Opening Address by Vincent de Rivaz
It is a great pleasure to welcome so many delegates to this second Nuclear Safety Symposium.
EDF Energy is delighted to be hosting this event in London alongside our colleagues from EDF Group and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).
EDF Energy, and EDF as a whole, is proud to be a member of WANO.
And following the great success of the first Symposium event in Paris, we are particularly pleased to be hosting the second event in the UK…
… a country which pioneered civil nuclear power…
… a country which benefits from nuclear power today…
… a country which is active in making nuclear power part of its long term future.
I am also very pleased to see the exceptional quality of the international panel of speakers who will take part in our programme of discussions today.
Their presence here is confirmation that safety and security are our overriding and enduring priorities as an industry.
The themes we will discuss today go right to the heart of nuclear safety.
Importance of constructive cooperation
And it is appropriate that we meet to discuss them here in Greenwich, this place where east meets west.
With delegates from all over the globe, representing 78 organisations.
Together we show how the nuclear industry shares experience across borders and companies to ensure lessons are learned and acted upon.
There aren’t many industries that cooperate in this way.
WANO clearly has a critical role to play here – I know we will hear more about their important work later today from their Chairman Jacques Regaldo and their CEO Peter Prozesky.
The Fukushima nuclear incident is an important example of how we collaborate as an industry on nuclear safety.
Response to the event was truly international. Lessons had to be learned from the entire industry across the world.
We must salute the key role played in the UK by Dr Mike Weightman, the then UK’s Chief Nuclear Inspector, who very clearly set out what should be changed to make the UK nuclear fleet even safer.
Four years after his report was published, we announced that we had successfully completed a series of enhancements at our nuclear stations to respond to the recommendations.
Although our plants were considered safe by design, we invested almost £200 million to enhance our resilience and emergency response capability even further.
We also created new visitor centres at each of our nuclear sites to be open and transparent with our communities.
By the end of last year, more than 100,000 visitors had passed through our doors.
That was our response to the event but safety also requires anticipation.
We must look at new kinds of risks such as terrorism and cyber security.
The digital revolution has also changed the way that people talk and debate with one another. This has impacts for openness and transparency.
Social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter, can be an opportunity for us to listen and engage on energy issues with a wider audience.
For example at EDF Energy we have created digital ‘virtual tours’ based on the same principle as our ‘physical’ visitor centres. The virtual tours have been viewed over 1.3 million times.
As an industry we must harness the power of social media to broaden understanding of what we do.
But we must also pay attention to the risks.
We must be equipped to respond to unfolding issues on social media.
We must be equipped to address the challenge of inaccurate information, which can go viral in a matter of minutes if not seconds.
Having these abilities is a crucial part of building and maintaining public trust.
And cooperation across our industry, across our companies and borders, will continue to be paramount in addressing and anticipating these new risks and new opportunities.
It will require everyone to play their role to drive nuclear safety and security standards even higher.
Role of nuclear operators
As a nuclear operator, we at EDF Energy take our role very seriously.
Today the phrase ‘nuclear safety is our overriding priority’ is literally set in stone at the entrance of all our power stations, as in my office in London.
We know that safety starts with a strong commitment from the people who make it happen.
Our Zero Harm culture was built on the foundations of Trust, Transparency and Teamwork.
Every single person in our business was involved and responsible.
We have also demonstrated that the age of our nuclear power stations is no barrier to outstanding safety performance.
British Energy became an integral part of the EDF family in 2009. We have many members of the EDF family in the room and I would like to express an especially warm welcome to them.
Since British Energy joined EDF Energy we have turned the performance of the fleet around.
Last year’s output was 50% higher than it was in 2008, an additional 20TWh of power generation…
… 6% of the UK’s electricity needs…
… 9 million tonnes of carbon saved every single year.
That’s close to the output of Hinkley Point C, which will meet 7% of the UK’s electricity needs.
And we have achieved that while dramatically improving the safety of our plants; their nuclear safety, industrial safety and environmental safety.
Last year we had zero reportable nuclear events – a best ever performance.
It is a great credit to our Generation Managing Director Stuart Crooks and our Nuclear Operations Director Brian Cowell – who are here and who will speak later today – and to their teams.
