impact and, as Mr Jones has said, the longer-term impact and the benefits over the whole period, which is why both NNLAG and the local authorities around Hinkley have been pushing for clarity about community benefit and what that means, especially in the statement that was made in the National Infrastructure Plan back in November 2011, which we have been seeking clarity on for some time now.
Professor Pidgeon: You can also point to examples of where this has not gone very well from other areas of the energy sector. Mid-Wales is a good example. We have had a very large controversy around some of the wind proposals for there. It is clear that what has failed in mid-Wales is the governance dialogue process. A decision was taken four years ago and nobody told anybody about it, and then suddenly developers and the National Grid turned up and said, "Yes, we have potential issues about routing". The principle was never tested in a dialogue. So you have to do it early and around the key questions. I know that is difficult when people in Westminster have ultimate responsibility for major infrastructure decisions but are less locally connected.
Q130 Ian Lavery: Some local authorities are running activity groups in Hinkley Point. Have they in any way engaged the local public in terms of the plans for Hinkley C?
Alyn Jones: A reasonable number of community forums have been established, some of them dealing with particular issues. We have transport groups. We have a main site forum that deals with some of the issues that arise from the main site operation, and we also then have a broader community forum that tries to deal with the issues in the round in terms of employment opportunities, brokerage of skills, brokerage of jobs, but also draws together the findings and reports from the two transport groups and the main site forum group. So there is that opportunity to feed back. I think the community feel that more could be done. More could always be done, but the project moves at such a pace on one of these major infrastructure projects. The process means that a lot of detailed technical material is being presented. It is quite a task to ask the community to review that. It is quite a task for them to wade through 55,000 pages of application and then to review all of the other submissions that the local authority has made, the land owners have made or the Environment Agency has made, in order to come up with their considered view. We have a huge amount of sympathy for our local communities and all of the new nuclear authorities are very concerned that a barrage of material is coming their way that they need to engage with and review.
Sadly, the planning process does not differentiate that much between a local authority, which is resourced, within reason, to deal with the issue and the community, who are not. We have some very dedicated members of our community. I can think of a few parishes in particular where people have spent a huge amount of time considering the issues and dealing with that particular point. They may have an in-principle objection to new nuclear-so taking your point that you would not be happy if it was near your house-but they have got into it, and they have understood the planning process and where they can have their influence. That is quite a task and we take our hat off to our local communities for doing that, but we know that that happens everywhere. I speak to my colleagues in Anglesey, I speak to my colleagues in Cumbria, and there are elements of the local community that spend a lot of time seeking to understand very complex applications.
Q131 Ian Lavery: These other new nuclear power stations-obviously there have been public engagement activities on those as well. Are you aware of how successful they have been, or otherwise of course?
Alyn Jones: I think there is a limited amount in some areas at the moment. There is very cursory engagement in the potential for new nuclear in some locations. We are aware that a few of the operators are now coming forward and starting to engage. The residual element of the Horizon operation that is currently operating in Anglesey is still engaging with the local community, still engaging with the local authority, in particular on the Energy Island programme of work. In Cumbria, we have the Energy Coast and NuGen are beginning to engage with the local authorities on the key issues and how they will address some of the key impacts. I think it is too early to say whether it is successful or not; it is at a very early stage. In Suffolk we are aware that there has been some engagement, but some of the community aspirations have not been quite met yet. People are concerned about some of the issues. It is fair to say that not all of the issues have been addressed in Somerset. Again, we have tried to do as much as we can to address those issues, but not everybody is happy.
Q132 Ian Lavery: Who do you believe should be responsible for risk communication with local communities? Should it be the local authorities, the project developers, or perhaps national Government?
Alyn Jones: I think there are two issues. One is that the local developer should make very clear the risks associated with the application-both operational risks and construction risks. The reason I say that is that there is a window. It is an avenue of introduction into some very complex elements of the application around environmental impact assessment. The developer has to think very carefully about how they articulate those risks to the community and make sure that it is not all sugar-coated, to be blunt. It is an opportunity to understand, "There will be these risks associated with it, but this is how we are going to manage it". Some of that is borne out of responses. The community will ask a question about risk or waste management, and the developer will be forced to answer it on that basis, but I think there will probably be some thought about actually owning that point. To a degree, EDF has, but there is more that could be done with it.
Bob Brown: That is right, it is taking it out of the remit of the technical regulators and bringing it into the process so that there is a dialogue between the proposers or the developers, the local authority and the communities and the technical regulator and assurances can be given across the piece rather than being more technically orientated as they are at the moment.
Professor Pidgeon: I was going to say that there definitely is a role for Government alongside the developers and the local council. The reason why comes out in all surveys that we do and the work we do on trust in institutions. The less trusted parties are the media. It pains me to say that politicians are not trusted, but they are not trusted as well as independent regulators. Industry is not trusted either because people say that it has an interest in the development so if there is a problem there will always be the temptation not to tell the whole story. People make a distinction between the more political side of Government and the regulatory side. What is critical is that the regulatory side is seen as independent of the political aspect of Government. For example, there is a good reason why risk regulation has always been in the Health and Safety Executive-it always had that arm’s length from Government.
We did some work on trust in the Health and Safety Executive a few years ago, and that is precisely what people said. They trusted the agency because they believed it would not be deflected by shortterm political or other factors and it was seen as competent as well. So it is two things. You are supposed to be competent in the area, have technical expertise, but alsoact in people’s interests and not be deflected by short-term political or other pressures. That is why it is unfortunate in a sense that HSE and ONR are not involved to quite the degree they could be in the local process, because those agencies would gain greatest trust in the risk communication process. If a party is distrusted a priori, or there is some suspicion a priori, sometimes you might have a perfectly sensible science message but some people will not accept it just because of who you are and how people view you as an institution. The trust question cuts across all of this.
Q133 Dr Lee: In the spirit of outsourcing all possible risk as a politician, do you think we need a risk agency? Do we need some sort of attempt to educate the populace about the concept of risk in general? I find in my professional practice that the average punter’s judgment of risk is quite appalling. They will drive a car at 90 miles an hour down the motorway and think that is absolutely fine, but they will not take simvastatin because of some oneinamillion risk that it will cause some muscle pain or whatever. People’s judgment of risk in the wider populace is pretty appalling; it is all over the place. Rather bizarrely for me, I am trusted as a doctor but not as a politician. Do you think I need to outsource that as well to people who are trustworthy, because apparently I am not?
Professor Pidgeon: From my perspective, if it is a health question where you have expertise-
Q134 Dr Lee: No, I used health because I happen to know something about it. If I stopped someone outside Hinkley Point and said, "What is more dangerous, a nuclear power station or a dam?", they would say a nuclear power station, even though that is nonsense if the evidence is added up. My point is that people’s judgment of risk and their perception of risk is appalling, as is the media’s judgement of risk. It is disgraceful at times. The MMR scandal was a disgrace because it was a misrepresentation of risk. The third generation contraceptive pill in the 1990s: disgraceful. I could give you a long list of medical cases in which the presentation of risk has been fundamentally inaccurate. When you come to something as important as the energy infrastructure of this country for the next 50 or 60 years, it would be nice if we dealt with fact, not fiction.
Professor Pidgeon: The first response to that is to say that, of course the media and the public are not the same thing. It is true that the media report risk in very unhelpful ways. The Science Media Centre does a lot of good work trying to connect sensible journalists with scientists on some of the issues.
Dr Lee: Yes; it does not sell papers, though, does it?
Professor Pidgeon: It does not stop certain headlines. It certainly did not stop the MMR scandal. You raised a strategic point. If you look, we have faced several risk issues over the last few years. We had the ash cloud, which created regulatory and communication questions, climate change and the whole question of what climate science was saying and the risk issues around that, and then Fukushima. Each of these has shown the need for some kind of capacity in this area. I have argued with colleagues that there is a need for something that sits between academia and policy, which would be independent and would be able to support decision-making when it was required. So it would do longterm research into some of the questions of perception, but also would be able to advise Government and potentially be the trusted third party.
