Yesterday, we had the privilege of visiting the greatest single infrastructure project that Britain has ever seen, the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C. The project will also be Britain’s single greatest contribution to fighting climate change and the single greatest bastion of our energy security for the rest of this century.
For many years, at least until the gas crisis gut-punched us, it was fashionable to take shots at Hinkley Point C for one reason or another. I am reminded of two quotes. The first is from Thomas Babington Macaulay: “It is easy enough, after the ramparts are carried, to find men to plant the flag on the highest tower. The difficulty is to find men who are ready to go first into the breach.” EDF (UK) was “first into the breach” of new nuclear in the UK at Hinkley Point C. EDF believed in the UK and put its money into the UK, even when the UK Government itself would not. The team took on the challenge of building the first new station in this country in a generation, grappling with a funding model we had never insisted upon before, and reviving a dormant UK supply chain bereft of its former expertise.
None of that is easy. There are lessons to be learned and applied, as indeed they already are from Unit 1 to Unit 2. Many tasks, such as concrete pours for containment and for the turbine hall or liner cup floor fabrication, are already going faster, often by 30% or more. That invaluable experience of modern civil nuclear construction and supply chain activation will benefit not just the project, but all subsequent nuclear projects on which we hope to embark. Those “first into the breach” have to weather the storm, but they do a service for us all.
Again, I am reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous passage on the man (although it applies equally to women and to men) in the arena: “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause.”
Hinkley Point C is a mighty work for a worthy cause – and for all the criticism, Hinkley Point C is not only still standing, but rising, literally and magnificently, 40 metres into the sky. We look forward to following its progress, including the dome lift for Unit 1 later this year!
So thank you to our hosts Gordon Bell, Tim McCoy, Andrew Cockcroft, Freya Lee, and to the 9,000 men and women “in the arena” on site and many thousands more across the country, well done, good luck, and thank you.
Lincoln Hill is the NIA’s Director of Policy and External Affairs.