Influx of over 3,000 new staff proposed for Hinkley C
Plans under discussion between EdF Energy (EdFe), Sedgemoor District Council and Bridgwater Town Council would see the workforce at the Hinkley C nuclear power station expanded to 8,500. When planning permission was granted to Hinkley C the peak workforce allowed on site was set 5,500. Now they are proposing to increase this to 8,600.
Given the fact that, rather like the model it is based on Flamanville in Normandy, Hinkley C is running late and over budget, the request to increase numbers is understandable. Originally projected to cost £19.6bn the latest estimate is that it will cost closer to £23bn. The start date too has moved back from an original plan of 2023 to current estimates of 2026 at the earliest. As most of the cost overruns and delays had been announced before March 2020, these are operational rather than COVID related issues.
That said, the proposal should of course be good news for local employment. The workforce at Hinkley is split into two categories, so called home-based workers and non home-based workers. To count as home-based you should be able to commute to and from the site from your home address. So by and large these will be new jobs for Somerset based employers. This element EdFe are asking to increase from 310 to 1,630.
One of the key concerns for the town of Bridgwater, will be the large influx of new workers from the surrounding area (and non home based workers from further afield) in the midst or a pandemic and a national lockdown. Again EdFe are adamant they will not take risks. As part of their presentation the company stated “The expansion of the workforce in the years to come will only happen when it is safe to do so. This means that our projections for workforce numbers are based on an assumption that we will be able to operate un-constrained in the years leading up to the peak of construction.” That said, the same presentation includes a graph showing some of that ramp up of employee numbers during 2021.
Councillor and Mayor of Bridgwater, Leigh Redman is concerned. Whilst he recognises the contribution Hinkley has made to the area, he told The Leveller® “I am calling for the Councils and stakeholders to join me in demanding EDFe to move away from their rush job to increase limits on workers living in Bridgwater by 300%. Give residents & Bridgwater town council the opportunity to understand the proposal, consult in a meaningful way and discuss mitigation.”
However Cllr Redman made it clear he is not against the increase per se “To be clear, I am not saying we should not allow the increase, I am asking EDFe to hold a reasonable consultation and discuss mitigation, let Bridgwater and surrounding areas understand what is proposed and what mitigation may be needed.”