Q135 Dr Lee: The MMR is a classic example. There was this nutty woman who set up an organisation called JABS, who was given the same level of exposure on the media as people who were educated and understood the risk and the implications of a vaccination programme. I am sure this could happen in the nuclear industry. You are going to get another nutty person who thinks that we are all going to turn into Frankenstein if we live next door to Hinkley. It will be completely not based on anything to do with facts, but they will get the same coverage because that is what the media do. That is what history teaches us. I wonder whether, in a desperate attempt to try to see this off at the pass, we do need some sort of independent organisation saying, "Actually, the risk of a nuclear power station is X. The risk in walking down the street is Y. What is your judgment?"
Professor Pidgeon: Going back to the media, they operate on this balance principle, which many people have suggested is unhelpful when you have a science issue where there may be more of a consensus on one side than the other, because then it comes across as uncertain and is confusing to people. Again, I would agree with your suggestion up to a point. The difficulty is ensuring that the agency does not get sucked into one or other position in the debate, because some of these debates are quite politicised. Well, the whole energy debate is politicised so people have views depending on their fundamental values.
Q136 Dr Lee: Or their ignorance.
Professor Pidgeon: Well, potentially their ignorance; some people, potentially.
Q137 Dr Lee: But it is not potential, is it? It is not potential. My point is that often people get publicity from a position of ignorance, very often in science.
Professor Pidgeon: Yes, okay.
Q138 Dr Lee: On the basis that we know that the ignorant get as much airplay as the informed, when it comes to something as fundamental as nuclear power, how on earth do we stop the ignorant getting as much airplay?
Professor Pidgeon: I think you connect the media with people in the science community and elsewhere who are able to give some responsible judgment about the risk. I agree with you there. Again, I come back to my caveat that the question of acceptable risk cannot be purely solved by science. If you believe that, then-
Dr Lee: I am not saying it is. I am just saying-
Professor Pidgeon: There is a blend of the value judgments and the science, and the two have to go together. That is where it becomes a little more complicated. But on the basic issue of how and what we communicate, trying to lay out independently what some of the risk issues are, yes, I would agree. There is a glaring gap in the way this country does it, but that is true in every country because risk communication is not seen as a priority particularly by Government unless a crisis occurs or a significant infrastructure issue pops up.
Alyn Jones: Sorry, I cannot comment directly in relation to whether there is a need for a central agency.
Dr Lee: I wish there was not a need, by the way.
Alyn Jones: Our key concern is that whoever turns up in front of the local community, be it the developer, the local authority, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, or the Department for Energy and Climate Change, should not stop where the responsibility runs out. Nothing is more frustrating to local communities-it happens everywhere-than to have someone say, "Oh, that is fine, but I am afraid that is not our role, we can’t comment on that". Somerset, and I think all new nuclear authorities, are trying our best to fill those gaps in for the community. I am biased, of course, because I am here representing local authorities, but the important thing is that it should not stop.
We are very concerned that ONR is going to turn up in our local community and say something, because it is not aware of the process that we have been through for the last three and a half years, that will unsettle the community or move them back a step and say the sort of thing that you are referring to. We have moved on and we hope that when they come to our local area and when they come to any local area they will be cognisant of what has gone on and be very aware of what the key issues are and how they will deal with them. But there is genuinely nothing more frustrating than someone turning around to the local community and saying on risk, for example, "I am very sorry, the planning inspectorate or the local authority can’t consider risk. That is a matter for ONR, who are coming to talk to you in a month’s time".
Q139 Dr Whitehead: Could we return specifically to Fukushima? It seems quite significant that, although the perceived risk concerning nuclear accidents has heightened considerably in other countries as a result of Fukushima, this has not particularly been the case in the UK and the US. Are there any particular explanations for that in your view, Professor Pidgeon?
Professor Pidgeon: There are. It has been a genuine puzzle, I think. We have more evidence now and it is fairly consistent. There has not been a big drop-off in the support for nuclear energy, certainly in this country and the US. Some of us are puzzling about this. I think there are three reasons. One is that in this country it would appear that, certainly in the press reporting, the accident was attributed to a natural disaster. We know that the events are rather more complicated than that, and certainly the recent Japanese Diet’s independent report suggests that, but that is the way it has been presented. There is a distance effect as well, which would not affect other European countries such as Germany, for example, but I might come on to those in a minute. But certainly in the UK, I think there is a distance effect; it is just a long way away.
I think also there is this point about lack of visible accidents in this country over a very long period and the debate over climate change and energy security, which is there in the public consciousness, if only under the radar. Something that I have described in literature, or on the radio, as the ‘George Monbiot effect’. He is a well-known environmentalist who came out very soon after the accident saying that he had been against nuclear power years ago but the tsunami had thrown everything at this plant and it appeared nobody had died yet, so it had stood up to all of this huge stress. The debate about the long-term health consequences will run for a very long time, and there may be no simple resolution to that, but I think it is significant that one or two significant figures from the environmental movement have made statements like that.
So, yes; interesting. What has changed is the accident salience; there is no doubt about that. If you look at the evidence, that has come up again above radioactive waste. The other thing to bear in mind is that the support prior to Fukushima was never wholehearted in the sense that there was a core ambivalence at the heart of it. It is something in one of the earlier parliamentary reports. We describe in our research the fact that nuclear was seen as a ‘devil’s bargain’. We picked this up 10 years ago when we did qualitative work with members of the public, just suggesting to them that radioactive waste and new nuclear power might be a trade-off against climate change, and that debate was emerging at that time. People said, "I don’t want climate change, because we think that is very serious, but I don’t necessarily want a new nuclear power station near me, but if I could be convinced that it could be safely managed and it could contribute to preventing climate change, then it’s the least worst option".
There is a certain fragility in beliefs, which I think was there before Fukushima and will be more salient also at the local level. What I take from that is the point I made earlier that the industry now has to manage its plants very, very carefully, particularly its older plants. If you think about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, opposition in Europe reached a peak after Chernobyl; it was not after Three Mile Island. I think one of the reasons was that there were two accidents in a relatively short period of time. One accident happens and maybe there are extenuating circumstances, but the industry certainly could not afford another major accident anywhere in the world. That raises some interesting questions about energy policy. If you went down a certain line, and then something else did happen, what then? So that comes back to the point about managing the risk very, very carefully now.
Q140 Chair: I don’t wish to interrupt, but do you think the difference between Chernobyl and Three Mile Island was that Chernobyl actually had consequences on life in the UK whereas Three Mile Island didn’t?
Professor Pidgeon: Yes, and if you look at the evidence from the US and the UK, Chernobyl had the bigger effect obviously in Europe. In the US, Chernobyl had less of an effect. Other things were going on. Strangely enough the opposition to nuclear at about that time was also tied to developments in the Cold War and re-arming. It is interesting to see it rising but it wasn’t just the accidents. People were very concerned about that aspect of nuclear.
Q141 Dr Whitehead: You said-and indeed Mr Brown mentioned this in evidence-that the increased salience of accident risk running alongside roughly level support for new nuclear suggests that there is some churning in the process, with people saying, "If you do various things then, okay, my support is undiminished", but that sounds rather conditional, doesn’t it?
Professor Pidgeon: It is conditional, yes. Nuclear acceptance has always been conditional for a large proportion of the population, talking more generally now rather than at the local summits, and I think it is more conditional than it was before.
Q142 Dr Whitehead: So what implications might that have for new nuclear build in the UK, in addition to the Weightman report suggestions of further measures to damp down the possibility of accidents? If the general view is that nuclear is safe in the first place then those additional measures, or perhaps additional measures demanded by the public as a result of increased accident salience, may be superfluous in any case.
Professor Pidgeon: Aside from ensuring that the risk is properly managed, the conversation has to change a little bit. The dialogue between developers, Government and others has to focus on that risk question and the accident question in a way that it probably did not 18 months ago. So that has to be addressed and, again, the disconnect that we have talked about is quite significant. The Sedgemoor evidence is really interesting-what people feel has happened around the Hinkley plant as a result of Fukushima. Interestingly, not having looked at the empirical evidence, I felt it was ethically wrong to go back and re-interview people so soon after such an event. We know that in previous instances-Chernobyl, the London bombings-people who lived around the sites that we had looked at previously said that it made them feel very anxious because it suddenly focused them on the risk question. That is exactly what I would predict-a heightened sensitivity to risk. But the researchers said-I think I would endorse this-that it is not that people believe the likelihood is any different. It is that their thoughts are now focused on what might happen if it goes wrong, and the implication of that is that another conversation has to be had about the implications of an accident. So what would you do, who would you evacuate, and what are the contingency arrangements? Who would be responsible for paying if you had a large accident at a site like Hinkley Point? That is a conversation that probably wouldn’t have been had 18 months ago and that probably has to be had now.
