Birkenhead-based shipyard and engineering services company Cammell Laird is ramping up its activity in the energy sector by investing more than £1.5 million in its facilities and appointing a leading nuclear sector engineer.
John Eldridge has joined Cammell Laird from Sellafield Ltd. which operates the nuclear reprocessing plant in West Cumbria. He has a track record of more than 40 years working on the design, construction, commissioning and operation of nuclear facilities.
Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret CBE said the company is now making “serious progress” in its campaign to position itself as one of the prime locations in Britain for the manufacture of modules for the multi-billion pound new build and decommissioning programs. The current spend on the U.K.’s £70 billion decommissioning program is around £3 billion a year and the new nuclear power plant program is estimated to be worth £100 billion.
“John brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our team,” Syvret said. “His knowledge will help us forge closer links with the nuclear industry enabling us to present innovative solutions to complex engineering challenges.
Syvret continued, “In terms of our investment, we have spent more than £1.5 million in renovating one of the large workshops near the construction hall. The refurbishment has seen six cranes overhauled and a new roof, floor, electrics and lighting installed. It will provide a world-class facility to test and assemble modules and rigs for our nuclear clients.”
Syvret said the workshop investment and appointment of Eldridge demonstrated Cammell Laird’s ability and desire to grow in the nuclear sector: “We are ideally placed to service the considerable demands and needs of the nuclear industry over the next 30 years,” he said. “We believe the nuclear sector can ignite job and wealth creation at Cammell Laird for the benefit of Wirral, Merseyside and the wider North West. We are already working with Liverpool and John Moores universities looking at developing the skills that will be needed to grasp the stellar opportunities in this multi-billion pound industry.”
Eldridge said finding and developing innovative solutions will be fundamental to Cammell Laird’s future work in the nuclear sector: “Power plant vendors want to broaden their supply chain and they want suppliers like Cammell Laird to find efficient, adaptable and flexible solutions. This combination of nuclear decommissioning and new build programs is a watershed moment for the industry. It is taking a step back and thinking how can we improve what we do? There is an understanding that things cannot just be done in the same way. Technology has changed, and is changing, faster than ever before. For example, major process systems will be manufactured and commissioned under factory conditions before transfer to site and the typical ‘stick built’ approach to concrete structures will be transformed by the incorporation of huge steel modules. The steel modules we will make at Cammell Laird need to embrace innovation and have that adaptability. In decommissioning there are many unknowns given the nature and age of the materials, some of which go back 50 years to the beginning of the industry. So the modular systems we provide have to be sophisticated and have to be flexible.”
“The changes in the nuclear industry are helping to trigger a renaissance in British engineering and manufacturing. Cammell Laird has always been at the forefront of innovation and our aim is to take that ethos into nuclear. It is fantastic that we can do that here on Merseyside in the U.K. rather than farm-work out overseas,” Eldridge added.
Eldridge said a crucial element, recognized by Cammell Laird and all in the nuclear sector, is the urgent need to train and provide experience for the young engineers who will drive the programs forward. An informal program of secondment opportunities has already started across the sector which sees graduate engineers work on eight-month placements in Birkenhead. The first secondee is 24-year-old Rob Wild a mechanical engineer from Sellafield Ltd who will work in Cammell Laird’s Energy Division until January 2015.
Eldridge joins Cammell Laird business development director David Williams in spearheading the company’s nuclear operations.