We could not have achieved this if we starved or sweated our assets. We have done it by investing.
As a result we have also safely extended the lives of our AGRs by 8 years on average, in less than 7 years.
This corresponds to more than 400 terawatt hours of additional electricity generation and carbon savings of around 95 million tonnes…
… enough to power Britain for well over a year.
Of course there have been challenges to overcome in delivering our life extension programme.
It required us to look at the challenges from the perspective of five key pillars.
The first of these pillars is strategic – put simply that means having a long-term plan.
A clear, long-term plan with a realistic lifetime date allows safety and risk decisions to be made in a holistic manner.
This approach also supports reliable resource planning and supply chain readiness, and allows us to help regulators and others to plan ahead for the UK’s move towards decarbonisation.
Most importantly, long term planning maximises business value whilst also ensuring that safety remains paramount.
The next is technical – is it safe? Is it technically feasible?
Life extension requires highly specialist engineering skills, which means that the technical challenge is actually a people challenge, which brings me to the next pillar…
… People – it is our skilled workforce, and the transfer of expert knowledge within and beyond our teams, which allows us to deliver on all aspects of plant life extension.
Our Nuclear Academy supports us towards this ambition. The academy was considered a strength by WANO during a recent peer review; an example of best practice in the international nuclear community.
Last year we opened a new cutting edge training facility at Cannington Court in Somerset, where we have installed pioneering learning technologies and digital tools to discover new ways of learning.
Another pillar is financial – is it financially viable to do it and will it add value to our shareholders?
I will come back on this point in a moment.
The final pillar is regulatory – the regulatory framework in the UK is rigorous, continuous and quite rightly focused above all on safety and security.
And we work constructively with regulators to ensure that any life extension decisions taken meet the highest technical and safety standards.
Role of the regulator
In the UK we are fortunate to have a very strong, independent, credible regulator.
The independence and credibility of the Office for Nuclear Regulation are fundamental to public acceptance, to the support of local communities and to the support of the country as a whole.
I would like to give a special welcome to Adriènne Kelbie, Chief Executive of the ONR.
Alongside maintaining the ONR’s excellent reputation as a strong and independent regulator, you may be interested to know that Adriènne is also a strong advocate of gender diversity in our industry.
She’s right to place so much importance on this issue – it is something we must all address if we are to tackle the growing skills gap in our industry and get the full benefits of a diverse workforce as we tackle and solve complex challenges.
That’s why at the end of last year we launched our new Pretty Curious campaign aimed at encouraging teenage girls to take up careers in science and engineering. I hope that you will take a moment to go and see it in our mobile visitor centre here today.
There is daily interaction between the teams at ONR and EDF Energy on a broad range of issues.
We have in place a very effective set of structured interactions with ONR, with formal meetings at working level and at senior executive level, supported by regular exchange of technical information and early discussion on technical issues as they arise.
Our long and constructive relationship with the ONR has led to remarkable achievements over the last few years.
One example of this was the recent publication of all nuclear reportable events in the UK since 2001.
Publication of this data is in line with the commitment we share to always be completely open and transparent.
The independence and credibility of the regulator also requires a robust, sustainable and durable policy framework.
Role of policy makers
This is where the critical role of policy makers comes in.
They are responsible for creating the right conditions for a successful and responsible nuclear industry in meeting the needs of the country and of future generations.
That includes the need for a safe, reliable and secure electricity supply.
The UK has broad political support for its ambition to have a secure, affordable, low-carbon generation mix, and for that mix to include a significant share of nuclear.
Over the last five years 20% of the UK’s generation plant has closed. A further 35% is due to close between now and 2030.
That includes all of our AGR stations despite life extensions, leaving only Sizewell B.
This means we need to act now with a sense of urgency.
To underpin the Government’s priorities the Electricity Market Reform put in place three main components: the Contract for Difference, the Capacity Market and the Carbon Price Floor.
But we face a challenging context – today’s context is characterised by very low and falling wholesale prices.
The situation is dire. Forward power prices have fallen by 20% in the last six months alone. We have been thrown into a world of electricity at £35 per megawatt hour.
This is a very different world for generators.