You have probably seen the German decision and one of the reports from the Ethics Commission there. One of the reasons why they came out against the German nuclear programme as a result of Fukushima was not just risk of death or risk of injury but financial disruption, psychological damage to a local community, potential major evacuation if you had the same set of circumstances as happened in Fukushima. The consequences would be so immense in a populated country like Germany that maybe the risk wasn’t worth taking. It is focused on how one would potentially deal with the consequences if something were to go wrong, however unlikely that is.
Bob Brown: It is fair to say that our communities are aware of all those issues. Those surrounding Hinkley Point are aware of the evacuation process. They are very acutely aware of the impact of a catastrophic event at Hinkley Point, which is obviously not similar to what would happen at a coal-fired power station or anything else. The fact that they have iodine tablets in their home if they live within a certain distance and tablets are available within the community says that there is a separate and different issue. I think communities were affected by Fukushima, but the vast majority of people who live around Hinkley are aware of its safe record, and have friends or family who have worked at the station. The issue, I think, for new power stations as plans come forward is what is different about them? Is there a different or separate risk there? So there are the issues of medium-level waste storage, which is only temporary but could be up to 60 years. What are the different risks that are going to arise at the new station as opposed to the old station, and will there be an opportunity to engage in discussing those issues? I think people are very conscious that there is a very low likelihood of an accident, but of course the impact is on a significantly different scale to that of accidents at other power stations or other types of infrastructure development.
Q143 Dr Whitehead: Is there any sense in which that process may be iterative or self-fuelling? If you go to the public and say, "There is a very low risk here, but just in case of accidents we’re going to publish our evacuation plans and issue you all with ID and all the rest of it", the backwash is that people say, "That’s a bit serious. Maybe there is a greater risk of accident than we thought."
Bob Brown: I think the issue for the local communities is, with Hinkley Point A decommissioned and Hinkley Point B still operating, that that is already taking place. All the parish councils have the evacuation processes, they have detailed plans of which areas would be evacuated and at what stage based on different directions of the prevailing wind. They have the iodine tablets issued. When you move into that area, when you buy that house, when you speak to the local community, you are going to be fully aware of that. So people already have that as an issue, and they accept that when they live there. It is not something that is going to come as a surprise or will be new for any new development, which I think is the reason why the sites were chosen as they were. That discussion on a greenfield-for want of a better term-site of a new nuclear power station may be very difficult, but for those communities that already have a jar of iodine tablets in their medicine cupboard it is a different conversation.
Chair: Time is running low.
Q144 Dr Whitehead: I realise that. Professor Pidgeon, you covered all your bases when you were asked the original question about Fukushima and why the attitudes are different here and in Germany. I would put it to you that it is pure politics, that the Greens were getting strong in Germany, there were local elections and the Government, who had made a statement just months before that nuclear renaissance was going to happen, all of a sudden turned turtle. You also mentioned, and I think I would like to highlight this, that it might not have been a natural disaster in Japan. It certainly was. It was a tsunami of a huge scale. Nuclear power stations close to the epicentre of that weren’t damaged at all, so you can’t really then say in blanket terms that nuclear was destroyed in Japan. The Germans did it for political reasons, and we do have a safe nuclear inspectorate and some plants in Britain have proven that. So I think we can be pretty confident to say that could not happen in this country.
Professor Pidgeon: There are lots of answers. I will try to stay brief. The situation in Germany is very interesting. They have always had much higher levels of anti-nuclear sentiment among the public and that has also been reflected in Government policy over the years. They were in a much more finely balanced position in terms of public perception, even before Fukushima. The Government had only just reversed its decision and went ahead. But the history there is interesting, in that some of this dates back a long time to a historical position about the war. People in Germany have always had a much more ambivalent relationship with nuclear power and atomic weapons, let’s put it that way, given their experience in the war. I think after the war, people asked the question, "Had the war in Europe gone on as long as it did in the Far East would atomic weapons have been used in Germany?" Some people reasoned, "Yes, probably, and therefore we should never have this technology".
Q145 Dr Whitehead: It is not civil nuclear.
Professor Pidgeon: Yes, but it is very difficult to separate the two because of the history of the industry. I should stress that. The industry struggles against this legacy. Just on the natural disaster, it is true that that is the way it has been attributed, but the independent reports from Japan are saying that one of the key factors was the rather too cosy relationship between the regulators and the operators. That led them to not put in safety-
Q146 Dr Whitehead: But that would not be applicable just to one station.
Professor Pidgeon: No, but-
Dr Whitehead: So that is a red herring.
Professor Pidgeon: Well, it is not a red herring in the sense that you then contrast it with the situation in the UK, where you have a strong independent regulator and that is one of the critical issues in maintaining public trust. I think that is one of the lessons of Fukushima. It is not just about the natural catastrophe side, it is about how the industry goes forward in terms of its regulatory structure.
Years before I did work on public perception of accidents, I did work on the causes of accidents, and rarely is any major accident caused by a single environmental factor, a single human error or a single organisational failing. It is almost always the case that there are a series of things bundled up, and I think Fukushima will be no different from Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. It will be a different set of causes, obviously, but it will be a set of causes and there will be some organisational and human lessons that we can learn from this event, as well as the key lessons about tsunamis and flooding risk and about loss of all power to pressurised water type reactors. Those are the three key sets of lessons.
Chair: Time is running low, but Christopher is going to come in with a last question.
Q147 Christopher Pincher: Just one very last question, Chairman, and away from tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns to the rather more prosaic topic of planning rules and regulations. Looking at issues that do happen rather than risks that might happen, you suggested in your evidence that the biggest issue that faces communities with a new nuclear programme on their doorstep, which is not compensable within the planning framework, is the construction process. Are there other uncompensable impacts of new nuclear development beyond construction?
Alyn Jones: I think to some degree the evidence that we have prepared, for the Hinkley examination but also for this Committee, shows that we can do as much as we can to anticipate the potential impacts of the construction programme and deal with as much of that as possible through the planning process. Where those impacts are tangible and defined- some of those impacts can be intangible as well-we can identify a need for contingency funding to deal with an issue if it arises. The construction programme is something that we feel can be dealt with through the planning process. One of the key issues is whether that goes far enough, whether it can deal with all the impact. But how do we deal with the impacts associated with the operational phase of the development? How do we ensure that we deal with those kinds of key points and that there is a lasting legacy; that in mitigating the impacts associated with the construction programme we don’t end up creating, for example, socioeconomic impacts? The economic development associated with the construction of a new power station could result in a significant number of workers coming into a local area, who provide a short-term boost to a local economy, and at the end of the 10 years it is switched off instantly. We have then a boom-and-bust scenario, and that is very concerning to all local authorities that could host one of these stations.
Bob Brown: I think it is taking that issue a step further. We have considered seeking something similar to what happens in the renewable sector, where the Government have proposed business rate retention as a mechanism for putting something back into the communities. We have received no clarity from the Government on that. They have made a commitment to community benefit through the National Infrastructure Plan and we will be seeking some clarity through DECC, CLG and others. We have had some mixed messages from those. So some help is needed in clarifying what that means, but the whole purpose of community benefit was to deal with the unforeseen issues where there may be impacts. If you take Sedgemoor, for instance, there will be a number of communities that do not directly benefit from the jobs that come. There will be the elderly population who have retired in the area, who will find 750 lorries going back and forth from the M5 through to the coast, blocking up their roads and making it difficult to access the services and other things that they would normally have had the benefit of. But also we have large estates of significant fuel poverty.
We have an interesting situation in Sedgemoor, in Bridgwater. The large temporary campus for the work force, who will come in and be paid significantly greater salaries than the average for the area, is next to a ward that is in the top 5% of the most deprived in the country. It has significant fuel poverty issues because the buildings are fuel-inefficient. It is important to us to use an opportunity for community benefit to tackle those fuel poverty issues and those premises and invest in those communities so that people have the opportunity to look to the future and get jobs in an economy that will be vibrant after the construction phase.
