Prepare for a nuclear future

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A TOP Sheffield lawyer, with links to firms at the heart of the civil nuclear construction programme, is challenging Sheffield City Region companies to compete to become part of a £20 billion UK nuclear supply chain.

Martin McKervey, a partner at national law firm Nabarro, works with leading energy suppliers at the heart of the nuclear new-build debate.

He says nuclear power is set for massive global expansion, with around 30 countries getting ready to make huge investments in new plants, but local firms still need to do more to be ready for the challenges ahead.

“The fact that the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) is based locally is a clear indication that the region lies at the very heart of the UK’s nuclear future, but it’s vital that firms prepare now to meet the challenges ahead,” says Mr McKervey.

“Currently there is hesitancy as to their ability to provide the quality and quantity of manufacturing required.”

Mr McKervey stresses the view of the readiness of the UK nuclear supply chain expressed by Alan Cumming, procurement director of EDF Energy.

Mr Cumming told potential suppliers, during a visit to the Global Manufacturing Festival, in Sheffield, earlier this year: “We’re embarking on a journey but we’ve not packed our rucksack yet.”

Martin McKervey says: “Although overseas operators may have more specific nuclear experience, indigenous companies are predicted to deliver up to 70 per cent of the proposed £20 billion project, but how can we act now to ensure firms get their slice of the pie?

“The key drivers are the quality of the product, the certainty of costs and delivery, health and safety and - for manufacturers - relentless predictability.

“Already, energy giants are actively engaging potential key supply chain players and manufacturers can ready themselves by exploring the formation of joint ventures and partnerships.

“In this way, they can present to the energy sector a coherent business entity with clear roles and contractual relationships in place.”

Mr McKervey stresses the role which the Advanced Manufacturing Park-based NAMRC is playing in helping companies to get ready to meet the demand.

However, he warns that firms wanting to supply the nuclear industry will also need to understand the legal framework they will be operating in.

Nabarro is currently helping local manufacturers to resolve potential legal issues in tandem with securing funding.