As the world moves with ever-increasing urgency driven by the climate emergency away from fossil fuels, the UK government’s strategy has shifted to nuclear power – alongside offshore wind, hydrogen, solar, heat pumps and, most controversially, North Sea oil and gas. As part of that strategy, no fewer than eight new nuclear power facilities are to be built – and indeed Hinckley Point C has been under construction since 2017 while construction of Sizewell C is already under way in Suffolk.
But what happens to the old sites that are no longer active? Such as Sellafield, formerly known as Windscale and the scene of the UK’s worst nuclear incident in 1957? The facility has been economically active ever since, predominantly in nuclear waste reprocessing – although it processed its final consignment last month. The good news is that this is where big opportunities are arising for companies to take part in the monumental clean-up operation. Employed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), various operators are emptying the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo of 60 years’ worth of waste and moving it to safe modern on-site storage.
It’s a mammoth operation – which means there’s building work to be done to make the site ready. And, having won its first ever tender for work ‘inside the fence’ at Sellafield, Seddon Construction, the UK’s largest privately owned and family managed contracting business, is embarking on a programme of building fit-outs right across the site. Worth about £175 million, this project, the fourth major multi-project deal handed out by Programme and Project Partners, is set to make full use of all Seddon’s skillsets, including internal wall and ceiling fitting, screeding, flooring, painting and decorating and joinery.
The site management looks forward to efficient and timely delivery of the project thanks to Seddon’s well-established supply chain – and of course the clean-up project as a whole will make a considerable contribution to the Cumbria region’s economy as well as to its long-term health security. As Seddon gears up to begin work with plans to open an office in West Cumbria to service the new operation, others in our industry can look forward to cleaning up too – with more lucrative tenders in the pipeline for work ranging from groundworks and civil engineering to steelwork and cladding.