A HIGHLY complex engineering scheme to place a series of huge structures on the bottom of the Bristol Channel two miles off shore as part of the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has won the ‘Collaboration Award’ at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) regional awards 2023.
The project, led by a team from Balfour Beatty, involved using some of the world’s largest heavy lifting vessels which are the size of football pitches.
They lowered onto the seabed six giant intake and outfall heads each weighing up to five tonnes to connect to five miles of tunnels supplying the plant's nuclear reactors with cooling water.
Using the two lifting vessels in a head to head configuration for such large loads had never been tried before.
Once the lifting phase was completed the teams had to place 55,000 tonnes of locking filter material around the heads using 62 barge transits in 61 days.
The level of teamwork, co-ordination and meticulous planning required to complete the operation safely was praised by the ICE judges, who felt the project exemplified the collaborative nature of modern engineering.
The judges described the achievement of placing the heads within millimetre precision while working in the world’s second highest tidal range as ‘nothing less than mind-boggling’.
They said: “The project marks another milestone in the construction of the UK’s first new nuclear power station for 20 years, which will make a major contribution to reducing the nation’s carbon emissions.”
Ten project awards and two individual trophies were presented at the ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards in association with Kier BAM on Friday (November 10) at a gala ceremony in Bristol hosted by TV presenter, Rob Bell.
The awards are held annually to recognise achievement among regional engineers and project teams.
Among the other projects shortlisted this year was Hinkley C’s stockpile management, which used an ingenious way to manage soil from tunnelling works and other onsite materials to avoid hundreds of thousands of lorry journeys on Somerset’s roads.
The KierBAM team created temporary reception ponds so they could spread and treat about on site 17.6 million cubic feet of highly flowable tunnel spoil.
They operated a 24/7 bulk earthworks operation using cutting edge digital technology to ensure difficult material could be handled and treated to maintain the critical path of the power station’s construction.
The judges said: “Having a facility on site where the material can be handled, stabilised, and reclassified as permanent backfill has saved around 210,000 HGV movements from the local roads.
“This has had a significant and positive impact on the road network and local rural community, not to mention a reduction in carbon emissions.”
ICE regional director Miranda Housden said: “The awards showcased a strong field of entries, marking a competitive year that underlines the region’s depth of expertise and achievement.
“These amazing projects are taking on some of our most significant regional challenges.
“And with the talent of our apprentices and graduates, the future for civil engineering in the South West looks very promising.
“Congratulations to all who participated this year.”