I recently made a visit to Hinkley Point C, the new nuclear power station being built on the banks of the River Severn in Somerset.

I’ve being trying to get down there for some time but wanted to make my visit when the local MP Ian Liddell-Granger was available which meant that this delayed getting there.

There were two main reasons why I wanted to see Hinkley, now referred to colloquially as HPC.

First having witnessed at first hand the opening, operation and closure of Berkeley Magnox Nuclear Station and the accompanying laboratories next door I have retained an interest in the technology.

Whatever one’s views on nuclear, the technology is not going to disappear and knowing something about the details of build, operating capacity and safety issues is vital.

There is still talk, for instance, that Oldbury could be the site of a new Horizon station so knowing what HPC involves is important.

Secondly, I went to find out about the supply chain, given that there are a number of local companies interested in becoming part of the project.

At present most of the work resides with what are called tier one companies, the main contractors, but subsequently there will be opportunities for tier two firms, sub-contractors, and eventually tier three sub-sub-contractors.

HPC is a huge project.

It is estimated that it is currently the biggest construction project in Europe.

The site is some 250 acres, being next to the existing Hinkley Point A and B stations.

A is already being fully decommissioned and B will follow likewise just as C comes on stream in 2025.

At its height the construction will involve a 5,500 workforce – it already has 3,100 there with all the implications for traffic, accommodation and logistics.

Certainly after visiting you begin to realise the scale of the operation and how much of a managerial challenge is involved.

Of course Hinkley is not without its critics.

Its construction cost of £20bn and requirement of a high strike price which will take the total to north of £50bn has led many to question whether the provision of 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity by the said date is worth it.

Certainly the combination of Chinese funding, French reactor design (it’s an EPR) and British Government specifications has meant that many hurdles still have to be surmounted.

Nevertheless we are where we are and if nothing else paying a visit to HPC (and site owners EDF are keen to take visitors around) makes one realise that we can still organise major construction projects in this country.

David Drew

MP for the Stroud Constituency