Q148 Christopher Pincher: One last very quick question, if I may, related to community benefit, so that I understand what the balance is. EDF, for example, is investing in or around Hinkley C something in the region of £94 million; it has knocked a hole in £100 million. What would be the greater benefit or the additional benefit of business rate retention to the area?
Bob Brown: In terms of a figure or-
Christopher Pincher: In terms of a figure or a per cent.
Bob Brown: We don’t know what the figure is. I think the issue for us locally is that we have engaged our communities about community benefits. They see the international precedents of community benefits-it happens in France, Finland, all over the world-and Sedgemoor saw it as an opportunity to get localism working directly. When the construction phase takes place, there are bound to be issues of, "Well, we didn’t see that coming", and what can the community do to deal with that or invest in itself to get itself out of that situation? A community benefit fund that allows communities to identify the issues themselves and propose solutions and to have the funding mechanisms to tackle those solutions was important for us. That is one of the main areas of community benefit. We have worked with other local authorities who have the potential for new nuclear developments, and Alyn is here representing those.
Alyn Jones: To add to that, the other local authorities we work with and the local communities they represent see an inherent inconsistency in policy terms here, in the sense that some of the key issues that were identified around, say, the wind protocol and supporting business rate retention for all renewables development hasn’t translated into low-carbon energy development, and that is a key part of our evidence to you. In the interests of brevity, I will not go over that point again, but there is no difference, we feel. It is about driving investment, it is about creating those opportunities, it is about incentivising that growth, and we feel that that is absolutely key and just as relevant, if not more relevant, for new nuclear development because of the complexity, the issue of creating that nuclear renaissance, that supply chain issue. The skills that are required for an engineering task are the skills required for an engineering task. A nuclear engineering task is very different. The skills are different, the skills are of a higher quality, and how do we ensure that we are able to access that? That is not something that the planning system can simply address, and that is where we believe the community benefit that is derived from business rates or another suitable vehicle should come in. Business rates appear to be the most logical way forward.
There is some concern about how that will impact local government settlements and so on. Some of our partner authorities are concerned about it, but one of the key issues goes back to the principle of ensuring that there is a means of incentivising that growth, ensuring that we do not end up with boom and bust and recognising that, while the planning system can go so far, in a complex development there are going to be issues that need to be resolved. How do we ensure that legacy over a 60-year period? Retention of business rates feels just as relevant, if not more relevant, to a new nuclear station as it would for a renewables development. That is a key cornerstone of our evidence to you.
Q149 Albert Owen: One final question: do you think that the enterprise zones will help or hinder this? They have been identified as areas, and if nuclear is outside that, then they will not quite get the benefits that enterprise zones will get.
Alyn Jones: I know that some of our key partner authorities are concerned about where those enterprise zones, where those gridlines, are and how that would work in making sure that benefit is retained in the area of impact and that it is retained where it can have its maximum impact. While enterprise zones may be a vehicle, I think something too prescriptive creates an overly prescriptive approach that does not allow the local community to deal with that issue as they wish to.
Chair: Thank you very much for your evidence. It has been most helpful. If there is anything that occurs to you afterwards that you would like to have on the record, certainly write to us. If there is anything we want, we will be back in touch with further written questions. Thank you again for your help.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: John Earp, Fellow, of both the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and The Nuclear Institute but representing the Institution of Civil Engineers, Alasdair Reisner, Director of External Affairs, Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Steve Geary, Skills Strategy Director, CITB Construction Skills, gave evidence.
Q150 Chair: Thank you very much for agreeing to give evidence to the Committee today on our inquiry into nuclear prospects. For the record, could we start on the left and could you each give your name and organisation?
John Earp: My name is John Earp, and I am here representing the Institution of Civil Engineers in respect of the work they did on a project to identify nuclear construction lessons learned from six nuclear projects around the world, including Olkiluoto and Flamanville.
Dr Fox: My name is Dr Tim Fox. I am Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and I am representing the Institution of Mechanical Engineers today.
Steve Geary: I am Steve Geary. I am the Skills Strategy Director at CITB Construction Skills, which is one of the training bodies that is looking at the training needs to support the construction phase of the new nuclear build.
Alasdair Reisner: Good morning, I am Alasdair Reisner of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association. Our organisation represents 60% to 70% by volume of the infrastructure contractors working in the UK. In my role I look after our nuclear forum that brings together contractors with an interest in the nuclear market.
Q151 Chair: One of the concerns about the potential to deliver the nuclear ambitions of the Government is whether the supply chain bottlenecks could delay delivery of new nuclear reactors in the UK and, if so, how this risk could be minimised? Who would like to go first?
Alasdair Reisner: Would you like me to step in first? We can only speak specifically about the civil engineering aspects. There is far more to building a nuclear power station than that, but that is the area where our members work. I think we have to recognise that, although individual nuclear power stations represent very significant individual projects, they would still only be a small part of the overall output within the infrastructure sector in any given year. Quite a lot of work has been done historically on the capability of the infrastructure sector to deliver large projects.
Perhaps the best example of this is Crossrail and in essence carrying out stress tests to see what would happen were such a large project to arrive at a time of feast or famine. As it happens, Crossrail has been delivered in a time when perhaps the industry is in a period of lower workload, but I think even had it been the case that it had been in a hot market that project was shown to be deliverable. I believe that work that has been done by other organisations has shown that there is capacity within the infrastructure supply chain to deliver. There may be certain pinch points around individual skills, which I think perhaps some others here will comment on.
Q152 Chair: Do you have a view on this, Dr Fox?
Dr Fox: Yes. I would like to add that a key component in trying to mitigate bottlenecks and delays is sufficient planning of the projects and the programme across the decade in which we are planning to do this deployment. In addition to that, there should be a strong dialogue between all the stakeholders that are involved in the process, so a strong dialogue between the vendors, the regulator and the operators of the stations to try to ensure some co-ordination. Our institution would recognise that individually the projects themselves, although they appear to be large-and they are significant projects-are not individually overly resourceful on the supply chain, but when you have to co-ordinate several projects in a commercially driven environment some degree of dialogue and co-ordination is helpful.
Q153 Chair: Can I explore that a bit further? Given that it is the private sector that is delivering, how would that co-ordination come about?
Dr Fox: We certainly see a role for Government, in particular the Department of Energy and Climate Change through the Office for Nuclear Development, in brokering some communication and dialogue in respect of co-ordinating activity. We have certainly recognised that one of the key challenges of delivering this programme in the UK is the fact that it is being done in a uniquely commercial environment in the private sector, on a time scale that is quite challenging, within the context internationally of increased activity in the nuclear industry. We certainly see the need for Government to broker a dialogue and ensure communication between all the elements involved.
Q154 Chair: Do you have a view on this?
John Earp: I share Tim’s view, but I would go perhaps a stage further, based on the work that was published in the report that I am representing. It is very clear that early engagement of the supply chain within any of these projects has been a factor in success. Where the supply chain has been engaged late, that tends to have caused problems within the construction period. I would go on to the point of saying that early engagement of the supply chain is key, including education of the supply chain in terms of what it means to work on a nuclear site. In history, when nuclear power plants were being built on a fairly regular basis, that was almost inbuilt in the supply chain. Most countries around the world, including this one, haven’t built a nuclear power station now since the mid-1990s, with Sizewell B being the last one here. A lot of that inbuilt understanding of what it means to work on a nuclear site has been lost. I think the importance of engaging with the supply chain and making people aware of what it means to work on a nuclear site is pretty crucial.
Steve Geary: I agree with the early engagement point. We did a bit of modelling of the impacts on output and skills, and it showed that at peak period the programme was forecast to contribute around £1.5 billion per year in construction output, which represents only about 1% of total construction output. So overall, if you look at it, it is a big programme but it has to be seen in context. However, the issue here is the locations where it is taking place. The impact in those particular areas-by its nature it is in areas where there are not large populations or necessarily large construction activity-will be obviously greater, so it is about how we handle those issues. But that early engagement certainly is already happening on the skills side and that is going to be beneficial.
