The Hinkley Point C project has reached another key milestone with the start of tunnelling at the UKs first new nuclear power station in a generation.

Work has started to install the 38,000 concrete segments required to support the three underground marine tunnels at up to 33 metres below the seabed of the Bristol Channel.  Once complete, the tunnels will form a critical part of Hinkley Point C’s cooling system and will have the capacity to transfer 120,000 litres of water per second.

Hinkley Point C will be the first power station in the Bristol Channel to include fish protection measures.

In a first for the UK and created at Balfour Beatty’s innovative manufacturing facility in Avonmouth, pre-fabricated nuclear-grade concrete segments will be made to ensure that each of three Tunnel Boring Machines is able to deliver significant efficiency savings whilst excavating over 11 tonnes of rock per minute.

The first machine has been named Mary by local primary school children in honour of Mary Anning, a local palaeontologist and fossil finder who lived her life in Lyme Regis. Mary will be able to reach a maximum speed of 120 millimeters per minute.

The 1200 tonne machine will be run by 12 operators including a pilot, with supporting teams at the surface. The team includes industry experts along with apprentices and graduate students playing a vital role in its success.

Alistair Geddes, Balfour Beatty Project Director, said: “This is a significant milestone, critical to the successful delivery of the first new nuclear power station in the UK for over 20 years. Having installed the first permanent segment ahead of schedule, this milestone is testament to Balfour Beatty’s expertise and to the collaborative approach required to deliver a project of this scale and complexity.”

Rob Jordan, Hinkley Point C Construction Director said; “The start of tunnelling at Hinkley Point C represents a hidden but vitally important milestone in the construction of the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation. Delivered to schedule, this achievement underlines the continued progress being made to ensure that Hinkley Point C will be ready to supply the UK with the reliable low carbon electricity that it needs to combat climate change.”

The new power station will supply safe, secure low carbon electricity to around 6 million homes.

Balfour Beatty is contracted to three major packages of works at Hinkley Point C. It was first appointed to deliver the electrical works package in a joint venture in 2015, the tunnelling and marine package in 2017 and most recently the 400kV overhead line project on behalf of National Grid in 2019.

Image: The start of tunnelling at Hinkley Point C

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