Schedule Management for Hinkley Point C Engineering

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With global energy demands increasing every year, nuclear power is currently the most cost effective and efficient source of low-carbon energy. For the UK, investing in Nuclear will be especially important in the coming decades. Nearly 20% of the UK’s power generation is nuclear, yet their current capacity is expected to drop in half by 2025 due to retiring plants. 

Read more about the Nuclear sector in our Energy Industry Article!

For the UK to significantly increase clean power generation, it is critical to close this gap in nuclear capacity. Our client Edvance, a global leader in nuclear power, is working to build one of the first new nuclear power stations in over two decades in the UK.

Using next generation EPR, or European Pressurized Reactor technology, this project aims to set the global stage for sustainability by providing improved and accessible nuclear power. This technology promises to generate 36% more electricity using less uranium, whilst reducing exposure to radiation. It also has a longer lifespan than most nuclear reactors at 60 years.

While this is not the first of its kind in Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) technology, it is promising for the future of clean energy because of its efficiency, that is lowering risk and increasing energy output for longer yielding a greater return on investment.

Challenge

Although this generation of EPR technology takes less time to build than typical PWR plants, it still requires nearly a decade of planning, engineering, and construction to build. The power plant consists of several buildings, each with specialized infrastructure to support the safest and most efficient operation. This includes protection around the nuclear reactor and multiple safeguard buildings.

rendering of HPC nuclear station from a sky-view
Hydrock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Referred to as a megaproject, there are thousands of engineers working on the plant design to define each station’s system. Many analysts, controllers, and project managers are required, along with strong communication skills, to funnel the right information up to project decision makers. This becomes especially challenging when dealing with international teams and complex stakeholder groups.

EPR technology has previously experienced challenges. The approval of similar nuclear projects depends on the success of this one. It is imperative that the engineering teams have accurate data and coordinate well with each other as well as understand previous issues to improve upon the design for this power station. 

MI-GSO | PCUBED was engaged to support the project engineering teams by managing the project controls and communication between the different groups.

Solution

With nearly 30 consultants in different PMO entities, MI-GSO | PCUBED is responsible for synchronizing processes and facilitating communication between the engineering groups. Strong communication is vital for a project of this scale. Our team includes schedulers, cost controllers, and project managers who support the engineers’ activities and align their teams. Our team quickly identifies and then steps in to remove any communication barriers as soon as they arise.

Our team also manages the project schedule, which is divided into dozens of sub-projects with hundreds of activities, each interlinked. With so many activities and constant changes from different groups, the schedule cannot be managed with a single Gantt chart. Using Primavera P6, our team instead looks at a database of interlinked activities. In this way, we can monitor progress, provide an overview of all the activities, and organize the corresponding sequence of events. 

As we monitor progress in the schedule, our team also provides consistent reporting on the overall project and cost status. The project follows a monthly control cycle, which M|P audits and reinforces, to ensure that data within the tools available to the PMO are in line with the project objectives.

Close-up of business electronic and paper documents on the desk, office workers interacting in the background

Lastly, there are significant regulation, auditing, and approval requirements, as there are with any nuclear project. Therefore, it is important to have good traceability. As the M|P team manages the scheduling and cost components of the engineering teams, we also ensure detailed and accurate documentation. This not only clarifies for all stakeholders what is going on, but it also provides a historical record that can be used for lessons learned and improvements along the way.

Benefit

While the project is still ongoing, we have already seen that our support has enabled Edvance’s engineering teams to perform well and on-time. By helping to organize thousands of activities, we ensure their deliverables are met and alerts are raised right away for risks, issues, and even opportunities. 

With our experience in other large-scale projects across many industries and with the support of our digital factory, MI-GSO | PCUBED was able to improve the project reporting methods and tools by simplifying them and making them more reliable. With precise controls, our team has also increased the reliability of financial information and helped to proactively resolve any discrepancies. 

"As the final client, Edvance is pleased to be able to count on the experience and knowledge of MI-GSO | PCUBED on Project Control activities to improve the monitoring of the HPC project."

Edvance

Most importantly, our team-oriented approach focusing on people and processes has allowed schedulers across different teams to share best practices and align on common objectives. One of the greatest hurdles to overcome was to maintain operation throughout the pandemic in 2020. Major delays, especially a halt in construction, could have been extremely costly and detrimental to the project’s success. Despite these challenges, our team was able to continue to drive the project’s engineering development and to prevent significant delays.

After more than ten years working together with Edvance, we look forward to seeing this project complete successfully and paving the way for future nuclear projects to come.

This article was written by Elaina Wheeler in collaboration with Théophane Pillu.