Q155 Chair: The Government are in the process of developing a Nuclear Supply Chain and Skills Action Plan. What specific things do you think this document should contain on the supply chain side?
Alasdair Reisner: I think in essence, certainly from our perspective, a lot of the basic skills around civil engineering are not unique to the nuclear site. So in essence it is a matter of developing the existing UK supply chain almost to get that nuclear sheep dip to make sure that they understand what is different about the nuclear site. When we have done research in this area, the key point that comes back from anyone we speak to, whether in new nuclear, in decommissioning or in defence, is quality assurance and understanding that nuclear QA steps a massive distance away from anything else they may have experienced before because of the rigours that are required.
Q156 Albert Owen: How long does it take to get that extra skill to move from an experienced, qualified engineer to a nuclear site?
Alasdair Reisner: I suppose it depends where you start from. When you look at the supply chain in the UK there will be companies that have experience working on nuclear projects, albeit back at Sizewell, you will have companies that have experience working on decommissioning projects, but you will also have, in essence, new entrants to the market. Obviously it is going to take longer to get those who are entirely new entrants up to speed than those who have experience.
Q157 Chair: How long do you imagine it will take?
Alasdair Reisner: I would suggest if you are an entirely new entrant it is probably not going to be the case that you are working directly on a nuclear new build project in your own right. You may be down the supply chain, but then it will be part of your engagement in that process.
Q158 Albert Owen: A new graduate who is an engineer and wants to go into the nuclear industry; what kind of additional training and what period would that take to become a fully qualified nuclear engineer?
Alasdair Reisner: If you are talking about civil engineering, it would be as part of that process within the work that they are doing. I could probably come back to you at a later date with times, but I don’t have that information today. Perhaps others may be able to help.
John Earp: I would share the view there. Although I am representing the interests of the civil engineers, I am actually a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Nuclear Institute. As part of the training of any engineer in the UK, a graduate engineer, they go through a period of becoming familiar, if you will, with the work that they are doing in a particular industry. It depends on the organisation, but that can take perhaps a couple of years, up to three or four years. In the nuclear business, in that period they become very familiar with the QA rigours of working in the nuclear industry. Earlier there was mention of risk and quite a bit of time is spent understanding what is often called the nuclear safety culture. So you don’t go ahead and do something without fully considering it and fully considering it with respect to the nuclear consequences. That is the sort of training that becomes important for a nuclear engineer. Others will say, "But that actually is constraining". In actual fact it isn’t. What it brings about is an engineer who thinks very clearly about what they are going to do before they do it. To me, in a nuclear power station that is absolutely vital and that is the piece of training that is very, very important.
Chair: We are going to move on to the skills agenda.
Q159 Dan Byles: Just sticking with it for the moment. We have heard huge variations in the estimate of the number of construction workers required for each new nuclear build, ranging from 5,000 to 50,000. I would like a rough idea of where you think that figure probably is, how many of these construction jobs are likely to be domestic construction jobs and how many are likely to be imported?
Steve Geary: I think the 50,000 figure is usually across the whole of the numbers that are required, assuming the-
Dan Byles: The whole of the supply chain, the whole of the-
Steve Geary: The build programme, but obviously the numbers per site will vary. The piece of work that I think we presented to the Committee will show that where we have been trying to get it really quite specific in terms of trades, you are looking at things like several hundred steel fixers, similar sort of numbers when you get into people involved in concreting, scaffolding and so on. So we are looking at that per site based on the modelling that we did, which we carried out with EDF, using Flamanville, for a particular model. I think you asked the question about local?
Q160 Dan Byles: Yes. How many of those will be UK jobs and how many of those are likely to be imported ones?
Steve Geary: If you talk about Bridgwater, the Hinkley site, EDF has made a commitment that 60% of the work force will be drawn from a local area, which I believe they have categorised as people within a 90-minute travel pattern. That is what we are trying to work towards, and obviously that may vary according to the skill levels because I think in some of the very specialist areas you may be drawing on people from elsewhere around the country. That is the basis that we are working on at the moment.
Q161 Dan Byles: You had quite a long discussion with Albert about what it takes to grow some of the skills that we need. Do you think we have the right programmes in place as a country to deliver that?
Steve Geary: If I talk very specifically about what has been going on at Bridgwater and at Hinkley, we are very encouraged. EDF has already invested considerable sums of money into two of the local colleges, the Bridgwater College and the Community College that is a little way from the site, for a construction centre and engineering centre. Also they have a leadership centre, which I don’t think we should forget. What has been done locally will be of relevance, not just to that area but more broadly for the nuclear sector. So the signs are good in terms of the commitments at this stage. From our point of view, we get into the detailed work of looking at, for example for steel fixing, apprenticeship programmes to make them fit the build need.
In terms of funding and so on, we can draw from both our own sources of funding-as you may be aware, we are funded by a levy on the industry so we plough back a lot of money into apprenticeship programmes-and sources from Government. I think, though, that as we get into the more detailed development of what I would call the employment and skills plan, where we will be working locally with local authorities and other bodies in the area, I would be surprised if we do not find that there is a need for greater flexibility in the design of programmes if we are really to achieve targets around 60%, for example. So we have already been flagging up to DECC, to the Business Department and to Ministers that, with all the skills bodies coming together under the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance, and as we firm up those plans, we will go to Government, with the support of the employers and the clients, to argue the case for more flexible pots of funding so that we are not always constrained, because it will not always work otherwise in the local context.
Q162 Dan Byles: Does anybody else have a view on this?
Dr Fox: I just wanted to come back to the point that John was making earlier that a large degree of what is involved in the skills and training of individuals to work in the nuclear industry is really in relation to a development and an understanding of the culture and the quality needs of the industry. The core technical skills are generally the same across all areas of engineering and technical practice. There are some nuances where certain very specific skills are needed in welding or in very technical areas associated with nuclear design, but in many of the more general areas of construction and engineering associated with any infrastructure project the basic skills are the same. It is about adding that understanding of the quality needs and expectations of the nuclear industry. I think it comes back to a co-ordinated, communicated and planned approach to ensuring that that additional level of understanding is taken on board by subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. One of the key issues is that many of the individual firms that might like to get involved in the nuclear industry at the fitting level do not necessarily understand the cultural requirements of getting involved, and it is about transferring that understanding and that knowledge to them.
John Earp: Again, I totally agree with Tim. I think you could take it a stage further-and again it comes out in the report-that it is very important to get down to what the report terms the shop floor level in nuclear training so that people understand what they are doing when they are working on a nuclear site. An example that isn’t in the report but was in the material that led to the report was with concrete issues. You will appreciate that there have been issues with concrete at both Olkiluoto and Flamanville, and indeed at some of the plants that are currently being built in the USA. The guys pouring the concrete, who were very good, had not worked on a nuclear power station for a number of years and had a mindset that, "Well, if we pour this and it’s a road we can go back and dig it up". That simple mindset doesn’t exist on a nuclear site, because once you have the nuclear material there, that concrete is there for good. I think it is getting the mindset right down at the shop floor level, at the working level, that this is a nuclear site. The only way you can do that is by ensuring that the leadership-and it is very good that EDF is using a leadership programme in the Hinkley area-understand that; that they walk the site and promulgate that down to the first-line supervisors who can then ensure that it is built in. To go back later and do a quality check on concrete cubes, which is what happened at Olkiluoto where they lost control of the cubes, is no good. You have to build it in by early engagement and early engagement right throughout the team.
Q163 Dan Byles: Do you think that lesson has been learned, because you said that was a mistake that was made there? Will we benefit from that error?
John Earp: I believe that we will, frankly. If you look again, and it is covered in the report, it basically says that when it was found at Flamanville, EDF quite responsibly stopped work on the site, engaged with the workers and then restarted the work. I think they have picked that up and I believe, in the hope that things go on at Hinkley in a reasonable time frame, the time frame is such that that learning will still be engaged within the process. I would hope that they are taking an incredibly responsible attitude to it, and I suspect that learning will be engaged.
