HPC Site Tour, Thursday 22 March 2018
After nearly 18 months, I thought another visit to the site might be interesting. Spoiler alert - it's an enormous hole in the ground, seen better in the recent drone footage that has shocked people preparing to resist a new nuclear power station being built near them.
18 of us pitched up at the EdeF office in Angel Place. Ex-EdeF employees wander about offering info. When asked about the model PWR, one told me that they do work on nuclear submarines; he didn't appreciate the difference in scale between a sub and any of the PWRs on power station sites that don't work. After checking our status by photo ID, the random security check picked me out for frisking, much to the amusement of the resident security guard.
EdeF are proud of their office having just chalked up its 75,000th visitor; the fact that that was a primary school child seemed immaterial, it's just about footfall. To be fair, they are equally proud about, in the UK at least, being big on renewable electricity generation.
They showed the same promo videos as at the Community Forum, the most misleading of which purports that 50% of the new Apprentices are photogenic women. Sadly, the truth is that only 15% of the on-site workforce are women. They also set store by people retraining as the project moves through its phases, which is great, but undermines the '25k Job Opportunities' claim if one person is getting several of them. A farmer in the group offered disgruntlement that his tractor driver is threatening to quit as, desirably skilled as he is, he can get paid far more than the farmer can afford working at HPC.
New to me was a 'Gridwatch' website which shows live how much electricity the UK is using and how it's being generated. Nuclear was only 18%, which means that there must have been more of those nuclear 'outages' viewable on EdeF's own website.
The most interesting part of the journey to HPC was meeting two huge dumper trucks being transported away from the site. They had Police motorcycle and car outriders which were causing consternation to unsuspecting motorists. More worryingly, as they avoided the bollards in the middle of the road where our coach was parked up, they 'scythed' over the pavement on their near side; a pedestrian could easily have stepped off their front path onto the pavement and been knocked down. Accident waiting to happen.
Once at HPC, we picked up our own security guard; his purpose was to make sure we didn't get off the coach or take any photos (clearly he wasn't about when the sit-in was on and strikers videoed themselves in the canteen).
The tour took in less of the site than previously. The hideous temporary accommodation campus is coming along, but it will be 'summer' 2018 before there's anything on site or in Bridgwater to take the pressure off the local rented accommodation market. A local one bedroomed cottage 'ON HPC BUS ROUTE' - their block capitals - is going for £520pcm.
The guides are long standing HPB guides with a HPC script; they're less able to deal with questions about HPC than HPB.
The supposedly permanent Control Building looks as temporary as the other office, welfare and operations buildings.
They're keen to bombard visitors with big figures, there's a lot of shock and awe about, as many of the tour party were retired HPA and HPB workers. They bandy the '3 million tonnes of concrete' about as if that were a good thing. There's no appreciation that each tonne of concrete produces 140kg of CO2, so that's over half a million tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change before HPC ever generates a single kwh of electricity, if it ever does.
The jetty is proceeding apace; shame it takes so much material shipped in by road to build it and, of course, a lot of HGV trips to haul away the steel when it's dismantled, like all the temporary buildings, once the structure is complete.
It becomes clear that Lady Gass, the site landowner, has only sold the land the completed power station will occupy; everything to the south of the historic Green Lane will have to be cleared and restored as it's only rented to EdeF.
Ecology continues to be a challenge for EdeF. The bats have to have trees moved in and out in the evenings and as for those pesky badgers! Some of them can scale the fences to get back to their territory, others have learned to hide by the gates and slip into the site when the gates open for vehicles!
In addition to the disgruntled farmer, a teacher from City Academy, Bristol was on the tour; I hope to take the electric car on a trip to enlighten his Year 9 about the reality of new nuclear, though he was pretty clued up himself.
We all thanked the guides for the tour. Demand is such that they now run on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Unless visitors appreciate that digging out 4m tonnes of earth and dumping it in the Holford culvert, constructing miles of galleries for cabling and piping and getting the concrete mixes consistent is the 'easy' part of the work and getting the reactor to work is infinitely more difficult, they will be impressed.