And it is precisely why we must work to improve – and we are doing that right now – the Capacity Mechanism. We are currently in a very constructive and consultative process with Government on this exact issue.
It is why we need to strengthen the Carbon Price Floor, which is essential for the immediate sustainability of our business.
And it is why we need the Contract for Difference for the future. The Contract for Difference will make our investment in Hinkley Point C possible.
These instruments are critical to keeping the lights on.
But we can only operate now and in the future if it is economical to do so.
As Chief Executive of EDF Energy – and it is the same for all CEOs – I know my job as a leader is not to be derailed by the short-term challenges from delivering the long-term vision.
Neither do I use the long-term vision as an excuse not to do what is needed in the short-term.
Politicians face the same challenge.
The Government of this country has come a long way over many terms.
It has shown leadership in the face of difficulties…
… and it has never strayed from its mission to make nuclear part of its long-term electricity mix.
The UK Government has led in nuclear policy with its Capacity Market, its Carbon Price Floor and its Contract for Difference.
Together with the French Government it has chosen nuclear to be a significant part of the future energy mix in both countries.
This consistent choice demonstrates the importance of Franco British alliance at a political level.
France and the UK are the two nuclear pillars in Europe. And we know that two pillars are better than one to create a solid foundation.
Hinkley Point C is the tangible way to deliver on this partnership.
Hinkley Point C
The two EPRs that EDF together with its Chinese partners will build at Hinkley Point C will be the first third generation reactors to be built in the UK.
That means they meet the highest safety standards.
The EPR is an evolution from the operating experience of 227 PWRs worldwide.
And the EPRs at Hinkley Point C will be the 5th and 6th EPRs to be built in the world…
… benefiting from the experiences and lessons learned from the other EPR projects already under construction.
That includes Taishan in China. We are delighted and proud to welcome our colleagues from CGN at the event today…
… and we are proud that they have chosen us as partners in the UK.
Let me say why we are confident in our project at Hinkley Point C.
We have delivered an approved stable design and construction schedule before building starts.
We are using tools like 3D and 4D modelling to develop a very robust design and construction schedule.
Very importantly, we have selected and involved key contractors early on in this project.
We have the expertise, the supply chain and the teams – including our longstanding partners CGN – ready to build Hinkley Point C safely, on time and on budget.
We have the EPR – the only third generation technology which has already been approved by the UK safety regulator.
We have the strong support of our main stakeholders locally in Somerset and the strong support of the UK and the French Governments.
This is why I said categorically in front of a Parliamentary Committee two weeks ago that the project will go ahead and will go ahead very soon.
We have confidence in the project’s financing.
It is a fair deal for customers and investors, which is at the heart of this project.
Customers will not bear any cost risk during the construction of this project. We will bear those risks.
Investors will get a level of profitability commensurate with the risk – this allows them to invest.
And we are ready to take those risks because we are confident in our ability to deliver.
In addition to this strong basis, we have the right process in place to learn all the lessons from Flamanville and from Taishan.
When I see all the people in this room I also think about the hundreds and thousands of men and women ready to go ahead with passion, with confidence, with skills, with dedication and with commitment.
And I would like to pay a special tribute to the all the team who have worked so hard on Hinkley Point C for so many years…
… and who have successfully overcome the challenges with determination, with humility and with a sense of purpose.
They have shown a great capacity for listening and engaging, and for working with a spirit of inclusiveness.
This has led to partnerships at all levels with local communities, with suppliers, with Government and with the trade unions here in Britain.
And in this respect I am pleased to pay respect to our Nuclear New Build Director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, who has and will play a very important role in the UK’s nuclear revival, all the time working very closely with our colleagues at EDF Group – an integral part of the team.
Looking around me I am inspired by all we can achieve together.
And working together means we must not only keep safety at the forefront of what we do, but also remain humble, open and transparent in everything we do.
Because without trust of the public, the trust of our stakeholders, our people and our shareholders, there can be no sustainable future for our industry.
Trust is a virtue – it is something which makes us better. It is something you have to give and something you have to deserve.
There is great trust within our teams, our Hinkley Point C project, and with all our stakeholders including – and I pay tribute to them – our unions in Britain.
I am sure that our discussions today will go a long way in that respect, so it is my pleasure to leave the floor to our first panellists.