Steve Geary: Just two things to add to that. They are taking it seriously and one of the things that we are working on is the development of programmes aimed particularly at site supervisors. I think we will see increased numbers compared with previous sites. In terms of the supply chain, we have also been looking at developing business support programmes to try to help companies that are not aware of what it is like to work in a nuclear environment to start thinking about that. We refer to it as the nuclearisation of some skills. It is very much this overlay of a different environment and that is why it is important that the behaviours and attitudes in this environment will run through all of the training.
Q164 Dan Byles: We are very short on time, aren’t we? But just a very quick answer from Mr Geary, if that is all right. Should the Government be doing anything different in this? Is EDF on top of all this or do you need anything different at the top?
Steve Geary: As I say, I think it is going to be about flexibility and it is the-
Q165 Dan Byles: So that is the key message: the Government should not be too prescriptive and they should not be too inflexible in terms of the funding?
Steve Geary: Also, we have corralled the skills bodies to work together, but I think the same is going to apply to different bits of Government-how Jobcentre Plus works alongside the Skills Funding Agency and all of that.
Dan Byles: If we need joined-up government for this to work, then we are in worse trouble than I thought. Thank you very much.
John Earp: I was going to reinforce that to say that we must not lose sight of the fact that what Government have done in engaging through the Sector Skills Council and setting up NSAN, the National Skills Academy for Nuclear, is looking quite positive. That is probably all I need to say; we should not lose sight of that. They have done that already.
Q166 Chair: My constituency is near Aberdeen, where oil and gas is the big employer, and they are facing huge challenges of recruitment and an aged profile of skilled people. Are they fishing in the same waters for the same background skills? They are competing globally for them. Is there a global challenge to meeting the skills needed?
Steve Geary: I am not an expert, I am afraid, on the gas area but in our areas the key thing is that we have under capacity in the industry at the moment, which means that we don’t anticipate such severe problems. I am sure there will be some specialist areas where, yes, there will be competition in the future, particularly if we get lots of people committing to nuclear build programmes. But at the moment the assessment of the nuclear industry people who are dealing with us suggests that there are reasons to be optimistic rather than pessimistic.
Q167 Albert Owen: You mentioned time scales, Mr Earp. Can I ask you all with regard to the timetable for the new nuclear build, are we likely to see the first nuclear power station completed by 2019?
Dr Fox: Maybe I can offer a view on that. From the institution’s point of view, we accept that to deliver the first power station by 2019 is challenging and is becoming increasingly so, but a lot of the work that John has described in terms of lessons learnt and a lot of the work that the Government have already done in terms of preparing the ground for as clear a sail as possible towards 2019 has all been good work, particularly in terms of the generic design assessment and making the planning process robust for nuclear. One view that we would express quite clearly is that it is less important to meet the 2019 date-it is going to be difficult to meet and there may be some slippage as a result of the challenges ahead-than it is to make sure that we set off on the journey in a well-prepared, well-planned and well-co-ordinated fashion. One of the lessons that you learn from all large-scale construction projects is that any significant delays during the project or any significant need to rework the project can lead to substantially increased costs. We would be better advised to ensure that we do the preparation and the groundwork that we are doing now and prepare ourselves for the project than to focus entirely on the 2019 date.
Q168 Albert Owen: There is a second part to my question that I would like others as well as Dr Fox to answer. If there is slippage of the first one and we have a second target by 2025 to get the extra capacity of 16 gigawatts, are you saying it is likely that if we miss the first one but learn the lessons then we can meet that capacity by 2025?
Dr Fox: Yes.
Q169 Albert Owen: That is a more important deadline?
Dr Fox: Yes, than to have significant failings on the first project as a result of-
Q170 Albert Owen: Comments from the others, please, on 2019?
Alasdair Reisner: We took the view that it was looking fairly difficult to hit the 2025 target. I would like to say we had strong evidence to put behind that, but it is just sometimes a gut feeling and talking with our members. You would be looking at basically having a fair wind behind you from here on in right to 2025.
Q171 Albert Owen: Even if we met the first deadline?
Alasdair Reisner: If we met the first target that would be very helpful because, for the reasons that we have talked about, that would almost set the model and help bring others in behind at the pace that is required. But if you look at where it has been over the last two or three years, there have been significant challenges and to hit the 2025 date suggests that those challenges won’t be as severe going forward. I think we are still to be convinced on it because I still think there are major challenges.
John Earp: If you look at what is happening in, for example, China at the moment, their first reactor at Sanmen 1 was delayed due to concrete pouring problems. They learnt from that very significantly and were then able, on the second one at Sanmen and the first one at Haiyang, to pour the concrete in something like 42 hours continuous pour. The first one took the best part of a month because of problems. I think there is clear evidence of lessons learned; that, even if the first one gives you a problem, providing you learn from it then the others can follow in a reasonable time frame. There are a multitude of issues surrounding that and I just give you that as one example.
I think the first one, whether we meet 2019 in the UK, is a matter for EDF. It has indicated that its financial investment decision is going to happen some time towards the end of this year, and that is a matter for them. If it does, there is a potential that 2019 could happen, but it would want, in sailing terms, a fair wind between the two. Inevitably things go wrong on these large projects. As a young man I worked on the build of Hartlepool and things went wrong there, and they do on big projects. However, with the amount of time-and I think Tim captured it-and with the amount of planning that they have put into it, hopefully they have sufficient contingency, providing there is nothing absolutely major, to be able to work around it and 2019 has the potential to be achieved.
Q172 Albert Owen: If all the go aheads are there, the business is being confirmed, the money is there and also the planning, you are saying that a six-year timetable is doable?
John Earp: I think it is doable. It is certainly being done elsewhere around the world.
Steve Geary: I suppose the only issue comes if things get bunched together and then you may have some challenges on the skills side, but I have nothing else to add to that.
Q173 Albert Owen: I have two supplementaries. First of all, Mr Earp, you mentioned the fact that this is a matter for EDF but it does have wider implications for energy security, and indeed climate-change targets. Do you feel that if there is big slippage there is a risk to energy security? Secondly, is there greater risk on meeting our climate-change targets?
John Earp: I believe that, if there is a significant slip, then the alternative, and I think that has been well published, is perhaps a move towards gas. If we move towards gas, over the period that we are talking about more gas will be imported and therefore-and this is a personal view because I don’t have the data in front of me-there must be an increased risk to energy security; gut feeling. In terms of climate change, I think if we don’t get the nuclear plants built in the timeframes then it will be-I was going to say difficult, I would probably go as far as to say impossible to meet the climate-change targets that the Government has set.
Dr Fox: I would largely agree with John. I think the prime outcome of a slipped programme would be a detrimental effect on our ability to meet our low-carbon aspirations and meet our climate-change goals. The energy security one is a lot harder to call and a lot harder to analyse. There are multiple dimensions to that, depending upon the development of the gas market in the next 10 years and whether the UK decides to move forward with exploitation of shale gas and other unconventional sources of gas to enhance our own security of supply position. I think that one is much more difficult to be categorical on. Clearly there is some consideration to be taken into account in energy security there. But one thing that our institution would say is that we have recognised that the nuclear programme is largely a programme for decarbonisation, to underpin the longer-term electrification of the UK transportation and energy demand sector. So it has largely been designed and developed as a base-load programme to meet that growing demand for electricity, and therefore its implications for energy security are less of a concern.
Steve Geary: I don’t think it is an area that I have the expertise to answer on.
Q174 Albert Owen: Not the expertise. I am basically asking whether the delay will have an impact.
Steve Geary: Yes. I think from an industry point of view what industry wants-and this is not just about the nuclear programme, it is across all infrastructure, particularly where Government has an influence-is greater certainty of when programmes are going to come onstream. That will help us all in terms of planning, whether it is skills, all the issues that people have talked about, our supply chain, or people having a proper programme to work with. The worst thing that can happen is this chop-change, stop-start. That creates problems where, at its worst, you have to think about sucking in labour from elsewhere because you have not had a chance to plan and grow it yourself. From an industry point of view, having a clear programme that we can stick to is essential.
The issues around the impact on climate change are the ones I feel I am not an expert to answer on.
