EDF’s Jim Crawford on Sizewell C and Suffolk’s economic potential
JIM Crawford is our friend electric. When you switch on your lights tonight or turn on your electric cooker to make dinner, you can thank people like him. Currently EDF Energy’s project development director for the proposed Sizewell C power station on the Suffolk coast, Jim’s career has been dedicated to keeping the lights on and the cookers working.
A Scot by birth and a chemist by profession, Jim joined the electrical supply industry from university as a graduate trainee. “Although I couldn’t, at first, work out why an electricity company wanted a chemist,” he says. “The joy for me is that my employers have given me the opportunity to do lots of different things. I worked in research for two or three years and then got a job at the Torness station on the east Scottish coast, as they were getting close to finishing the construction.
“Since then, including a few years at the corporate centre, I worked in various technical, training and business roles before going back to Torness as operations manager. Then for seven years I was at Sizewell B, firstly as plant manager and then as station director.”
Jim’s time at Sizewell B gave him a real sense of achievement. “The team we built and the people we had there meant we achieved world class performance in safety and reliability – 499 days of safe and continuous energy generation, helping us establish a new record for power production for a nuclear power station in the UK. It was a fantastic time and they were a perfect team to lead. It was all fine when I walked away and still continues to be so under the leadership of Paul Morton.”
The Sizewell C project – like that at Hinkley Point C in Somerset – is a partnership with China General Nuclear. Even though it is estimated that if and when both are operational they will generate 13% of the UK’s electricity needs, both have been characterised by opposition from a broad coalition of groups, and uncertainty around the cost of the energy that will be generated. Jim’s not having any of this defeatism.
“I think the key thing to remember, especially when you read some of the things in the press about electric cars, is that this company will have a key role in helping the country meet its climate change targets, and create a decarbonised economy and society.
The company is looking to build a ‘fleet’ of third generation pressurised water reactors. “EDF Energy has a great opportunity to build towards what the country is trying to achieve starting with Hinkley Point C, followed by Sizewell C and then onto Bradwell B in Essex.”
In effect, Jim believes that the learning from the new Somerset station, already under construction, will expedite matters and lower costs when – or rather if – Sizewell C gets the go-ahead. “The biggest strategic advantage that Sizewell C has is Hinkley Point C. Don’t
‘The team we built and the people we had there meant we achieved world class performance in safety and reliability’
forget this is the first station we’ve built in this country for 25 years. We are restarting an industry and the supply chain that supports it. We will take about 80% of Hinkley’s design and bring it here. The remaining 20% is needed because things such as the coastline and geology are different.” Presumably the level of opposition is not that different either. Jim remains unflustered.
“The experiences in Hinkley certainly allow us to learn from things that went really well and the things that, if we had our time again, we’d just tweak that a little bit.” But he is keen to put the new power station into a much bigger context.
“People have this perception of Suffolk as being a sleepy part of the country. Yet we’ve already got Sizewell B – which will be around for another 35 or 40 years contributing to our low carbon energy mix – the windfarms and offshore oil and gas installations. People talk about the Northern Powerhouse, but the East
of England is going to be a fantastic place for business.
“We can offer local communities a great deal in terms of job opportunities – there will be 25,000 roles involved in its construction, with 900 in the long term once the station is generating electricity.”
There are also opportunities for Suffolk businesses to win contracts both during the building of Sizewell C and once it is up and running. Jim is impressed with the approach of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in helping to facilitate these opportunities.
“The Chamber has helped us by establishing a supply chain website. We’ve now got over 1,000 companies registered, which is great as it gives us the opportunity to get the views of local suppliers as to what they need from us to work together in a constructive way. Imagine the effort involved for us to touch base with 1,000 different suppliers, so it’s great that the Chamber has consolidated all of that.”
So should Sizewell C go ahead, the future will be rosy for local workers and businesses. But what about communities around the site? How does he respond to the accusation that the recently completed second stage of consultation into Sizewell C didn’t offer enough detail for people to really comment upon? Jim explains that the company inserted this as an additional stage as it felt it was necessary given the length of time that has elapsed since the first stage.
“We were delighted with the level of response, and will be spending the rest of this year analysing the feedback so we can shape our proposals for the third and final stage of consultation before we set out our planning application.” And if Sizewell C is built, what kind of neighbour will Jim and his team be?
“One of the things that struck me when I was at Sizewell B was the relationship with the local community, particularly with those really close to the power station. We met twice a year at the visitor centre to foster an open and transparent two-way relationship. This was particularly important when the station was about to shut down for maintenance and refuelling work, which led to over 1,000 extra workers at the site.
“The local environment around the power station has flourished as a result of the way Sizewell B has managed it in partnership with Suffolk Wildlife Trust. I’m very proud of EDF Energy’s approach. Obviously, we do what we do because we are a business, but we take our moral and ethical role as an employer, and as a neighbour, very seriously indeed.”
“We’ve now got over 1,000 companies registered, which is great as it gives us the opportunity to get the views of local suppliers as to what they need from us to work together in a constructive way”
The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B’s dome. The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B’s dome.
Wind turbines could become a common sight on the Felixstowe peninsula.