Alasdair Reisner: Similarly, I am not going to class myself as an expert on climate change or energy security. However, the impact of delay on the supply chain is palpable. I think you have to look at the fact that companies are employing people who currently, because of the nature of the market, have to be solely focused on the nuclear sector, and as programmes slip you have to be able to justify to your board why that person is continuing to do a job where the outcome is uncertain. I think we will see, if there is continuing delay in the programme, that companies will take a view on whether they can sustain activity in this sector. You might say that perhaps that is a good thing; it shakes out those who are not fully committed, but it depends on where the programme goes from here, because what you do not want is everyone falling out of the market, the programme then picking up and you not having the resource to deliver.
I think there is also an issue around skills. We talked earlier about skills. If you don’t have confidence that there is going to be a programme of new nuclear, you are a graduate coming out of university and you are making a career choice, are you going to make that choice if you can’t be certain that there is something down the line? That is why I think we can’t expect every stage to be hit bang on the nail, but if there is continuing slippage, it destroys confidence, and that is fatal for aspirations of delivering new nuclear.
Q175 Ian Lavery: Mr Earp mentioned the lessons learned, and you mentioned the construction of the two power stations in China. Engineering the Future published a report in 2010 called Nuclear Lessons Learned. I think you were chair of the group at the time.
John Earp: Correct.
Q176 Ian Lavery: That was based on experiences in Finland, France, China and in the UK. Have the lessons been learned? Have they been adopted in plans for the proposed new nuclear build in the UK?
John Earp: We believe that they have. Certainly currently EDF is involved with the Institution of Civil Engineers in terms of picking up on the lessons learned, so a quick answer is, yes, we believe that they have. One needs to wait and see how things go. There were lessons in three particular areas. That report drove three guidance documents, one associated with concrete, one associated with welding and the other associated with nuclear safety culture. We think certainly the nuclear safety culture one has been picked up and we think the other two have as well. In very simple terms, the answer to your question is, yes, we think that they are being.
Dr Fox: I would add to that that, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ point of view, our power industries division and nuclear power subcommittee have studied these documents in detail and were intrinsically involved in some of the work. Certainly within the industries there is an awareness of the lessons, there is an understanding of the lessons. There is a lot of fundamental intuitive engineering logic in the lessons that is very easy for engineers to adopt. The question now is, we need to move forward and prove that we take these lessons into our practice when the nuclear programme moves forward. So I think the answer is, yes, we are aware of those lessons and we have learnt from them, but we now need an opportunity as a profession to move forward and display that in the nuclear new-build programme.
Steve Geary: I think we have touched on the areas where lessons have been learnt. We have referred to the supervisors, the leadership and management, we have referred to the behaviours. All of these things in our terms, when we get down to the nitty-gritty-it is taking it down to how you build that into national occupational standards, how that feeds through to a qualification, to apprenticeship frameworks and things like that. So for the areas that we cover, yes, those lessons have been learnt. In the design and development going forward, having worked very closely with EDF, we are now working with the contractors that are involved-BYLOR as the consortium is called, Bouygues and Laing O’Rourke, and Kier and BAM who are involved in the early work-so that we are making sure that the training programmes are fit for purpose and take on lessons from elsewhere.
Alasdair Reisner: I think it needs to be remembered that there is a strong commercial imperative to learn from these lessons, so there is a strong focus on making sure that they are. The work that was done was excellent. The only sort of concern going forward might be if at any point people felt, "We know that, so we have done that" and it starts to recede into the background. You almost need constant challenge to make sure that those lessons are still at the forefront of people’s minds, because the potential impact of failing to take account of them on future projects would be huge. I think also there needs to be regular updating to bring on board the lessons that are being learnt as projects move into delivery to feed those back into the later projects as well.
Dr Fox: I would add to that that this is partly the reason why we need that first project to get underway and to get underway as soon as possible, because these lessons will then become embedded as an integrated part of the engineering profession’s culture and practice. One of the things that we need to be cognisant of is that we have not built a nuclear power station in this country for many years, and we need to ensure that these recommendations and these lessons become a fundamental part of our practices, of our engineering practice. We have the momentum available to us now to do that, and so the sooner we can move forward with the programme, the sooner that momentum can be carried forward by EDF and then others.
John Earp: Just to add to that, it is an important point from the institutions’ point of view-and I mean all of the institutions involved, including the Royal Academy-that the documents were published without copyright quite deliberately so that it would encourage people to lift sections out of them and incorporate them into their own construction documents. There is indication that that sort of thing might happen. It is too early to be clear, so I wouldn’t want to be definitive on that, but it was done deliberately in that way. They were published without copyright.
Q177 Ian Lavery: One of the findings from the report was that follow-on stations are rather cheaper than first-of-a-kind stations. Would a new EPR at Hinkley C be cheaper than the EPRs that are being built in France and Finland, or do you think within the UK context it means that it will still essentially be a first-of-a-kind project?
John Earp: That is a complex question, and let me try to elaborate on that. In a technical sense, the plant at Hinkley is very similar to the plant at Flamanville and very similar to the plant at Olkiluoto. There are some minor changes, but it is very similar, so in a technical sense it probably is the third-of-a-kind. However, first-of-a-kind also relates to building it in a particular geography and within a particular regulatory environment and a particular business-commercial-industrial relations environment, so, from those points of view, Hinkley will be first-of-a-kind in the UK. Hopefully it will be first-of-a-kind and successful as first-of-a-kind. Some of the technical issues will have been addressed previously, but there will be these other issues that are peculiar to the UK. In that sense it will be first-of-a-kind. Is that helpful?
Q178 Ian Lavery: Yes. Another issue that was raised before was the skills and the experience of the workers in the construction of the power stations. What does that mean in practice, bringing subcontractors in? How do you believe that the employment should work? What sort of skills do they need compared to ordinary building work, for example, and how will it look?
John Earp: I tried to cover that briefly when I gave you the concrete analogy earlier. I think in terms of practical skills they are all very similar. The issue is to engage the workers to know that they are working on a nuclear site, and that has a number of implications. A lot of the work that is done, certainly early concrete, early welding, ultimately will become part of the safety case for the plant. It is part of the argument that allows that plant to go onstream at the end of the day, and the consequences of not getting it right, therefore, are significant and in many cases you can’t go back and repair it. So that sort of understanding needs to be embedded in the workforce right down at shop-floor level, and certainly needs to be observed, monitored and led by the first-line supervisors.
Dr Fox: It is very much about developing a culture of quality. I have worked in both the non-nuclear construction industry and the nuclear construction industry during my career, and the transition is about learning culturally to do the best possible job you can every single time, understanding that this is your one-off chance to get that job right. The difference is that, although there are commercial implications in terms of penalties and fines in a commercial environment, if you are building a non-nuclear piece of infrastructure, it is possible technically to go back and rework often the piece of work that hasn’t come up to the quality standard that is required by the resident engineer, but in the nuclear industry you really don’t have that chance. So you have the added level of responsibility that there isn’t just a commercial outcome from your work, there is also a fundamental risk to the project if you do not deliver that job to the best of your technical competence and skill every single time. It is developing that culture, and that is an add-on to your general technical skills. It is about just ingraining a human behavioural element.
John Earp: There is in the nuclear business a phrase that is used throughout operation and during construction called "conservative decision-making", and that is something that has developed from the USA initially and has been broadly used here in the UK. What it means is if you are doing something and you get to a point that you are not sure it is right or you are not sure what the consequences will be having done it, stop and seek advice. That is an absolute fundamental within the nuclear business and it is that sort of training that we need to get embedded within the entire workforce. I think conservative decision-making captures it extremely well, and it is used internationally now throughout the nuclear business, probably in all the reactors operating, I suspect.
Steve Geary: We have talked a lot about, if you like, the nuclear overlay on behaviours and the way you work, but there will be a lot that will be similar to other construction activity in the areas that we look at. You are going to have plant operators; you are going to have people involved in concreting. We are looking at a couple of areas at the moment. There is steel fixing where the requirements are quite different, so we are having to look at the upskilling of the programmes that would support that so that you can get people able to operate in the way that is required; carpenters on formwork for the concreting; areas like that where there will be different demands that are more than just about operating in a nuclear environment. With my colleagues who work in the other skills bodies, we are looking at it across the piece where there will be a need for new upskilling developed , as well as nuclear-behaviours overlay.
Alasdair Reisner: In your question you mentioned subcontractors, and it is an important point. Within the nuclear new build context, I think efforts are being made to try to reduce the level of subcontracting down the chain, because each time you have an interface that creates a potential for loss of control. But if we recognise that there is going to be some subcontracting, I think it is worthwhile revisiting something we mentioned earlier about early involvement. That is why this is so crucial, because if you can get the supply chain in long before they are going out onsite to do the work, that is when you can do this behavioural work to make sure that everyone, before they even walk through the site gate, understands this is not building a car park; this is not building whatever. This is building a nuclear project, it is a licensed site, and you will adhere to these very rigorous quality assurance plans.
Chair: Thanks, Ian, and of course it won’t happen if it is not financed.
Q179 Dan Byles: I think anything called conservative decision-making sounds absolutely like it is probably the right thing in my books. On the financing side, we have heard that although it might be possible to finance the first nuclear power stations on balance sheet, it is pretty unlikely that the entire raft of generation that we are looking at is going to be done that way, simply because of the sheer level of debt that the companies are going to have to take on. Would you agree with that, and what do you think are the implications in terms of financing these projects?
Dr Fox: As an institution that represents the engineering profession, clearly ultimately at the end of the day we deliver projects that people pay for. Our observation of the investment landscape is such that we would agree with your summary there of the situation. I know that this Committee is not specifically looking at the EMR, but clearly the EMR is a component in trying to unlock that investment in the UK. One of the things I would say again, as an engineering profession looking at the investment landscape, one of the things that we observe is that there is a strong need for a stable and long-term view in the framework. We have heard a number of times in the evidence already in this session about the fact that what we really need is to settle down and the opportunity to move forward, so set the policy in place. To some degree, the exact nuances of the policy are less important than having a stable, continuous framework that gives us confidence to move forward so that we understand that the decisions we are making will be robust in the long term. So we would say, let’s get the framework in place and stable as quickly as possible and then, secondarily, we are concerned about the detail of that.
Q180 Dan Byles: But that is about creating a long-term stable investment environment to create investor confidence.
Dr Fox: Yes.
Q181 Dan Byles: What about the mechanism, though, for funding the projects? None of these companies have strong enough balance sheets, do they, to be able to take on the whole of this nuclear new build on balance sheet in terms of all these plants they are doing?
Dr Fox: Yes, that is certainly our observation.
Q182 Dan Byles: So what do you think the implications are? 16 gigawatts by 2025; are the main companies who are pitching in for this going to do all that on balance sheet, or do you think they are going to have to come up with some other kind of innovative way of raising the cash? I know you guys are not the money men, so maybe you are not the right people to ask that question.
John Earp: I was going to offer that comment. I am not sure that I am competent to answer that, but your starting point is absolutely right. If you want 16 gigawatts by the timeframe that we have said to meet climate change, then typically you want about one reactor a year started from 2013 onwards, and that is a huge commitment financially. It is also a huge commitment on industry and all the other things we have talked about. I would respectfully suggest that you ask someone from the City about how to finance it. It is not my area of expertise.
Steve Geary: But I think that what we have seen in other areas is that, looking at the first private finance initiatives and things like that, there are markets that are created downstream and then once something is built and there is a business proposition , it may be easier to find ways of financing, which then can be put into further builds, but this is going way beyond my expertise.
Q183 Dan Byles: Perhaps something that is back into your sort of territory. One suggestion we have heard is that nuclear power stations might be easier to finance if they were smaller, for example akin to a typical 350 megawatt CCGT gas plant. Are there any technical problems with that? Is there a reason why they are getting bigger and bigger? Is it easier to build a 1.6 than a 350-
John Earp: I can honestly take that one but - do you want to go first, Tim?
Dr Fox: I think the key aspect to it is that from a technical point of view, there are a number of companies that are well advanced with their planning of such small-scale reactors. One of the challenges for us in the UK would be to undertake an assessment of those technologies, similar to the generic design assessment, and to reach a conclusion that they can be used and they can be licensed in the UK. There is a significant timescale associated with us doing that. So in the short term-
Q184 Dan Byles: But that is not to say in principle that you can’t do it?
Dr Fox: No.
Q185 Dan Byles: It is simply we haven’t done it. Is that basically it?
Dr Fox: Yes, and there is also an issue in relationship to the electricity transmission distribution infrastructure, so the National Grid would have to be configured to enable the use of those reactors. In principle, it offers many potential benefits in terms of bringing forward distributed energy generation, allowing localised stakeholding in power generation, and would fit in with the longer-term reconfiguration of the grid, but from our institution’s point of view it is a mid-2030s to 2040 timescale aspiration rather than a short-term aspiration.
Q186 Dan Byles: But would you say it is an aspiration? That is an interesting choice of words.
Dr Fox: Certainly it would fit in with the Government’s low-carbon distributed energy infrastructure vision, and it would certainly enable us to help meet those carbon reduction targets.
Q187 Dan Byles: A nuclear power station on every street corner.
John Earp: Just to comment, everything Tim has said I totally support. As we jokingly said between us, either of us could answer that question. All I would say is that all of those designs, and there are three or four that I can name here, are literally designs. They haven’t been tried, they haven’t been tested, whereas the plants that we are currently building have.
Q188 Dan Byles: But why is that? Is there a reason why the industry globally has tended towards larger? Is it simply economies of scale in construction?
John Earp: Two reasons; the grid systems that we have developed over the years in the developed economies lend themselves to large centres of power.
Q189 Dan Byles: Is it the tail wagging the dog, really?
John Earp: Not quite. I think that is a wrong way of putting it. The other thing is, probably in the short to medium term they would produce cheaper power. Until you get a demonstration plant for one of these smaller reactors, it would be very difficult to convince yourself what the actual cost would be. On the positive side, however, these small reactors, the designs that I have seen, on the net mainly, look as though they would be a lot more flexible than the big ones. It is wrong to say that big reactors can’t flex with the grid. I have driven big reactors, I have worked on them, and they can. However, they are much more quiescent at full power and that is what they are designed to do. But the small ones will flex rather better and so you could manage the grid better with the small ones, so there are positive reasons to think about small reactors in the timeframes that Tim was alluding to.
Q190 Dan Byles: Could you not have a cluster of small reactors in one location to get around the grid problem?
John Earp: Yes, you could.
Q191 Dan Byles: Then you would have a more flexible site as a whole.
John Earp: Yes, you could. The design that the South Africans developed, the pebble-bed design, was a 160 megawatt reactor, a very neat reactor. They have stopped its development now, for reasons I could explain, but it is not germane to the discussion. They put them forward in what they called a four pack and a six pack alongside each other so that they could effectively become a large power station, but equally well you have a small one so you could sell them in countries within Africa where the infrastructure was poor. So, yes, it is entirely possible to do what you said, but I go back to the point, I don’t think anyone has done sufficient work yet to be clear what the costs of generation would be from reactors such as that.
Q192 Chair: If you went for a distributed model of smaller reactors, would you also then have more of a mid-term waste management issue of distributed onsite waste storage, or would that be something that you would have to confront in a new way?
John Earp: I can only go back to the work that they did in South Africa, which was probably the most developed. I need to caveat this by saying you need to be very careful what you are talking about with waste. Radioactive waste is one thing. Don’t confuse that with spent or used fuel, that is quite different, and I sense that that is mixed up, either through lack of knowledge or deliberately, in the press. The importance is that spent fuel is being designed to be kept on the sites currently in the UK as they develop. I suspect over time it won’t stay there forever, but the current design allows it to. They will also manage radioactive waste, which is developed during the normal operation of the power station but is not spent fuel. The UK’s position on spent fuel is very simple. The plutonium that comes from it, for example, is treated as a zero-value asset, because it could be used for fuel. So you need to separate those two things out. On waste specifically now, with the work done in South Africa they could contain the waste on the site. It is relatively small quantities. Is that helpful?
Chair: Yes. Thank you very much for the evidence you have given us, and if anything does occur to you that you feel we need to know before our inquiry is finished, we are keen to hear from you in writing. Similarly, we may come back to you as it occurs to us we have missed some key questions. Thank you again for your evidence. It has been most helpful.